Elias Lindholm, Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Milan Lucic, Kevan Miller, Jarome Iginla

How long can Carolina put off a major makeover?

3 Comments

For more than a decade, the Carolina Hurricanes seemingly presented an all-or-nothing proposition: they’d either make a deep playoff run or miss the postseason entirely. Consider their remarkable results since losing in the 2002 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings:

2001-02: lost in SCF
2002-03 and 03-04: missed playoffs
2005-06: Won the Stanley Cup
2006-07 and 07-08: missed playoffs
2008-09: lost in ECF
2009-10 through 2013-14: missed playoffs

While there have been changes in the organization, the status quo seemed to hold strong in some ways; through 2013-14, this team continued to go as far as Eric Staal, Cam Ward and a group of highly paid players could take them.

With the noted exception of some possible rising prospects and the undeniably strong Hurricanes debut by goalie Anton Khudobin, it still seems to hinge upon what a debatable core group can accomplish.

Ultimately, it sounds like new GM Ron Francis and new head coach Bill Peters must drive change, then. The question is: how patient will fans be if the team’s struggles continue despite those front office alterations?

Earlier this summer, Francis made it clear he believes the “new cooks, not new ingredients” approach is a sound one.

“I don’t foresee a major makeover,” Francis said in June, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “We’ve got some pretty good pieces in place. I know it’s frustrating we haven’t made the playoffs in five years. We finished just outside (the playoffs) by 10 points, which is one win a month (more) over the course of (the past) season.

“We may do some things but we feel we have a pretty good group here that can compete and win, so there’s no real need at this point to make a major overhaul, in my eyes.”

For understandably impatient Canes fans, those comments can’t be promising, especially since the offseason presented subtle tweaks rather than a leap in either direction. After all, Eric Staal is good but probably not $8.25 million good and Ward is incredibly difficult to trade at his $6.3 million clip.

Then again, maybe that’s the point; the Hurricanes would be making moves from a position of disadvantage if they decided to blow things up now. A player of Staal’s talent and experience could be significantly more appealing and marketable if he enjoys a nice start next season. Ward’s Stanley Cup ring has a better chance to blind a GM if he shows the form we haven’t seen in quite some time.

Ultimately, this isn’t a cheap team, at least not for a squad that’s making golf plans by mid-April most years. With that in mind, it’s difficult to deny the notion that this team is another failed year – or even failed months – away from inspiring ample use of the word “rebuild.”

Related: Under Pressure: Cam Ward

Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

He was asked if he was playing.

“Yep.”

So, no problems?

“Nope.”

And that was that.

No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

“Very confident,” said Sullivan.

Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).

 

 

Report: Semin will stay in KHL for 2016-17

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 11:  Alexander Semin #13 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Getty Images)
Leave a comment

It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.

Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.

At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.

After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.

He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.