The DiverCanes Source: Rockymounttelegram.com

Chasing The Enemy: Carolina Hurricanes

Today’s music video is Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day.

September is here if you’re like me you can’t wait for it to end.  The start of training camp is about two weeks away and preseason games will be here soon.  To help us get ready I’m going to spend the next few Friday’s taking a look at our division rivals from the Southeastern Conference as the Florida Panthers attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time since Bill Clinton was our President.  I’m starting today with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Before I even get started, make sure you take a look at our FanSided opponent, Cardiac Cane.  Kristina Kelly the lead writer has quite the spunk, and is funny, passionate and most importantly knows her stuff.  And ladies, please stay away from Jeff Skinner.  Kristina claimed him a long time ago.  Also Sally Brown and Dan MacLachlan provide her with some excellent support.

Last season the Panthers were 2-4 against the DiverCanes as Carolina fought long and hard to make the playoffs until they lost on on the last day of the season and missed the post season.  The highlight for them was rookie sensation and Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner.  In 82 games last season Skinner scored 31 times and had 32 helpers on his way to a 63 point season.  In six games against the Cats Skinner had three goals and four assists and the thought of seeing him six times a year for potentially the next decade is a little unsettling since he will only get better.  Eric Staal the team captain is another force to be dealt with and has always scored some clutch goals against Florida.  Eric put up his third best season as far as points are concerned as he led the Canes in scoring with 33 goals and 43 assists for 76 points.  His previous best was in the 2005-2006 season when he posted 100 points.

Two other players to be wary of are Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen.  Ruutu a former first round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks who I actually met at the draft that was held here in Sunrise in 2001 is a European born player who plays a North American style.  Tough in the corners, quick and aggressive, Ruutu can play the game either way and can be counted on for 50-60 points a season.  Jokinen on the other hand is more skilled and uses his speed and stickhandling extremely well.  He made a name for himself a couple years back as a shootout specialist.  A dangerous shot, Jokinen a player I had hoped Florida would go after this offseason signed a three year extension to stay in Carolina.  The loss of forward Eric Cole will be a huge measuring stick in judging how the rest of the Hurricanes have matured.  Cole on of the better leaders in the game will play this season in Montreal.  Say hi to Uncle Jack.

On defence it’s a fairly non-intimidating group.  Joni Pitkanen, former Panther Bryan Allen  and veteran Tomas Kaberle lead this lunchpail group, and you will never say they are flashy, however when they all have their best game, they get the job done.  This will be Kaberle’s first season with the Canes, reuniting him with former Leaf coach Paul Maurice. In goal the Hurricanes have one of the best young netminders in the game in Cam Ward.  Ward will be entering his seventh season and at 27 is hitting his prime.  When healthy, he can play upwards of 60 games and last season played in 74, which in today’s era is most likely about 10 too many if you’re hoping to be fresh for the playoffs.  Nonetheless, Ward is a solid goaltender that has already won a Stanley Cup and knows what it takes to survive the grind of a long season.

Behind the bench the studious looking Paul Maurice continues to survive the ups and downs that this club has experienced.  They seem to play well for him and every time it appears his job is on the line the Canes put together some wins and he survives the threat.  One thing that does is establish stability in the organEYEzation and confidence in the coach.

This is one team that frustrates me as I have written many many times.  Always in the way of the Panthers these dive specialists seem to always get the call at the right time, and seem to be able to knock the Panthers off a win streak, or help continue one.  It’s not an ugly division rival, but an annoying one.  This year if the Panthers are going to be in the top eight in the conference, this will be one team that they will have to beat.

Oh and by the way, I survived my self imposed contest of writing everyday for five days!  I think we can raise a glass to that.

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Tags: Bill Clinton Cam Ward Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal Florida Pan Thers Green Day Jeff Skinner Rookie Of The Year Tuomo Ruut Wake Me Up When September Ends

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