Only two more weeks to go. Eight games in the next 15 days and this nightmare Carolina Hurricanes season will be over.
I use the word nightmare because that is what it feels like to a lot of Canes fans. The build up to this season started last summer when the Canes acquired Jordan Staal and Alex Semin. After going through the Gary and Don show, the season started with so much hope and success. The Hurricanes found themselves in third place in the Eastern Conference, and were poised to put the Washington Capitals 12 points out of first place in the Southeast Division.
And then it was gone. Just like that…gone.
As Montgomery-Gentry says in that hit song, the season was “gone like a freight train”. On March 14, Seth Jones was not the No. 1 topic among Caniacs. After a 1-13-1 four-week stretch, he is now.
A 6’4″, 206 lbs. defenseman would look mighty nice next to Justin Faulk for the next decade or so. As it looks now, the Canes have a lot more losing to do in order to win the NHL lottery. With the effort they played with Thursday in Washington, logic says they will find some wins in the next two weeks.
But logic said that there is no way a team with Eric and Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, and Jeff Skinner could score only 12 goals while losing eight games in a row at home. So while fans should try to enjoy watching the team for these final two weeks (if they can stand it), it’s safe to say not too many tears will be shed when it is over. What may go down as the most disappointing season since the team arrived in 1997, will lead to many pressing questions in the off-season.
As the season and playoff hopes have slipped away over the last month, many questions about the Hurricanes have been debated among fans. Who can play on the second line with Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner? Can Skinner and Staal find the kind of chemistry that Eric Staal and Alex Semin have developed? How can Jim Rutherford fix the Canes blueline? How can the Hurricanes get bigger, and more productive on the third and forth lines?
In the next two weeks, another question needs to be answered: who will be Cam Ward’s back up in 2013-14? Excluding the 2009-10 when Ward only started 45 games because of injury, the most successful back up netminder the Hurricanes have had since the lockout of 2004-05 has been…….Cam Ward.
As a rookie, Ward went 14-8-2 in 25 starts. The only other Canes back up to win in double figures was John Graham (10 wins/25 starts), in 2006-07. Finding a reliable back up for Ward has always been a problem in the organization. So who gets the job in 2013/14?
Dan Ellis is a UFA. His play was solid until a leg injury on March 26. He has not been the same since his return. That brings us to the 26-year-old Justin Peters. He is signed through next season on a one-way contract, and he is the most logical option for the Hurricanes. Peters has shined in a 4-3 home victory over Buffalo on March 5. He shut out the Washington Capitals 4-0 on March 12, and beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 two Saturdays ago in Winnipeg.
These three games are part of the problem: they are his only wins of the year. He has been consistently inconsistent. So while Caniacs count down the days to the Seth Jones lottery, Justin Peters might have eight games to show if he has a NHL future. Who is Cam Wards back up next season? Justin Peters can answer that question. If he can’t, add another item to Jim Rutherford’s off-season to-do list.