Tuomo Ruutu

Did the Hurricanes blow a chance to rebuild?


When you’re an NHL GM dealing with a rough season, the trade deadline forces some tough questions. The most important one is also often the toughest one, especially when “feelings” and reputations come tied to opinions:

How good is my team?

Or maybe it should be phrased this way instead: How far away is my team?

If you ask me, Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford has answered that question with his heart instead of his head. Give Rutherford credit for this much, though: he’s confident in those beliefs – whether they’re justified or not. He told reporters including NHL.com’s Kurt Dusterberg that the team isn’t far away from getting it together.

“We need another top-flight forward to play with Eric Staal,” Rutherford said. “If we can maintain what we have now and add that player, then we’re getting real close to being a real good team again.”

A manic franchise

The Hurricanes have been a  strange duck of a team for a long time. Perhaps it comes with their feast-or-famine attacking system, but Carolina’s periodic successes tend to come based on sometimes-sudden waves of momentum. (Their runs to the 2010 Eastern Conference finals and 2002 Stanley Cup finals are the best examples.)

I cannot help but wonder if that leads to a “we can re-capture that magic” philosophy in the front office, then. Aside from when a Jeff Skinner slides to them in the draft, it seems like the organization is fueled by nostalgia – which kind of limits the talent pool.

Maybe Muller is the answer?

Then again, perhaps the Hurricanes are a lot like the Ducks in that “wait ’til next year” is bolstered by more than mere wishful thinking; it’s based on the promise of their new coach. Both teams have played much better hockey since making changes behind the bench, which might imply that previous troubles stemmed from the cooks rather than the ingredients.

I don’t think that’s really the case with Carolina or Anaheim in the grand scheme of things, but it’s the best argument I could muster in Rutherford’s defense.


Where do you stand then? Was it wise to keep the band together in Carolina? Do tell.

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen