I doubt any of us in the Caniac Nation were hoping to be talking contracts and draft picks in April, but here are some links, video and quotes to help sort through the last 10 months and anticipate what might be happening over the next few.
Focus Turns to Free Agency - Paul Branecky, Tracking the Storm Blog Now that the offseason has begun for the Carolina Hurricanes, the focus will shift to the long list of pending free agents
Canes could face changes - NewsObserver.com The Hurricanes believed they would be gearing up for the Stanley Cup playoffs, preparing to face the Washington Capitals in the first round. That was not to be, after an agonizing 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
Lyle Richardson, The Hockey News: Rumor Roundup: Carolina's winds of change Unrestricted free agent defenseman Joni Pitkanen may be the most notable casualty, as GM Jim Rutherford considers restructuring his defense corps, telling The Raleigh News & Observer the Hurricanes will remain a "budget team" next season.
Canes Now - Faulk weighing his options "I'm not sure yet what I will do," Faulk said. "I've been talking to an adviser and weighing my options. It sounds like (the Canes) want me to come out for the playoffs with Charlotte, so a decision will have to be soon. "Going out might be the best thing for me. Or coming back. If I come back, I know I will be playing with a great team. We're trying to figure all that out."
What will likely be remembered as the biggest and best story out of Carolina this season Skinner's rookie season left a mark on many - NewsObserver.com Jeff Skinner seemingly became as well-known for his dimpled smile as his goal-scoring prowess during a memorable rookie season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
After the jump, playoff hockey in Charlotte for Zach Boychuk and Justin Pogge, getting down to the wire on Calder Trophy voting, money matters in the NHL, and loads of videos to fill the void left with no Hurricanes hockey to enjoy.
The Calder Cup playoffs open for the Canes AHL affiliate Thurday evening in Hershey PA, taking on the Washington Capitals minor league club.
Hershey Bears vs Charlotte Checkers Series preview The Checkers posted a 44-27-2-7 record in their first ever AHL regular season and will face the two-time defending champion Hershey Bears (46-26-3-5) in the East Division Semifinals. Charlotte will be looking to avenge a second-round sweep at the hands of Hershey last season when the team was known as the Albany River Rats
In case you were thinking about going, games 3 and 4 are next Tuesday and Wednesday. Game 5 (if necessary) would be Friday, 4/22. Tickets top out at $60 front row center ice. $30 will get you in Row "L" behind the benches.
One-on-One: Checkers' Zach Boychuk - (Video) News14.com - Sitting down with Zach Boychuk in the studio yesterday ,before the team headed to Hershey, TWC Sportsnight's Mike Solarte asks some great questions of one of the brightest stars in the Canes system.
Shaya’s 10 thoughts – Playoff edition | Checkers Chatter Radio voice Jason Shaya updating us on Mike Murphy's status:
7) Bobby Goepfert was rock solid in his first full AHL game this season. It must be strange to go from playing in playoff games in the ECHL for Florida to a regular season game for Charlotte all in the same week. We still don’t know if Mike Murphy will be ready to backup for game 1.
Grading the East Division – Fourth Quarter >> Chirps from Center Ice This prolific blogger Jason Iacona (known on twitter as @nafsnep) for the WBS Penguins points to uncertainty in goal as the key to predicting success for the Checkers this post-season.
Charlotte Checkers: (44-27-2-7 – 97 pts., 3rd place) Parent Carolina missed the playoffs so the Checkers get Drayson Bowman back from the NHL squad. First round matchup is with Hershey. Top line is a dangerous and the defense is good but the issue remains in goal for this team. Regular Mike Murphy is out and Justin Pogge is easily rattled. Overpowered opponents with goals but in a seven game playoff series with all the adjustments the opponent can make it’d worry me just a bit. Grade: B+
YouTube - Zach Bennett and his family see their new home in Charlotte - If you haven't seen this, do so now.
Here's the story to fill in some details: AHL Checkers buy house for young fan - NHL.com The AHL team announced Friday that a house has been purchased for the family of Zach Bennett, a young fan who suffers from neurofibromatosis.
Looking forward, AHL schedule tweaks effective next year: TheAHL.com | AHL announces schedule modification plan Under the plan, the regular-season playing schedule will be reduced to 76 games; the AHL playing calendar will be extended by one week; all sequences in which teams play four games in five nights will be eliminated; and the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs will be reduced to a best-of-five series.
Votes are due in from the PHWA tonight, before the puck drops on the first playoff game. Some of those voting have published their choices for the awards:
[Also check out his comments about the late EJ McGuire of CSS on why Skinner wasn't rated highly and then skim down to item 13 for his thoughts on Paul Maurice following the loss to Tampa Saturday.]
Bucci's Vlogumn: Awards Special - ESPN John Buccigross gives the Calder to Skinner. (Video)
Burnside and LeBrun: Our award winners - Cross Checks Blog - ESPN Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun both name Logan Couture as their Calder choice. (but it's not clear to me if they are really voting?)
Twitter / @Damien Cox: Keep your votes coming, folks. I'm willing to be convinced on anything but Calder. Skinner's got my first place vote.
Handing out the NHL hardware - The Globe and Mail Eric Duhatschek makes his picks for the season’s NHL awards including an excellent discussion of why Skinner has earned the Calder this year. [Corrected link]
Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun tweeted: My NHL Awards ballot: Hart-Perry, Norris-Weber, Calder-Skinner, Selke-Kessler, Byng-Selanne. Took hours. In Gretzky era took minutes.
Adam Proteau, The Hockey News: 1) Logan Couture, 2) Jeff Skinner
Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette: But my top choice for the Calder is Carolina's Jeff Skinner, who not only led all rookie scorers, but also gets bonus points in my book because he's a true rookie, making the jump directly from junior to the NHL.
Craig Custance, Sporting News: Jeff Skinner - He had this award all but sealed at the All-Star break, when we all learned that he’s an incredible person as well as player.
The top three finalists will be announced in the next week or so. The NHL Awards Show is held in Las Vegas in late June.
If you can't bear to watch the playoffs yet, then...
It's also the Mock Draft Season
12. Carolina Hurricanes- RW Ty Rattie (Portland, WHL) The Carolina Hurricanes have proven they know how to make the worst teams- some of whom have the best scouts in the business- look dumb. After schooling the draft board at the 2010 affair by selecting eventual 30-goal, 30-assist forward Jeff Skinner, the Canes will be closely watched as June approaches. ....
Adam Kimelman's 2011 Mock Draft III - NHL.com 2011 NHL Entry Draft 12. Carolina Hurricanes - Joel Armia, Finnish : Big forward playing major role on first line of one of top teams in Finland The other two at NHL.com had Mr Rutherford selecting a defenseman in the first round.
More on Justin Faulk
and a few other unsigned players in the system
HF: I realize that this is probably the furthest thing from your mind right now, but is there any chance that you'll be signing with them once this season is over?
JF: I'm just kind of focused on being here (at the Frozen Four) and finishing up the season right now, so I haven't really thought about it. If anything comes up after the season is over, then I'll have to sit and think about it.
Frozen Four: Semi-Final Recap, A Look Ahead | The United States of Hockey If you’re a Carolina Hurricanes fan, I hope you were watching Minnesota Duluth. I think Faulk solidified himself as the best pro prospect playing in the Frozen Four with his three-assist effort.
YouTube - Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Justin Faulk, April 9, 2011 - In the locker room immediately following the championship win Saturday night. (BTW, the bleached hair was a tournament team thing, so don't hold it against him.)
Checking in on the OHL's playoff brackets, the Mississauga Majors are 7-0 and look to close out the Sudbury Wolves tonight, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. The page summarizing Justin Shugg's updated stats shows he has 4 G, 3 A, 7 Points in 7 games played.
I'm sure you've been eagerly awaiting updates on the Canes' final draft pick from 2010. The goaltender. You know, the one from Denmark? Here's something different: Danish Player of the Year 2010/2011 has been named - Eurohockey.com As Player of the Year 2010/2011 Frederik Andersen today received the trophy, Canadian Ambassador's Cup, by the Canadian ambassador in Denmark, Peter Lundy. Andersen also received a nice TISSOT watch.
NHL annual rights fee to top $200 million - SportsBusiness Journal The NHL is poised to sign its biggest media rights deal within the next two months, as the presence of three bidders is pushing the annual rights fee above $200 million, sources familiar with the discussions said.
KuklasKorner : The Malik Report : Brooks: NHLPA likely to approve 5% inflator, bump salary cap up to $62.2 million which means the floor will go up by an identical amount.
While the Phoenix Coyotes saga drags on, there is potential for a similar tale unfolding in Atlanta, which would have repercussions for the Southeast DIvision. Thrashers down to last game of season, unclear about future | ajc.com Is this really it? When the Thrashers play on Sunday it could be more than the last game of the season; it could be the final one for the franchise.
UPDATE: The latest thoughts on NHL hockey in Phoenix from TSN's Bob McKenzie: We should get answers to out Coyotes Question Soon For every day that has gone by since then that there hasn't been an announcement the Coyotes are staying Phoenix, I've been getting a stronger feeling that they may actually end up in Winnipeg. With each day that continues to pass without a resolution in Phoenix, that feeling will only intensify.
Minnesota, the "State of Hockey," faces changes to its community-based hockey programs - ESPN One man's Americana, however, is another man's idea of un-American. The latter man would be Bernie McBain, 47, who argues that the nation's laws protecting competition in the marketplace have been violated by Minnesota Hockey.
Looking beyond our own backyard
Down Goes Brown: Previewing the round one matchups: Eastern Conference had me giggling with the opener:
#5 Lightning vs. #4 Penguins
This is a dream matchup for hockey fans who love the NHL draft but only have time to watch the first few picks every year.
Red Light District: Posteason guide for wandering hockey fans Are you in mourning as your most ardent hockey hopes were reduced to dust in these last weeks of the NHL’s regular season? Are you watching the excitement of playoff speculation and feeling like you’re the too tall girl at the 8th grade dance? Maybe you’d consider attaching yourself to another team from now until June – no one needs to know.
Stanley Cup playoffs: Bruce Boudreau overcomes negative speculation to achieve Capitals transformation - The Washington Post Job speculation, and the losing that inspired it, seem like distant memories for Coach Bruce Boudreau, his family, and the Capitals as the postseason opener approaches.
UPDATE: On who will join Skinner to play for Team Canada: Tavares, Eberle, join Canada for hockey worlds - The Globe and Mail The full roster as it stands now is at the bottom, though "GM Dave Nonis won’t fill remaining spots until NHL teams start being eliminated from the playoffs". Plus some ooh-la-la: The Canadian team is scheduled to travel to Paris next week for a training camp and will play its first exhibition game against France on April 24 (which brings me back to my hope that Pete Friesen is assigned to be the Skinner chaperone.)
Vote to get some well-deserved recognition of Hurricanes' Greatest Playoff Moments as captured in three video highlights over at NHL.com as was linked in this fanshot yesterday: History VS History - Canes Country from contributor NbrAska: maybe we can push the Hurricanes to win the History... thing on nhl.com. Looks like the Canes have 3 great moments on the bracket. Vote away.
The Hurricane Siren: Carolina Hurricanes' Awards: Like the Oscars, But Less Ryan Seacrest Another masterpiece of snark and sentimentality with this retrospective chock full of photographs and video from the past season.
We're here this evening to honor the best and brightest (and occasionally the most embarrassing) moments of the Hurricanes' season. And what a year it was! From starting the season in Helsinki (no need to mention that little pit stop in Old Mother Russia) to the All-Star Game, this season has been filled with memory-making moments for Caniacs!