The Carolina Hurricanes team defense had a rough season last year, no two ways about it. They allowed more shots on goal than any team in the NHL, even though they spent more time with the man advantage than anyone else.
The club also allowed more goals than they scored, (a total of 239, 10th most in the East), even though goalie Cam Ward had his career best regular season and led the league in saves.
Some fans are wondering if the defense will improve at all next season, because most of the same faces are returning who achieved last year's disappointing results.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked Jim Rutherford about this, (before the Corvo trade and Kaberle acquisition) and this is what he had to say.
"I'm not concerned about the number of shots, I'm concerned about the quality of chances," said the Carolina GM. "I think that as we go into this season, because of some of the changes we made during last season, we will start off with a better defense. I also think that bringing Dave Lewis on board is a good addition for us and he will work with our defensemen. But regardless of the number of shots, we need to cut our goals allowed down by about 20 goals this year, to give us a better chance to earn more points."
The "changes" Rutherford alluded to were the acquisitions of Bryan Allen and Derek Joslin near the trade deadline. Do the numbers support Rutherford's claim that the defense was improved after the two newcomers came aboard?
Let's take a look:
Some quick stats after reviewing those results:
- The Canes were outshot in 59 of their 82 games, (62%)
- The opposition had a total of 210 more shots than Carolina for the season
- In 19 games after trade deadline acquisitions, average shots allowed per game dropped from 33.24 to 32.05
- In 19 games after trade deadline, goals allowed dropped from 2.91 per game to 2.42 per game
- At improved goals allowed per game rate, (2.42) taken over 82 games, team would have allowed 198 goals for the season. (versus 239)
The numbers indicate that there was obvious improvement after the acquisitions of Allen and Joslin, but how real are those numbers? The average number of shots per game dropped somewhat and the average goals allowed per game dropped significantly. Can one expect those improvements to carry forward to the coming season?
Perhaps as Rutherford indicated, the quality of shots decreased. Allen does take up space and blocks some shots. He also does a good job of clearing the crease, which allows Ward a better view of shots coming his way. Joslin was also solid when he had a chance to play.
The next big question is, will the addition of Tomas Kaberle and subtraction of Joe Corvo be an overall plus or minus for Carolina? Career stats would be on Kaberle's side, but the proof will be in the proverbial pudding.