Since General Manager Jim Rutherford acquired veteran goalie Manny Legace in early November, the ‘Canes have won only 4 games, pushing their record to a meek 6-17-5. Given the record, it’s not surprising that Rutherford has threatened to make changes, including roster moves that are probably well overdue. In response, the team snapped a five game losing streak, beating Vancouver 5-2 in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon. While Vancouver dominated much of the game, the ‘Canes played well enough to win, a trait that has eluded the team for the entire season.
Carolina beat Canuck backup Andrew Raycroft 5 times on 28 shots. Forward Erik Cole shouldered the offensive output with a hat trick, registering his first multiple goal game since being reacquired by the club last March. Ray Whitney posted a goal and two assists while Sergei Samsonov, Matt Cullen and Eric Staal all contributed offensively. Aaron Ward even scored his 100th career assist. While Scott Walker was back in the lineup, both Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose were scratched with the mysterious “lower-body injury.” Legace played well enough to win, with 33 saves on 36 shots.
But, Legace hasn’t been the showstopper that Carolina needed. Going into Saturday’s contest, Legace had posted a 2-4-2 record, 3.23 GAA, and .890 SV%. Ward has been making progress and may rejoin the active roster as early as next week. Although Ward will likely not be able to turn the season around, the ‘Canes are a much more interesting club with him between the pipes, which will help at the gate.
Despite Saturday’s victory, the team remains seriously flawed and the season is likely lost. At 6-17-5, the team is on pace to win only 18 games. In fact, the team is on pace to register approximately 51 points. Since no team since the lockout has qualified for the playoffs with less than 92 points, the season looks bleak. Although Rutherford has recently given Coach Paul Maurice a vote of confidence, ‘Canes fans have to wonder how long that may last. After all, the ‘Canes were 8-12-8, and in third place in the division last time Rutherford fired Maurice. Things look much worse this time around, and look for Rutherford to sake up the roster as the team moves in 2010.
Dan Canavan is an attorney in Hartford, Connecticut. Dan regularly covers business and legal issues facing the hockey industry for ctsportslaw.com. He has appeared as an on-air guest with regard to the NHL and the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings on CBC Radio’s World Report. His analysis and commentary have also been published in various media outlets including The National Post, The Windsor Star, The Star Phoenix, The Montreal Gazette, The Edmonton Journal, The Ottawa Citizen, The Vancouver Sun, The Province, Faceoff.com, and the Sports Litigation Alert. You can follow Dan on Twitter at twitter.com/DanielRCanavan. Dan can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.