Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters must be hearing the immortal words of the late, baseball great Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” That’s how it must feel for fans as well at the start of another NHL season that again sees a veteran player lost to injury. Defenseman James Wisniewski went down in the early part of the Canes’ season opener against the Nashville Predators. It was obvious from watching the initial play where the injury had occurred.
Hurricanes GM Ron Francis announced Friday that Wisniewski will undergo surgery on his left knee after suffering a torn ACL and that the recovery time for the injury is estimated at six months.
Wisniewski was acquired in June from the Anaheim Ducks in a trade for Anton Khudobin. While never considered a high-end defenseman in the league, Wisniewski is a solid veteran player that the rebuilding Hurricanes needed, especially in the locker room. His injury puts the team in an even more serious position of need on the defensive side of the ice, especially since Andrej Sekera is gone.
Filling the Hole
I wrote on June 19 that Justin Faulk needs help. I still believe that is the case for this team. The loss of Wisniewski, who was not looking to be the nightly partner of Faulk, creates yet another hole to fill. It’s early, but Peters currently has Ron Hainsey on the back end with Faulk.
Hainsey is a lot like Wisniewski in that he has been around the league a long time and is not regarded as premiere, but solid. He may be able to provide what Peters needs alongside Faulk for the time being, but if it turns out that the duo doesn’t have the right kind of defensive chemistry night in and night out, Peters will have to improvise. That is, until the team is able and/or willing to go out and find a top-pair defender to match with Faulk.
Noah Hanifin shows a lot of promise and who knows what his upside is ultimately. I think the sky is the limit for the Hurricanes’ first-round pick at this year’s NHL Entry Draft. But, he is a rookie, and time will tell whether or not he can truly be consistently relied upon in the same way that Aaron Ekblad distinguished himself last year with the Florida Panthers.
I believe he will, but the immediate need is for a solid, stable blue line and hopefully a continuation of last year’s strong Canes’ penalty kill. For the moment, Francis has called upon Charlotte Checkers defenseman Danny Biega to fill the hole in the defense.
Biega played 10 games for the Hurricanes last season and had two assists. He also played in 69 games for the Checkers where he notched two goals and 12 assists. The 24-year-old will have to adjust quickly if he is going to make the case that he belongs at this level.
Peters also said that Michal Jordan will be getting lots of ice time as well. In reference to Jordan, Peters acknowledged:
“He should be in the lineup for the foreseeable future.”
At 25, Jordan is another young Hurricane that played well at times last season but is likely not ready for nightly prime time. However, he may have to get ready quickly.
All in all, the injury to Wisniewski is a huge blow to a team hoping to have a better season than they have in quite a while. Jordan Staal’s broken leg and Jeff Skinner’s concussion both happened early last season and contributed to the 0-8 start in the month of October. The Canes and their fans are hoping that the injury bug will not bite again this season.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.