The smoke has cleared on a disappointing season for the Carolina Hurricanes. Now management has to put together the pieces and find which players they want to build around. The ‘Canes found a few more ways to win at the end of the year but the season was still a failure. It is that time of year to comb through the season and pick out the teams most valuable player. If it wasn’t for Cam Ward this season the ‘Canes record would have been even worse. Justin Faulk put on a valiant performance throughout the year, but Cam Ward was the ‘Canes most valuable player in this lackluster season.
The Argument for Justin Faulk
Justin Faulk showed a lot of talent and potential this season. He solidified himself as the ‘Canes number one defenseman, and the ‘Canes most talented player. Eric Staal lead the team in points (54) this season but Justin Faulk was just behind him on the blue line. The top defenseman scored 15-goals and added 34-assists, and had the most ice time on the team. The first time All-Star is still growing as an overall player and will be the ‘Canes number one defenseman moving forward. The ‘Canes would have been in serious trouble without his points this year, but there was a line of defense that was more important for the Hurricanes this season. The stats won’t blow people away, but Cam Ward was that last line of defense.
Enter Cam Ward
The ‘Canes longtime goalie made his 500th career start for the team this season. There was plenty of discussion surrounding Ward before the season started. He struggled the previous season and people questioned if his best days were behind him. Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t, but Cam Ward was solid for a struggling team this year. His numbers aren’t near the top of the league, but he battled through a weak defense all season. He had a .910 save percentage and with 2.40 GAA this season. Last season, he boosted a sad .898 save percentage and 3.06 GAA. The ‘Canes only won 30-games this year. The future is a big question for Cam Ward and the Carolina Hurricanes, but the veteran goalie showed his importance this season.
If the ‘Canes didn’t have Cam Ward this season they would have played on the back of Anton Khudobin. Khudobin didn’t impress in a season that he should have challenged Ward for playing time. Now, the ‘Canes weren’t perfect in front of Khudobin and they had times were they struggled to score goals for him. They struggled to score goals for Cam Ward too, but Ward gave the ‘Canes more chances to win. Without Ward the ‘Canes would have had Khudobin as a starter the entire season. Khudobin is not a bad goalie but something was wrong. He had the worst season of his career with a .900% save percentage and 2.72 GAA. This is not about how bad Khudobin is, but about what Cam Ward meant to this team. The season would have been a lot worse without Cam Ward in net.
Cam Ward’s 2.40 GAA this season was the best of his 10-year career. His 2.44 GAA in 2008-09 was his previous best. #Canes
— Mark Jones (@CanesReport) April 12, 2015
It is hard and frustrating for fans to pick out who they think was the teams MVP after finishing in the bottom of the standings. With their eyes set on the draft ‘Canes fans are looking to forget this season. So ‘Canes fans, who in your eyes is the ‘Canes MVP this season? Justin Faulk may have the strongest case, but Cam Ward made the biggest difference in the few ‘Canes wins this season.
Cam Ward has to get that vote from fans. Ward didn’t put up All-Star numbers but if you look back at the close games the ‘Canes won, you can see Ward’s importance. Khudobin needed to prove that he was ready to replace Cam as the starter this year, but that never happened. Cam Ward made some highlight real saves, and really played well for a team that struggled all over. Cam Ward is the ‘Canes MVP, and he showed he still has a little magic left in the tank. If Ward can keep this up for a few more seasons and the ‘Canes build up more talent, the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner might get another taste of the playoffs.
Philip is a Sports Journalist covering the Pittsburgh Penguins. Duquesne University Journalism Grad 2013.