Can Canes weather next season’s division change?


Life wasn’t always that easy for the Carolina Hurricanes in the relatively cushy (and defunct) Southeast Division, so what will happen now that they’re in what could be a blistering Metropolitan Division?

If you judge the situation based on the past alone, it doesn’t look great for Carolina.

That being said, one shouldn’t dismiss the Hurricanes’ talent. Plenty of teams would be glad to boast a core that includes Eric and Jordan Staal, Cam Ward, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner and so on. Much went wrong for Carolina last season, yet if a few things turn, the Canes could be a far more formidable team.

Still, the situation seems foreboding on paper. Consider their division mates:

Columbus – Maybe the most mysterious team in the division, if not the NHL. Still, it’s tough to deny the optimism surrounding a team that is adding star power and employs the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky.

New Jersey – No doubt about it, losing Ilya Kovalchuk hurts. Still, this team quietly put up great puck possession numbers last season but had bad luck scoring goals and preventing them in 2013. The Devils could be dangerous if they can replace Kovalchuk by free agent committee and if more bounces go their way in 2013-14.

NY Islanders – Sure, they mainly stood in place this offseason, but the Isles seem like they’re on the upswing lately. GM Garth Snow has quietly developed into one of the league’s most underrated executives.

NY Rangers – There’s some turmoil (contract years, coaching changes) in the Big Apple, although that pressure could actually yield some fantastic results. At worst, they should be a playoff contender.

Philadelphia – There’s no denying the Flyers’ flaws, yet Philly could very well top Carolina in its strongest area (offensive creativity) while being comparable in their shared area of greatest weakness (playing defense).

Pittsburgh – It’s easy to lose sight of the Penguins’ regular season dominance amid fairly steady drama, but most will probably peg them as the favorites.

Washington – While Carolina couldn’t exploit the Southeast, the Caps must be a little forlorn to see it go. Washington seems primed to be in the mix, especially if Mikhail Grabovski is as much of a steal as “fancy stat” lovers believe.

Looking at Carolina’s neighbors, how many of those situations look worse than the Hurricanes’ predicament? Maybe one or two?

For the Hurricanes to return to playoff contention, they’ll need to prove they can stick with some tough competition. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if a few of those teams fall on their faces, too …

More Hurricanes Day at PHT fun

Carolina leans on Cam Ward

Will the defense get better?

It could all come down to three signings

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.