Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Looking Ahead to the Second Season

God bless you Marty Gerber.

All you hand-wringers can just back off Mark Recchi as well. Recchi is a pro-Recchi has played like a pro throughout his career. His service with the 'Canes will be no different. He'll come to play every night.

A Pause to Reflect and Bask in the Glow
What a difference a lost season and new CBA can make. The Hurricanes rebuilt over the lockout emphasizing speed, skills, forechecking and puck control. Out with trapping and banking on every night being a 2-1 game. Out with an anemic PP. Out with Jeff O'Neill, his laziness and attitude. Out with old leadership and in with new. It's Roddy's clubhouse now. JR correctly predicted the reality of NHL-next, and his foresight paid off. He made smart and cost-conscious acquistions in the off season, and left himself a huge budget margin to land Weight and Recchi at deadline time. Neither will be Senators or Flyers or Devils the rest of this season.

Playoffs on the Horizon
The 'Canes are in and now need to look ahead to playoff hockey. It's gonna be a grind-a gauntlet. The boys are gonna need to be fresh, healthy and peaking at the right time. They've been through a bit of a funk. The Sens have weathered the funk, ditto the Rangers. The Sabers are still in it. Eleven games remain. Lots of Southeast smackdowns still to go, and every game could mean life or death to the Panthers, Thrash and 'Ning.

If it was my club, I'd spend the next five or six games working on balance. If it was my club, I'd try to throttle back on ice time for guys like Staal, Stillman, Roddy, Whitney, Wesley, Hedican and AWard. I'd give Cullen, KAdams, Tverdovsky and Justin Williams more time in key situations-to demonstrate my trust in them at crunch time. Weight and Recchi need to continue to build on-ice rapport with their team mates, so I wouldn't limit their time.

I would give the younger guys considerably more time on the ice. Andrew Ladd, Mike Commodore, Chad LaRose, and Anton Babchuk, would all benefit from more time in more critical situations. Same with Cam Ward. Let him face 30-40 shots from some desperate squads for a span of games. We may well need the boy.

The next five or six games should also be a good time to get Joe Vasicek back into the flow. Start him slow, but have him ready to bang and play a lot of minutes at left wing or center by the last six games of the season.

Now, what if Jack Johnson commits between now and playoff time? Let me ruminate about that one. I might be changing my take...

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