Normally, I drop "Amens" on the knowledge Luke DeCock puts out. In his May 3 piece on Bret Hedican and his failing hip, Luke gave us these lines:
Even without Hedican, the Canes are loaded on the blue line. Mike
Commodore, Tim Gleason, Andrew
Hutchinson, Frantisek Kaberle, Dennis
Seidenberg and Niclas Wallin are under contract next
That's not a loaded blueline. That's an plodding, fingers in the dike, patchwork blueline. Hedican must be coerced into retirement. Make him executive vice president of skating-related operations-make him vice president of corporate outreach -do something, cause he's far too brittle to take up a roster spot on a team struggling to hold its place in the local market after missing the playoffs last season. Winning keeps the fan base happy and growing. Blind loyalty does not.
Even with a "healthy" Hedican, there are no clear shutdown or point-producing pairings on this Hurricanes roster. By my carefully indexed and calibrated count, this crew generated absolutely zero offensive production in any pairing permutation not involving Mike Commodore.
David Tanabe showed flashes of skill, but this squad needs more than flashes of NHL caliber game. Taking a look at the rest of the Canes under contract stable of offensivish-defensemen, you'll find Andrew Hutchinson who sat most of the season so that David Tanabe got his chance, Frankie Kaberle who rehabbed his way to a lost season, and Dennis Seidenberg who either sat or spat pucks for around half of his season as a Hurricane. None of the aforementioned provided any pop to the Canes scoring prowess or enforced their will in the defensive zone. That's what my man Luke calls "loaded?"
The buzz is that JR will try and use Anton Babchuk as bait to acquire some front line scoring help. Dumb idea, says I. Babchuk is about the only one on this crew who has potential upside left. There might still be a Euro-Pronger under that thin skin. Tim Gleason was nothing short of a disappointment. Bad when injured, mistake-prone when not, and bupkis in the scoring department. Nic Wallin is old guard Hurricane. Hard to mash too much on a guy who's given so much blood, sweat and drama to the franchise (read: Molson Miracle). That being said, Gleason and Wallin are are like red shirt guys from the original Star Trek series. Nameless, faceless and almost always dead or critically wounded (or on the IR) by the end of act one.
Besides Babchuk, the only Carolina defenseman who intrigues me in the least is Andrew Hutchinson. Maybe I'm intrigued by his nice slapper and passing acumen. Maybe I'm intrigued by the fact that I think he's actually that Hansel character from Zoolander. Do the Canes really need two nice hands/conflict avoidance defenseman? Maybe Hutch can parlay his successes at the Worlds into more PT next fall. Can you imagine a Hutchinson/Kaberle pairing on defense? Each defensive shift a "Walk Off." They might not score or stop anybody, but they'd look magnificent. I think Frankie has a bit more Blue Steel to his game face.
I say what this team still needs is a bit of a personnel makeover on defense. Who could be had for Kaberle, Seidenberg and/or Gleason? What if the pot was sweatened with Trevor Letowski? I know, I know "sweetened" is a bit of a stretch.
How about one more season of Glen Wesley and Nic Wallin, plus Hutchinson, Comodore, Babchuk and one additional multi-dimensional UFA stud? I say spend the money on "D" JR-hold on any pursuit of another "scoring" forward. Take a risk on Anson Carter for one more season at $700,000, a fashionable studio apartment over Bates Battaglia's Glenwood restaurant and a year's supply of Happy Meal coupons. I think Chadsworth LaRose might yet surprise us all if he get's the chance to center a third line.
Here are some UFA's who might add some umph into the Canes blueline:
- Kimmo Timonen
- Andrei Markov
- Danny (CB First-Ballot Hall of Famer) Markov
- Tom Preissing