Guys like LaRose are typically fan-favorites on many teams. He doesn't score a lot but he does a lot of the little things that help you win games like killing penalties and winning battles along the boards. He is a regular fixture on the Canes third line and has provided solid secondary scoring for them for the past four years or so. However, it was during the last two seasons when I began to be more impressed with LaRose as a two-way player. Him, Sutter and Cole saw the toughest competition among forwards in 2009-10, and LaRose took on tougher zone starts compared to previous years. He also did a pretty damn good job territorially in that role which made me value him more as a two-way forward instead of just a secondary scorer. In this post, we're mainly going to be focusing on LaRose's offensive production which unfortunately isn't a lot, but not bad for someone in his role. Can we expect him to build on the 31 points from last year or well he have yet another 11-goal season?no comments
I've already analyzed Tomas Kaberle a bit this off-season and determined that he should provide a slight upgrade on the powerplay compared to what Joe Corvo brought (keyword there is "slight") but may need to be protected if he is going to be effective in this system. Kaberle is 33 and most defensemen tend to see their play decline after the age of 30, which has sort of been the case with Kaberle in terms of counting numbers even though it isn't anything too drastic yet. Will Kaberle continue to decline or will he be the powerplay quarterback that Carolina desperately needs this year?no comments
Training camp has begun in Raleigh and I think it's safe to say that the first five starting spots on the defense are set in stone. Unless a terrible injury happens, those five spots consist of Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, Tomas Kaberle, Bryan Allen and Jamie McBain. The question is who will play the sixth spot and play on the third pairing to start the year? The Canes certainly have their options to fill that spot whether it's using the same personnel as last year or finding younger options.
I see five players contesting for that last spot but before we break them down, we have to consider what the team's defense corps needs right now. We have three guys capable of providing offense in Pitkanen, Kaberle and McBain and two more defensive-minded players with Gleason and Allen. Pitkanen provides a little of both sides and may have his defensive role increased as the season goes on, so this is subject to change. As of right now, what the Canes need from their sixth defenseman is someone who can kill penalties and preferably someone with a more defensive game.
Which one of the five candidates can give Carolina that?no comments
Joni Pitkanen's reputation among Carolina fans is a mixed bag. On one hand, I've heard a lot of people call him the "back-bone" of the team's defense and a big offensive threat. Others have called him a liability in his own zone and someone that plays way more minutes than he should. Then you have that group who see Pitkanen as a solid all-around defenseman but not exactly spectacular in any area. That's probably the best explanation of his game and we need to take that into context when thinking of expectations for the 28-year-old Finn.no comments
One of Jim Rutherford's better trades came in early 2009 when he acquired Jussi Jokinen from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Josef Melichar, Wade Brookbank and a 2010 fourth round draft pick. Not much thought was put into this at first because Jokinen was a low round draft pick and in the middle of his worst season in the NHL. He had recorded at least 15 goals in the three previous years but the Lightning decided to sell low and the Canes took full advantage of it. The Canes have been getting the better side of Jokinen these last two seasons as he scored 30 goals in 2009-10 and 19 in 2010-11. Last year was seen as a slight disappointment to those who were expecting a repeat performance of 2009-10 from him but his production from last year is about what you should expect from Jokinen now that he's in his late 20's.no comments
The Ruutu projection will be interesting because he is a player whose role has changed over the last few seasons. In Chicago, he was a fringe top-six player for the most part and struggled mightily before being traded to Carolina. The year after, he started to flourish as a winger on the first line scoring a career high 26 goals and 54 points. The year after, injuries kept him back and he struggled to find his place in the lineup. Last season saw the most drastic change for Ruutu as he made the transition to center and played predominately on the second line with Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Skinner for most of the latter half of the season. He set a new career high in points (57) and scored 19 goals. What should we expect from Ruutu this year? Does he continue to play center or should the team move him back to the wing and put Skinner in his natural position? More importantly, will those 57 points last season be Ruutu's career high or will he improve on that this year at 28 years of age? Let's find out...no comments
Continuing with our 2011-12 player projections, we move onto Jeff Skinner. He had a wonderful rookie season where he recorded 31 goals, 63 points and took home the Calder Trophy for his efforts. The general idea among fans is that he is only going to get better, build on his strong rookie campaign and shatter his point total from this year. In theory, yes but there's some things you have to consider about Skinner's 2010-11 season before we start talking about him putting up 80-something points.no comments
One thing I have been looking forward to doing all off-season is individual player projections. I know that it's difficult to do this in hockey but us bloggers make use of player comparables, shooting percentages, a player's past history and how his scoring patterns have changed over time to give an idea of what to expect from him in a season. Also, a projection is not the same thing as a prediction. What we are doing here is using a player's career numbers, comparing him to similar players and use that information to come up with a projection for what this player's season may look like. A prediction would be more of a statement and is not always based on knowledge or past experiences.
We're going to start off this project by looking at Eric Staal since he is the best skater on the team and should be leading the Canes in goals and points annually given his talent. Some say that 2010-11 was a "down" year for him when in actuality, he had more goals and points than he did the previous season but he missed 12 games in 2009-10 so that has to be taken into account. You could say that every year has been a "down" year for Staal in comparison to his 2005-06 campaign where he scored 45 goals and recorded 100-points. Realistically, there is very little chance he is going to get back to that mark but he has been around a point-per-game player since that year and you can expect a minimum of about 70 points from Staal every year. Is there a chance he can go above an beyond that?no comments
A couple of weeks ago, I added an organizational depth chart to the menu at the top of the page so that everyone can see how deep the Canes are at a certain position. Most of that is subject to change with training camp being just around the corner and there's a few roster spots which are up for grabs, especially on the wings. Which players have the best shot of starting the season in Carolina and who will likely see themselves in Charlotte? Who has the best chance of being called up mid-season should an injury occur? Let's find out. I will mainly look at players on the AHL roster as guys still in junior, college, Europe or the ECHL will probably not be on the Canes this year.no comments
Carolina's 2008 first round pick Zach Boychuk was quoted in a Canes Now article saying that this coming season is a "huge year for him" and that he wants to "make that next big step" by making the Hurricanes right out of camp and permanently joining the Hurricanes. Boychuk has played 56 games with the Hurricanes over the last three seasons and has accumulated only 7 goals and 16 points during that time. That isn't the best reflect of his abilities as he received fourth line minutes during a lot of those games but I do believe that this coming season could be what makes or breaks Boychuk in terms of how successful his NHL career will be.
Boychuk will be 22 by the time this season starts and most high draft picks who turn into great players make their leap into the NHL by that age or earlier so this could be "the year" for Boychuk to take that next step if the Canes want him to be the guy they drafted in the first round three years ago. I know a lot will say "but he has talent and will figure it out eventually" but you know what other high draft picks had talent? Zach Hamil, Alex Picard, Robbie Schremp, Mikhail Yakubov, Kamil Kreps and numerous others who did not turn into starts despite being hyped and drafted early. I am not saying that Boychuk will end up like any of these players, but I do think that this year will be the most important of his career to prove he can be a top-six forward in the NHL.
I'll explain why after the jump.no comments