Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Not Even A Tropical Depression

With the 4-1 loss at Vancouver and the fact that they don't play again until Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes will finish the month of October without a win. That's not a typo, kids.

Right now, the Hurricanes are 0-6-2, and are in the lead for the first overall pick in next year's draft. Truthfully, if I am either Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid, I would be dreading the prospect of ending up in Carolina right now. The Hurricanes are a rudderless ship that is shortchanging its coaching staff, with their big addition from the off-season being Jay McClement. McClement is fine... if you're trying to find that last piece to a playoff run, but the Hurricanes are nowhere near that. General Manager Ron Francis has had his hands tied, with the bloated contracts handed out to underachievers such as Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, and Cam Ward. However, the unwillingness to use a buyout clause in the off-season makes it that much harder, in effect, causing the Hurricanes to resign Tim Gleason, who himself was bought out by Toronto after a half season with them following a trade from Carolina (big surprise).

I mentioned leadership being an issue, and have called for the Hurricanes to take the C away from Eric Staal. A team should be a reflection of their captain, and Staal has not been very good in a leadership role. If you remember how he got the C, it was after the Hurricanes stripped the C from Rod Brind'Amour in 2010, in his last year in the league. Since then, the Hurricanes haven't shown anything resembling improvement, from either the team or Staal himself.

This will be a long year for the Hurricanes, and short of any earth-shattering moves, it's going to remain a painful time no matter who they draft next year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: Getting Back on the Right Track

Perhaps the road trip through Saskatchewan and Manitoba was what the Portland Winterhawks needed, and they wrapped up a six-game trek with the East Division opponents.  Tuesday, the Winterhawks defeated the Regina Pats 3-1.  However, they still could not get a winning streak going, as the Swift Current Broncos scored in the closing seconds of the game on Wednesday, making the Winterhawks' comeback from two down in the third period for naught in a 5-4 loss.  Friday, the Winterhawks were led by a three point effort from Layne Viveiros in their 5-2 win over Prince Albert.  Saturday, the Winterhawks finally achieved a winning streak, as an Oliver Bjorkstrand hat trick propelled the Winterhawks to a 6-1 win in Saskatoon.  The Winterhawks finished the trip with four wins and eight points in six games.

This coming week will be a major test, as the Winterhawks return home to take on Kelowna on Thursday and Saturday before meeting up with their WHL Finals rival from the last three seasons Edmonton on Sunday.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Erie Examiner: All They Do is Win

The Erie Otters are continuing their winning ways, and now, it's extending to an NHL city.  Wednesday, the Otters had a home game in Buffalo, NY against the Niagara Icedogs, and if you know your Sabres team this year, it's the team's fans' opportunity to see what they could be getting if they tank hard enough.  In the Otters' convincing 8-4 win, Connor McDavid did not disappoint, scoring a goal and three assists, and even when he missed, his skill was on display in the effort to get there.  Friday, the Otters had an opportunity to extend their mastery of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, something that dates back to their sweep in last year's Conference semi-finals.  Two Dylan Strome goals helped propel the Otters to a 6-4 win and extended their league best record to 10-0-0-1.  Sunday was a trip to Sudbury, and an opportunity to make a statement and a chance to add to the record.  The Otters did not disappoint, as they put an eight-spot on the Wolves, as they dominated in a 8-1 win.  McDavid and Strome have points in all 12 games so far this season.

The Otters come home for a Thursday tilt against Plymouth before welcoming Ottawa for a Saturday night game.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fade to Black

from the Victoria Royals' Twitter
Last night was another game for the Victoria Royals, as they beat the Vancouver Giants 2-1 on the strength of their power play.  However, that's not the reason why this post is being made, nor is the fact that it's the OTHER Royals-Giants matchup going on this weekend.

The picture above is what the Royals wore on the ice.  Yes, it is a black jersey, and it marks the first time that the team has gone the third jersey route in their short existence.  The look is solid, with a front view of the lion's face as the logo on the front and the Royals wordmark on the shoulders.  While the striping on the sleeves and waist could be better, the consistency with all of them is a good thing here, as it's white on top, with black and blue going down and the blue being thicker than the other two stripes.  The numbering and lettering is fairly standard, which works here in that the Royals make the jersey all about what's on front.  Overall, the Victoria Royals kept their third jersey design simple, yet effective.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Putting the Winds Back in Carolina

The Carolina Hurricanes were widely thought to be in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes prior to this season.  Five games in, and they're proving just about everyone correct in that assessment.  Given the team's penchant for underachieving, this year is actually not bad in comparison when looking at this year's expectations (read: none).  This is where I get to put on my General Manager's hat and take a look at possible ways that the Carolina Hurricanes can be fixed.

In goal, the Hurricanes have quite the predicament, as Anton Khudobin is currently sitting above Cam Ward on the depth chart.  The problem?  Ward is making starter's money, and right now, Ward has a GAA of 3.87 and a save percentage of .846.  Throw in his history of being injured, and you can see why he's been difficult to move.  His current contract is up after next season, and even without the injuries, he has been nowhere near the player that he was in the mid to late 2000's.  How to fix the goal problem?  Find a team that constantly fights to get to the salary cap floor and is willing to gamble on a goalie who used to be good, and those teams are scarce at the moment.

Defensively, they're not in the worst shape.  In fact, this is probably the most stable unit on the team.  Players slated to be free agents after the season are Tim Gleason, Brett Bellemore, and Andrej Sekera, and it is entirely possible that only one of them could be resigned, and it is likely Sekera, who put up good numbers last season and is currently paired with Justin Faulk.  With Ryan Murphy waiting in the wings and Haydn Fleury developing, the Hurricanes don't look too bad here, as Jay Harrison is decent, and Ron Hainsey is fine as a third pairing player.

Forwards is where things get dicey.  Both Staals are out due to injuries, though Eric is slated to return soon, and Jeff Skinner just returned from a concussion.  Of the forwards, only Skinner has produced lately, and that's when he's actually been healthy.  Jiri Tlusty and Chris Terry lead the team in scoring, and that's not a good sign.  Tlusty can score goals, which explains his standing, but no one outside of Carolina has heard of Terry.  Alex Semin has yet to score, and given that his best numbers were when he was on a one-year deal in the lockout-shortened season, it's fair to wonder if Alexei Yashin changed identities.  Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm are some of the young players getting ice time, which is good.  However, neither have found their stride.

To fix the issues here, the first thing I would do is strip Eric Staal of the captaincy.  Since he became captain midway through the 2009-10 season, when he replaced Rod Brind'Amour, the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs every year, and though he has broken the 30-goal mark in 2010-11, he also has not broken the 80-point mark since the season he became captain.  A captain should be a reflection of the team, and since Staal became captain, it does not look good.  The Hurricanes should reassess who their real leaders are, which is why going with four alternate captains for a while is a good idea here, as you're making the players earn the right to wear the C.  As for trading options, Eric Staal could still fetch a decent offer, particularly since his current deal is up after next season.  Semin is another player I would want to move, but he has four more years (including this season), and his inconsistency would scare some teams.  Skinner would give the Hurricanes the best options in a trade, but he is also their best player at the moment, and injury issues aside, he still managed 30-plus goals last season.  However, the Hurricanes would be wise to listen to deals for him, as they need to replenish their farm system.

As you can see, the Hurricanes are a mess, and it's not going to be an easy fix.  Where they can start, however, is figuring out who their real locker room leaders are and go with four alternate captains until they know who's willing to step up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Erie Examiner: Big Week Ahead

The Erie Otters head into the week with only one loss, and even that took an effort from the opposing team.  Wednesday, the Otters headed to London, where the Otters forced overtime, but could not close the deal, as they lost 4-3 in a shootout.  Friday, the Otters hosted Sudbury, and were able to hold off a struggling Wolves team for a 3-2 win.  Saturday was a day of vengeance, as the Otters rode a strong third period for a 6-2 win over London.

The Otters will head to Buffalo for a tilt against the Niagara Icedogs on Wednesday in what is likely the city's first look at a potential draft pick in Connor McDavid, as well as Dylan Strome, both of whom are eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.  The city of Buffalo is likely going to be playoff-free this season, as the Sabres are stumbling out of the gate (predictably).  The Otters will also hit the road for games at Sault Ste. Marie on Friday and Sudbury on Saturday.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Flames' Cornerstone D

Though the Calgary Flames are in the midst of trying to rebuild after years of holding off, today was a significant step in the right direction, as they gave defenseman T.J. Brodie a five year extension.  Dollar amount is not confirmed at this time, but the Flames did well to lock up the former fourth round pick in 2008, as he has found a home as one half of the team's top defensive pairing alongside Mark Giordano.  On a team that is short on talent, Brodie is emerging as one of the go-to players on the team, and given his chemistry with Giordano, it is clear that the top defensive pairing is the least of the Flames' problems.