For the Hurricanes, defense has been a major problem for years now and many have criticized GM Jim Rutherford for not doing anything to fix it. One could definitely make this argument for last season, as the Canes lost defensemen Bryan Allen & Jaroslav Spacek and the only player brought in from outside the organization was Joe Corvo. Carolina's front office elected to rebuild from within on defense and hope that some of the team's younger blue-liners could step into bigger roles. To say that this plan didn't work out is an understatement.
With the exception of Justin Faulk, most of the Canes young defensemen have struggled to find full-time roles in the NHL and those have made the jump have only managed to be nothing more than third pairing guys. The team has drafted heavy on defense in a lot of recent drafts but with their development not coming along as well as they hoped, Rutherford decided to be a little more active this off-season to help the team's defensive woes. It all started at the draft when they traded struggling blue-liner Jamie McBain to Buffalo for Andrej Sekera, who is probably the second best defenseman on the team right now. They also added Mike Komisarek and Ron Hainsey through free agency, which gives them more depth than they had last year.
Unfortunately, the Canes also endured a major setback when it was announced that Joni Pitkanen would miss the entire season and he alone will be tough to replace. When healthy, Pitkanen logs a lot of minutes and is a critical part of Carolina's neutral zone play, so even when you factor in the additions of Hainsey & Sekera, the team's defense corps still has room for improvement. That said, the team does have more options now and their defense underwent a major facelift this offseason.
Justin Faulk, Jay Harrison & Tim Gleason are the only regular defenders from last year who will be returning and puck-movers such as Jamie McBain, Joe Corvo & Bobby Sanguinetti have been replaced by Ron Hainsey, & Mike Komisarek, who play more of a stay-at-home style. Given how bad the team's defense was last season, change is probably a good thing but it does beg the question. Is the Canes defense improved from where it was last year, or is it just a different look?
We'll find out after the jump.