Given the recent articles and posts by everyone who thinks that the 2010-2011 season is already over before it has started, I would like to present a little more optimism. And this is not because I am some homer who believes everything that management says or that I am entirely happy with the direction of the team at this time. But, I think it is necessary if we are to establish ourselves as a consistent playoff team.
First, I believe that the entire focus of a team must be to win. Anything else is secondary. Sometimes a team won't win due to injuries or other factors beyond the ability of the team to manage. At other times, winning becomes sublimated to other temporary goals. In the case of the Hurricanes this year, that goal is to find a minority purchaser by showing that the team CAN be profitable even if it does not always make the playoffs.
In some ways, I think the fact that we are going to be a salary-floor team this year might actually be beneficial in that it allows us to move up some players to the NHL before they otherwise would have been able to obtain positions. That this might cause the team to become less competitive may or may not be true. If you look at the previous season, you will find that the team was competitive when the younger players were playing.
And I am not looking at the period from January to the end of the season. I am looking at the post trade-deadline team which went 10-7-3. The team was, essentially, the team we are going to start the season with this fall. I realize that going .500 is not going to have us making the playoffs. But, if the team could start out at this level, perhaps by the second half of the season, they could have developed enough chemistry to go on a great run and actually make the playoffs. At least, that is the best scenario.
You might say that we did have several players then we do not have now and you would be correct. Ray Whitney is with Phoenix now. But, I think it has been pointed out and that the statistics would show that Ray was not a significant factor after the trade deadline. Nor was Rod Brind'Amour. Now, I do believe that Brian Pothier played well for us and that Anton Babchuk is not going to be as good as he was, but I do believe that Babchuk should ahve improved with another year of experience. And Babchuk's offensive game is superior to Pothier's.
Furthermore, during that same time period, Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu were playing hurt or not at all. I expect both of those players to be healthy at the start of the season and be able to provide more hitting, a stronger defense, and additional goal scoring. So, I think our defense will be better with them and our scoring should be just as strong as it was with Whitney and Pothier.
This is the starting lineup I foresee although it is possible other players could play themselves onto the team:
On the first team penalty killing unit I would foresee Sutter and LaRose. It might make some sense to swap LaRose and Boychuk on the first and second lines to give Sutter and LaRose more time to play together. I think not only would they be very good penalty killers, other teams would have to be extremely wary of them gaining possession of the puck and scoring shorthanded goals. The second team penalty kill unit would be Dwyer and Kostopolous.
I think we should recognize that a cap floor team is not going to be able to make the playoffs on a regular basis. However, I sincerely believe that this will be a short term situation and that after a new minority owner has been found, the team will move back up in salary to some place that is probably about halfway between the floor and the cap.