If there’s any smart Hurricanes fans out there, they’ll be super excited for the addition of ex-Leafs Tomas Kaberle and Tim Brent. Kabby and Brent will join fellow former Leafs Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jiri Tlusty, as well as ex-Leaf bench boss Paul Maurice. In a Southeast Division that has made a serious effort to avoid being Alex Ovechkin’s personal playground, the Canes will have their hands full competing with not only the high-scoring Capitals, but the re-tooled Florida Panthers, Eastern Conference finalist Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets.
Of course, the key cogs on this team are Eric Staal and Cam Ward, a couple of good old Canadian boys, but Jeff Skinner looked like he’s more than ready to take on a major role on this club. The departure of Erik Cole may or may not have a sizable impact on the club, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in a division that should be much more competitive than it has been in recent years. If all estimates are correct, the Canes will be one of the teams that the Leafs will have to battle with for one of the lower playoff seeds in the East, so we’ll be keeping an eye on them throughout the season. Here’s a taste of what the staff at Cardiac Cane had to say, and be sure to check out the rest of the preview here.
To go with the new additions, there are higher expectations for the members of the Hurricanes who were with the team last year. Many want to see Eric Staal make that jump and have a season closer to the point production like he had during the 2005-2006 season, where he had 100 points (45G, 55A). There are also hopes that the Canes’ young rookie phenom from last year, Jeff Skinner, is able to avoid the “Sophomore Slump” and improve on his 63-point performance from last season. The defensive core will have a microscope on it most of the season as well, looking to improve the amount of shots that goaltender Cam Ward will have to face. Last season, Ward faced 2,375 shots, highest in the NHL. I expect new assistant coach Dave Lewis, who spent 14 years coaching in the league, to strengthen the defense and, in turn, help Cam Ward have an extremely strong season. Don’t expect the Hurricanes to make the playoffs if Cam Ward has an off year.