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Symptom of the Universe - Carolina at Toronto, Pregame Thoughts

The Carolina Hurricanes are in the center of the hockey universe to take on the reeling Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the ACC. The Leafs are currently in crisis mode and have only won 2 out of their past 13 games. Rumors are running rampant that everyone's neck is on the line, from General Manager John Ferguson Jr, to head coach Paul Maurice, to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment President, Richard Peddie.

So who will get fired if the Leafs keep losing? Perhaps everyone!

The interesting part of this drama is that the Hurricanes aren't doing that much better themselves. But instead of management's jobs being in limbo, this franchise is threatening to trade players if the team doesn't start coming around.

Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford had some telling quotes in the paper yesterday, including:

"I think what we have to really look at is the consistency of certain players," Rutherford said. "We have some good players that play really good at times and not so good at other times. For us to be successful, we can't have that. Maybe teams like Ottawa and Detroit can do it, but we can't.

"That's what we really have to look at now: Who really wants to be here. And everybody is not going to play their best every night, but we need it on a more consistent basis with real good work ethic."

"I believe we will turn this around," Rutherford said. "It may take a move or two to do it. ... We're at the point where I would be willing to make a move if it changes the makeup of our team."

Translation? Rutherford is admitting to what many fans have been complaining about for several weeks now. The work ethic seems extremely inconsistent with this team. It's not the first interview that JR has mentioned this either. How many warnings will he give before he finally pulls the trigger on a trade?

The problem is that there are several things making it difficult to achieve that major trade right now. The players who are not playing well have little or no trade value and I'm sure he doesn't want to trade the ones who are playing well. It's tough to trade away valuable draft picks or prospects in the system because it hurts the future of the franchise. So what do you do?

After the brilliant 11-4-3 record the team put up for the first 18 games of the season, they have a record of 11-17-1 since then, have lost 4 in a row at home, and have a 2-5-1 record in their past 8 games. Those aren't numbers that get you into the playoffs, no matter what division you are in.

The Hurricanes are fighting through several injuries and a well documented flu virus that hit the squad hard as well. Several players are due to come back soon though, including Ray Whitney. It probably won't be known until game time as to who will be in tonight's lineup for sure.

Brandon Nolan, Keith Aucoin, and Tim Conboy were all sent back to Albany on Sunday morning. Will any of them make a trip to Toronto? I'll keep an eye on transactions and post the news here after lunchtime if I see anything.

One question for the masses....who starts in goal tonight? Cam Ward or Michael Leighton? After that shaky 3rd period by Wardo on Saturday night, my vote is for Leighton.

Black Sabbath