You have to feel for Justin Williams. To work so hard, only to have another set back like this one must be devastating. But not only is the winger's injury tough on the skater himself, it obviously affects the whole organization.
For instance, Peter Laviolette's job status is probably riding on the team's success or failure in the next few months, and one of the Hurricanes best players won't be on the ice. Yesterday's heartbreaking news affected everyone on the team in one way or the other.
The man who has the responsibility of putting the best team that he can on the ice is General Manager Jim Rutherford. What are his options? What would you do if you were in his shoes?
The good news is that he has many alternatives. The bad news is, none of them equal Justin Williams.
Several fans are ready to give Jeff O'Neill the job by default. Let's slow down a bit here. O'Neill has not played organized hockey in over a year. Perhaps it would be wise to watch him play a bit, and have him prove that he is capable before the Canes hand him over a contract. Someone like Joe Jensen might end up looking better than "O".
There are other options as well, such as Drayson Bowman, who scored 42 goals during the regular season last year and then added 6 more while leading his team, Spokane to a Memorial Cup Championship. He had a great camp last year and could very well outplay O'Neill this camp.
There are going to be several players who will be giving it their all during the next three weeks, thinking that they have a legitimate shot to make this club.
But keep in mind that there are other alternatives to choose from, besides the players who are already invited to camp.
If I were a betting man, I would wager that Jim Rutherford is working the telephones. There are still some unsigned free agents available who need to find a home yet. Of course they are not at the top of anyone's hit list at this point. If they were, they wouldn't still be available. But they do have experience and could be worth a look-see.
Let's take a look at some of them, and determine who is the cream of the crop.
- Mark Parrish
- Brendan Shanahan
- Glen Murray
- Martin Gelinas
Mark Parrish would have to be at the top of this list. He scored 16 goals in 66 games for an offensively challenged Minnesota squad last season. The Wild bought out his contract because they were disappointed with his overall play as well as his injuries over the past couple of years. But he played for Laviolette before while on the Island and could be a nice fit here for the right price.
I really can't see Brendan Shanahan fitting in here, but you never know. He is an option. The winger scored 23 goals in 73 games last season and would look good on the third line if he left his attitude in New York.
Glen Murray is another victim of a buy-out. He scored 17 goals in 63 games last year for Boston and is dangerous on the powerplay, but slow and ineffective in his own end.
Martin Gelinas has still not been signed yet, although his name has been thrown around a bit recently. The latest rumor has him hooking up with Ottawa. Could he end up back in Carolina? Marty's health is also questionable as he only scored 9 goals in 57 games for Nashville last season.
It wouldn't surprise me to see any of those players here at camp this weekend. Would they come on a try-out basis? That remains to be seen. Bottom line, there is a job that is available and we will see who wants it the most come training camp.