Canes Country blogger Bob Harwood Waeghe was kind enough to answer some questions about his Carolina Hurricanes for me preceding their tilt with the Nashville Predators. The Hurricanes, in a small Southern market similar to the Preds, made a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 08-09, but are a disappointing last in the NHL this year.
Follow after the jump for the interview.
1. Is there anything specific you can point to that has led to the Hurricanes' freefall in the Eastern Conference standings this year (following a Conference Finals appearance)?
BW: Unfortunately for the Canes, it's been a combination of things leading to their early season demise. Bad offense, (last in NHL goals for), bad defense, (last in goals allowed), inconsistent goaltending, and a lackluster powerplay have all contributed to the losses. Of course there have also been a slew of injuries to key people, (Erik Cole, Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo, etc), but good teams can not use injuries as an excuse for failure.
2. Outside of the obvious (update: and now unavailable), Eric Staal, which Hurricane should Predator fans keep an eye on Thursday?
BW: "The Finnish Connection", forwards Jussi Jokinen (36) and Tuomo Ruutu (15) have been bringing the offense for the team. I would keep an eye on them, as well as All Star Eric Staal.
3. What's the situation in goal? Cam Ward's statistics don't seem to be indicative of the elite NHL goaltender he's been in the past.
BW: Cam Ward was injured when his leg was cut by Rick Nash in the crease and he missed several games because of that, but to be honest his stats were not great before the injury. Some of the problem has been poor defense in front of him, but not all of it can be blamed on the defense. The good news is that Ward has looked more like himself lately.
4. Is Ray Whitney still a possible trading chip? The Predators, successful as this season has been, could still use a depth winger.
BW: Reportedly, Whitney does not want to be traded. He has a no trade clause worked into his contract, so he will make that call. But as the team gets closer to the trade deadline, I think all bets are off. His contract expires at the end of the season, and where will he earn a higher contract next year? Playing for a last place team or playing for a Cup contender? I look for him to accept a trade if he feels good about it, when the time is right.
5. What is a Hurricane fan's biggest reason for optimism in a disappointing campaign thus far?
BW: Many fans are hoping for a top draft pick this summer and Taylor Hall seems to be the favorite choice right now. The possibility of a Staal and Hall duo is certainly something to be optimistic about!
Many thanks to Bob for taking the time to answer those for me. The Hurricanes have always interested me as a franchise because of their similarity to the Predators. The Hurricanes play in a small market that is not only in the South but also an area where football is dominant. Main difference? The Canes have a Cup.