2011-12 season preview: Carolina Hurricanes


2010-11 record: 40-31-11, 91 points; 9th in East, 3rd in Southeast

Playoffs: Did not qualify

If the Hurricanes won just one more game, that sad category above could have been very different. Instead, the Tampa Bay Lightning absolutely flattened the ‘Canes 6-2 in a win-and-you’re-in game in Carolina. It seems harsh to sum up an 82-game season full of ups and downs by a single loss, but that defeat is the lasting image of the 2010-11 season.

This Hurricanes team only sports subtle differences compared to last season, so it’s going to come down to execution in 2011-12.


The Hurricanes basically exchanged veteran wingers Cory Stillman and Erik Cole for prospect Anthony Stewart and journeyman forward Alexei Ponikarovsky. It’s understandable that the Canes balked at Cole’s asking price, but the bottom line is that their offense might take a step back next season.

One can imagine that a Carolina fan’s reflexive answer might be “Jeff Skinner.” The seventh pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft burst onto the scene to win the Calder Trophy, but with even less offensive support, teams will be able to gear more attention toward him (although Eric Staal’s obviously remains the top threat). That might make a “sophomore slump” more probable.

Ultimately, the Hurricane’s offense looks like it will take a step back – on paper, at least.


The big defensive change is in the higher end of their offensive blueliners. Rutherford opted to sign Tomas Kaberle to a substantial contract, which forced Joe Corvo out of town (they traded him to Boston).

It’s easy to judge Kaberle too harshly for his flat performance with the Bruins after the trade deadline, but considering how well his lesser brother Frantisek fared with the Canes, one could assume Tomas will fit in better in Carolina. The Canes generated the highest number of power play opportunities since the lockout, but haven’t been able to capitalize on those chances very often. He didn’t help Boston’s PP much in that short time, but if the Hurricanes continue to force their way to the man advantage as much as previous seasons, the Kaberle signing could be very beneficial.

Kaberle could be a difference-maker, but the onus remains on Joni Pitkanen. While he’s not an ideal top defenseman, Pitkanen brings a nice set of skills to the table for a team that’s shaky in the back end. Things could look far more respectable if Jamie McBain takes “the next step” too.


Cam Ward would have a chance to put up Vezina Trophy-level numbers if he played in a conservative defensive system. He earned 37 wins and put up an outstanding .923 save percentage in 2010-11 while making a league-leading (and franchise record) 2,191 saves.

The team simply leans too much on Ward and Staal, but at least their franchise goalie has a suitable backup next season. Brian Boucher comes in from Philadelphia, where he quietly put up solid numbers here and there despite being a frequent scapegoat. Sure, he isn’t an ideal top goalie, but you won’t find many backups who are as stable and experienced as Boucher. Of course, he probably won’t put up fantastic numbers behind a leaky Hurricanes defense, so maybe you should just ignore that positive paragraph.


Paul Maurice continues his second tour of duty with the Hurricanes, as he was the coach who saw the team transition from being the Hartford Whalers to the Canes. (His first stint ran from 1995-2004.) Maurice seems like he does a solid job of getting the most out of an extremely top-heavy roster, but one cannot help but wonder if he’ll be on the hot seat if the team missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Breakout candidate

For the Hurricanes to sneak into the playoffs, they’re going to need support beyond the usual suspects. The team has high hopes for two-way forward Brandon Sutter, who managed a +13 rating last season. If he can add a little more offensive oomph to his significant defensive chops, then the 22-year-old center could have a breakthrough year.

McBain and Stewart are also players to watch, although one could argue that McBain already broke through.

Best-case scenario

If you’ve followed the Hurricanes franchise, you’re probably aware of their remarkable tendency to rotate hot-and-cold seasons. At times, it seems like they’ll either a) go on a red-hot run deep into the playoffs or b) miss the postseason entirely. In an ideal scenario, the Hurricanes use their aggressive style to make the playoffs and ride a world-class set of seasons from Ward and Staal into the Eastern Conference finals. Skinner, Sutter and other younger players mature nicely while Ponikarovsky finds a system that suits his style. (See: Nik Antropov’s first season with the Atlanta Thrashers.)


When you have elite players like Staal and Ward, it isn’t wrong to think that you can put a deep run together. The thing is, the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Hurricanes featured a ton of scoring depth. It wasn’t just Staal carrying the load; they enjoyed a Conn Smythe-worthy run from Rod Brind’Amour and a fleet of dangerous scoring veterans from Ray Whitney to Mark Recchi and Doug Weight. Now Staal must hope for the best from Tuomo Ruutu and other players who’ve done a commendable job of putting their careers back together.

The Hurricanes should be around the same place they were last season: the Eastern Conference playoff bubble. The problem is that a lot of bubble teams got better while they remained stagnant (or maybe got worse). ‘Canes fans aren’t crazy to hope for a seventh or eighth seed, but they’re just as likely to miss the playoffs again.

Goalie nods: Domingue has ‘got to play better’ for Coyotes tonight in Brooklyn

Louis Domingue
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Pressure’s on, Louis Domingue.

Domingue, now Arizona’s No. 1 goalie with Mike Smith (lower body) shelved indefinitely, will get another chance to prove himself when the Coyotes visit the Isles at Barclays on Friday night.

Things haven’t gone great for Domingue thus far.

Since coming on in relief of Smith in Ottawa, the 24-year-old has allowed seven goals on 30 shots in just over 36 minutes of action — leaving him with a ghastly .767 save percentage and 11.35 GAA.

(Not a typo. Eleven. Point. Three. Five.)

“He’s gotta play better,” coach Dave Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “He’s gotta play better than these two games he’s played. We’ll give him another opportunity, and hopefully he responds.”

The Coyotes haven’t provided a health update on Smith, who was flown back to Arizona earlier this week to be examined by team doctors. Justin Peters was recalled from the minors to serve as Domingue’s backup and looked sharp in relief of Domingue last night in Montreal, stopping 23 of 24 shots faced.

As such, Domingue has plenty on the line tonight. Peters is a 30-year-old veteran with over 80 games of NHL experience, so the Coyotes could turn to him if Domingue struggle yet again.

For the Isles, Jaroslav Halak gets the call in goal.


Corey Crawford starts yet again for the Blackhawks, who are in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky will be in the opposing goal.

Pekka Rinne, sporting a 2.04 GAA and .934 save percentage thus far, gets the nod as the Preds head to Detroit. Petr Mrazek will be in goal for the Red Wings, after Jimmy Howard played well in a Wednesday win over the Rangers.

Brian Campbell won’t be a healthy scratch, after all

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 01:  Brian Campbell #51 of the Chicago Blackhawks participates in warm-ups before a preseason game against the St. Louis Blues at United Center on October 1, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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It seems Brian Campbell won’t be a healthy scratch, after all. According to the Chicago Tribune, the veteran Blackhawks defenseman is likely to be in the lineup tonight in Columbus.

It had previously been reported that Campbell would sit against the Blue Jackets, making way for the return of Trevor van Riemdsyk. Instead, the Tribune believes van Riemsdyk will replace either Michal Kempny or Gustav Forsling, though it’s also possible the ‘Hawks could dress seven defensemen.

As for winger Marian Hossa, he will definitely not play tonight due to a lower-body injury suffered Tuesday against the Flyers, the same game in which he scored his 500th career goal. Hossa is also questionable for Saturday’s home game against Toronto.

At this morning’s skate, Jonathan Toews was centering Tyler Motte and Richard Panik, with Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, and Patrick Kane sticking together on the second line.

Here’s Coach Q’s scrum from yesterday:

Tinordi on waivers as his 20-game suspension for PEDs comes to an end

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03:  Jarred Tinordi #28 of the Arizona Coyotes fights with Nick Ritchie #37 of the Anaheim Ducks during the third period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on March 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Ducks defeated the Coyotes 5-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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With his 20-game suspension finally set to end, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jarred Tinordi has reportedly been placed on waivers.

Tinordi, 24, was suspended late last season for violating terms of the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances agreement. He said he “did not knowingly take a banned substance,” but accepted the ban and vowed to “work hard towards my return to the ice.” After he misses tonight’s game in Brooklyn, he’ll have served 20 games.

A former first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Tinordi has spent most of his pro career in the AHL, though he does have 54 games of NHL experience. The big blue-liner was traded to Arizona in January, part of a controversial three-team swap that saw John Scott, the All-Star, sent to the Habs.

Tinordi played seven unremarkable games for the Coyotes before he was suspended. He’ll presumably be assigned to their AHL affiliate in Tucson should he clear waivers.

Related: NHL has ‘no reason to believe…the Canadiens acted inappropriately’ in Tinordi trade

Rookie d-man Carlo has ‘impressed the heck’ out of Bruins

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 15:  Brandon Carlo #25 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game on October 15, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Bruins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

It’s fair to say optimism about Boston’s blueline was tempered heading into this season.

Really tempered.

GM Don Sweeney’s search for a ‘transitional’ defenseman never panned out. Neither did the PTO for veteran rearguard Christian Ehrhoff. So the B’s went into this year with nearly the exact same defense they had last year — a defense that Sweeney admitted was a “work in progress.”

Which is why Brandon Carlo’s emergence is a big deal.

Carlo, the 19-year-old rookie, has been a revelation. He’s scored two points through four games, and done so while shouldering a pretty significant workload — 21:54 TOI per night, second on the team to Zdeno Chara.

“He’s impressed the heck out of us,” head coach Claude Julien said on Friday, per the Bruins’ Twitter account.

Julien’s faith in Carlo goes beyond words. In last night’s 2-1 win over New Jersey, Carlo was put out in the final minutes with Cory Schneider pulled for an extra attacker.

“He gave me no reason not to put him out there,” Julien said.

There’s plenty to like about Carlo. He’s got terrific size — 6-foot-5, 200 pounds — and shown maturity well beyond his years and professional experience, having played just seven AHL games prior to making his NHL debut.

Boston has to be thrilled.

Remember, the club is pretty old on defense. Chara is 39, John-Michael Liles is 36, Adam McQuaid is 30 and Kevan Miller turns 29 in November.

Though the team does have some intriguing young d-man prospects in the system — including first-rounders Charlie McAvoy and Jakub Zboril — they’re not expected to make an impact at the big-league level for a while.

Of course, neither was Carlo.

Injuries to McQuaid and Miller fast-tracked the former WHL Tri-City standout, and he’s made the most of the opportunity. His teammates have certainly been impressed.

“He’s a great defenseman,” goalie Tuukk Rask said, per the Boston Herald. “Very poised out there, and he positions himself well.”

“He’s been playing phenomenal right now,” added Brad Marchand. “He’s stepped up.”