Did the Hurricanes blow a chance to rebuild?

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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.

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