Last week I had the opportunity to ask Carolina Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice a few questions. As always, he was up front and candid with his responses.
Would you describe defenseman Tomas Kaberle and tell us what he can bring to the table?
He's really a fine, heads up defenseman who can do great things with the puck and has great patience with the puck. He was the guy who brought the puck up the ice during the powerplay in Toronto back when their powerplay was dominant. And he's just a very good, all around player, a very good pro.
Well, our first goal is to get the highest performance level out of Cam Ward that we possibly can. But finding that right mix is a challenge. There were some games last year when we felt it might be better if Cam didn't play in them, but at the same time, there had been so much time in between Justin's starts that it got to the point that he almost couldn't go in. Brian will play more early than Justin did and we need to keep him in a certain rhythm, but he's also really good cold. You know, he did it last year in Philadelphia when they ran Bobrovsky 13 straight and then when he had a chance he came in and played well. So, we have a veteran guy back there now who can handle that mentally. He's not worried about where his career is at. But we've also got a guy back there who has got enough quality play and experience under his belt that we can expect a pretty high level of play from him.
You have two scrimmages on your training camp schedule this year. I imagine you want to see players battling for positions in a game-like setting?
Yes, what we want to do is to get as many people a good opportunity to show us what they can do, as we can. And I think it's a more fair way to do it, in scrimmages. So we have one scrimmage that we put in on day two of camp which will be during the Caniac Carnival, our red/white game. But that will probably be our more veteran group. Then after that we go to Buffalo the next day, so we'll be scrimmaging each day for three days. Actually, we'll be scrimmaging or playing a preseason game in all but two days during the first nine days of camp. And it will be a bigger camp. We will be bringing in more players than we have in the past and we have three groups, so one will practice and two will play.
I heard you will be bringing in 53 players?
Yep, actually 54, I think it's 54.
You have three bona fide centers on the roster with Staal, Sutter, and Brent, and then you have some options for your fourth center. Last year, Ruutu filled in there, but Skinner and other players had a shot as well. Do you have someone specific in mind for that spot this season?
That's our starting point. We like the way our centermen finished up the last couple of months last season. Tuomo really got into a good groove. He and Skinner had some nice chemistry, especially toward the end. That's the starting point, but if we need to make adjustments, then we will look at moving other wingers around, but for right now I'm happy with Ruutu staying there.
I know it's early, but who do you foresee playing with Staal?
We have a number of guys who are going to compete for those positions. Alex Ponikarovsky had a run of five years of 20 plus goal seasons and he did it on the left wing of a big strong centerman who could skate in Mats Sundin. His ability to hang onto the puck down low took some pressure off of Mats and was part of the reason why Mats had such good seasons. And I do think that he'll be able to do the same with Eric.
Dave Lewis is joining your coaching staff. Can you talk a bit about what he brings to the organization?
Well, Dave has a ton of experience as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. I really look forward to hearing his perspective on things, which will be a fresh perspective for us. Both he and Rod Brind'Amour are welcome additions.