Friday, December 28, 2007

Help Wanted: Visigoth who can skate

This from Lord Stanley's Blog yesterday in Lord Stanley's Blog yesterday, JR seems to be mulling the idea of bringing in an enforcer. I hate the idea. Jesse Boulerice delivered the most memorable goal from the 2002 (?) season, but little else. Darren Langdon was a capable brawler and a solid clubhouse guy, but I dismiss the idea that you have to put Grendel on your 4th line to make other squads behave. The Canes really need to get physical from the outset. They need to hit the bully in the mouth before the bully can pick and chose his time and victim. You hit Colton Orr on his first shift and make him the retaliator. Mike Commodore, Andrew Ladd (when his hands are free), Craig Adams and Tim Gleason all stand up for their pards when the call comes, but beyond Erik Cole and Craig Adams, few Hurricane forwards seem willing to blast opponents on the forecheck. The Canes are perfectly capable of enforcement without bringing in a Scott Parker.

I defended Scott Walker awhile back after the head-butt he delivered to Mike Fisher. Yeah, it was a bit dirty, but the Canes were getting whipped and he took it personal. He got jumped from behind by a visor-guy and got frustrated in his attempts to punch thru the Plexiglas. Other Hurricanes might have curled up in a rope-a-dope and then skated away with their head down. He's the ornieriest guy on this Hurricanes squad, he's a robust little 5'10" ball of piss and vinegar, and I say Scott Walker needs some help in the physical play department.

I don't think the lesson of the Ducks Cup run of last year is that size and intimidation now trump all. The leading scorers on that squad were Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald and Scott Niedermeyer. These guys are not giants with nasty porn-staches. This year's Ducks squad is dominated by Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Pronger - big guys with mean streaks who can finish, but the Ducks have suffered greatly this fall without the presence of Selanne and Niedermeyer.

If you look to the Ducks model, the Canes lack similar size-speed-skill-intimidator balance. So in my role as self-appointed roster consultant, I'd advise JR that a move that improved the balance would be good. It doesn't have to be a pure enforcer, it just has to be a large man (or men) with decent skills who relish the opportunity to inflict pain on every shift. If the Canes want to add some instant evil to the lineup, here are a few guys I'd suggest looking deeper at:

  • Chris Neil-a human anvil with emerging offensive upside. Affordable at $1.2 mil thru next season.

  • Trent Hunter - Solid all-around player who is second in the league in hits. He's got hands like Craig Adams, and he's also a UFA at the end of this season if it doesn't work out.

  • John Zeiler-I watched this kid the other night and he hits everything that moves. He's not very big, but he's got a mile-long ornery streak.

EVENING UPDATE: Not sure yet how bad the injury to Bret Hedican will be. If he's going to miss a chunk of time, me thinks that puck-moving defenseman JR has repeatedly mentioned might be the Canes first priority. I'm still not convinced that a puck-mover is what the Canes blueline needs. The boys gave up three goals on defensive breakdowns tonight. I think they need an ice-time hog who can deal pain and own the area in front of the net. Luke DeCock mentioned Brooks Orpik the other day. That's not much of an upgrade. The two guys GM C/B would pursue would be Keith Ballard in Phoenix and Francois Beauchemin in Anaheim. I'd like to see the Canes take care of the need on defense first, and then go find an affordable enforcer at the deadline if this crew can't make physicality and enforcement a team commitment.

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