If you want proof that Raleigh continues to grow as a hockey market, just listen to the Aftermath following a tough Hurricanes loss. Just as you would hear in “traditional hockey markets” (oh how I hate that term), once a player is identified as the reason for a loss, he has to be benched, sent to Charlotte, or even traded for others teams superstars.
Of course salary is the driving force behind much of the criticism. Big money means a player has to perform every night. In past years, Eric Staal was the popular target for all that was wrong with the Canes. We can be glad that Jim Rutherford didn’t trade the Captain and his 18 points and +13 plus/minus out of town last year when he was playing maybe the worse hockey of his career. Which brings me to last night’s: target Cam Ward.
I am not going to make the argument that Cam is the second coming of Jacques Plante. A 5-5-1 record in 11 starts, a 3.27 GAA and .896 SV% say otherwise. And he was not good last night. The first goal by Blake Wheeler was just brutal. He got caught with both skates in the blue. One more stride and he takes the angle away. The second goal was on the short side from Evander Kane, and the third goal looked like me trying to field a ground ball at Detroit Tigers Fantasy camp. As John Forslund said after the game, “Cam is not in a very good place right now.”
Having said all that, remember that Cam Ward is a Stanley Cup champion goalie. He in a Conn Smythe winning Stanley Cup champion. If the Hurricanes are to be a playoff team in 2013, it has to be with Cam Ward as the #1 net minder. Dan Ellis has been everything you could expect in a back-up goalie. He has already won as many games (3) in four starts, as Justin Peters and Brian Boucher won in 17 starts last year.
I am of the mind that Cam will figure this out. He has too. And he has to do it fast because the season is 1/3 of the way finished.