This is the third season for Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller, but this will be his first full season as well as first full training camp and it could not be more important for the coach and for the team.
The Canes have not been in the playoffs now for four straight years and it is vital that the team gets off to a decent start this season. But it won't be easy.
In the first five games of the campaign, Carolina will face Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Los Angeles.
Still, the Hurricanes and the coaching staff are looking forward to the challenge.
In a recent interview, Muller was asked what he was looking forward to the most in his first full training camp.
Well, am I looking forward to it as a coach, yes I am, but looking at it from another way, if I'm a player, certain guys, they are the ones who should be excited that they finally get a chance to come in and make the team. Everyone is going to get a good shot at a different role and have an opportunity to play. One, two, three years, wherever they are in their situation, it's now their opportunity to say, okay I'm coming into camp. I know there are openings, I'm going to get a chance, and I can play myself onto the team. That's all you want as a player and I think for the first time, this is the chance these players will get to prove they can play, through training camp and the exhibition games.
It seems like the hot players, the ones scoring goals at the right time, are the ones who usually make the team. But Muller said that might not be the case this season.
Bottom line, they have to show they can contribute. If they are not scoring goals, then they need to contribute in other ways. On the forecheck, on defense, killing penalties, whatever, they have to contribute.
When asked if he was happy with his current defensive corps without the services of Joni Pitkanen, Muller went on to say that a decision to replace Pitkanen, (from outside the organization), might not come until during or after training camp.
Maybe we can slip in Corrente, maybe Bellemore, who played well last year, then we have Komisarek and Sekera. We have more depth in our organization right now, also with Murphy and other guys. The coaching staff is thinking that maybe we should just let training camp take off, ride through it, and then let's see where everybody is at.
With still no official word about Pitkanen as of this article and just a day before camp, it does not seem as though the news will be good when it does come. Regardless, training camp will go on and competition on the blueline will be tough.
Muller was previously quoted once as saying there was no such thing as a "defensive defenseman" in today's NHL. Everyone had to be able to jump in and contribute. Watch for that philosophy to be preached in training camp.
As tight as things are on the blueline, competition is wide open for the forwards. We will look more closely at the specific battles for those spots soon.