Are The Carolina Hurricanes "Rebuilding" And Are They Doing It Right?

BOSTON - NOVEMBER 26: Jussi Jokinen #26 Tuomo Ruutu #15 and Joni Pitkanen #25 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrate a goal in the first period against the Boston Bruins on November 26 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston Massachusetts. Are the three Finns part of the Carolina rebuild? (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

There was a bit of a discussion here yesterday about whether or not the Carolina Hurricanes were truly in a rebuilding mode.  The term has been thrown around a lot and has even been used occasionally by team management.  But the word can mean different things to different people. 

The literal meaning of the word, according to Dictionary.com, is to repair, to dismantle and reassemble, to replace, restrengthen, reinforce, revise, reshape, or to reorganize. 

Some rebuilds are full scale and start right from the top.  But Carolina management and the coaching staff are not going anywhere, anytime soon.  A few fans might say that there is not a true rebuild in process unless the direction and guidance of the team is changed.

Looking at the roster, if you compare the team from the beginning of last season, to this season, there have certainly been a lot of changes.   Gone are Aaron Ward, Stephane Yelle, Andrew Alberts, Niclas Wallin, Matt Cullen, Rod Brind`Amour, Ray Whitney, and Scott Walker. The team went from being one of the oldest in the league, to being one of the youngest.

But if you compare the roster from the end of last season, to now, have there been many significant changes?

The majority of the forwards, (who get the most playing time), are back.  Eric Staal, Erik Cole, Sergei SamsonovChad LaRose, Brandon SutterPatrick Dwyer, Jussi Jokinen, and Tuomo Ruutu were all here last year.  The one major change has been Jeff Skinner in place of Ray Whitney.

On defense, Joe Corvo, Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, and Jay Harrison all return.  Jamie McBain played some last year, but he probably should be considered part a rebuild since he is new and is a rookie.  Ian White is a fresh face, but his contract will be up at the end of the year.  Which leads to another question.

It would seem that a legitimate rebuild would be considered a long term project.  Can new players with one-year contracts, (not RFA's), be considered as being a part of a rebuild, when chances are they will be gone the following year?

Some teams perform a rebuild using the draft and some use free agency.  Some use a combination of both.  The most successful teams seem to need the presence of a key free agent or two, (or key trade), to help put them over the top.

The Blackhawks are well known for their outstanding rebuild through their draft, but they also signed Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell to huge contracts.  When the the Penguins won the Cup, they had signed Bill Guerin and Sergei Gonchar.  A couple of years back, the Flyers finished out of the playoffs but then went out and obtained Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, and Danny Briere.  All were key to their rebuild.

Perhaps the age of player is negligable in a rebuild, as long as they are a fresh face and have longer than a one year contract?

This brings us back to the Hurricanes.  It might be difficult to claim that the Canes are actually rebuilding unless there have been significant changes.  Depending upon how one looks at it, and from what time period, there has been little change on the team from the end of last year, to the beginning of this one. 

And what about some of the players in Charlotte?  Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Riley Nash, Bobby Sanguinetti, and maybe a couple of others are probably in the long range plans of the organization.  While they are growing, learning, and gaining valuable experience in the AHL, are they considered as part of the Carolina rebuild?

Would the Canes still be considered rebuilding once these players make the jump to the NHL?  If the team is truly rebuilding right now, should these players be in Raleigh sooner rather than later?

Let's throw out a couple more questions.

How long should a rebuild process last?  Can a team rebuild and compete for the playoffs simultaneously?

A very important two to three months is coming up for this franchise.  Eventually, team management will have to make a decision whether to cut ties with some veteran players before the trade deadline, or make a genuine push for the playoffs. 

So far Jim Rutherford has done an exemplary job of improving the team short term, without any long term consequence.  But if the team is in the playoff hunt come March, it will be tempting to add a key player or two. Usually those acquisitions are expensive and that could disrupt the rebuild process.  

The proof will be in the proverbial pudding once we come to deadline day.  If Rutherford trades one or more of the players who are at the end of their contracts, for assets, (Samsonov, Cole, LaRose, Pitkanen, Jokinen, or White), then the rebuild is officially on.  But if the GM stays at status quo and keeps those vets in the lineup while Carolina's future stays in Charlotte, is the team truly rebuilding? 

What do you think?  Is the team in true rebuilding mode right now?  How long of a process should it take?

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