The Carolina Hurricanes need defensive help, everyone knows that. Their General Manager, Jim Rutherford has mentioned the subject several times. The fanbase has seen ample proof of it. While the team has been one of the top scoring teams in the league, they have also allowed 177 goals, just 3 short of the most allowed in the entire NHL so far this season.
If we look at the Hurricanes defense in detail, we can see that one problem is that they don't have a true "stopper", or top pairing guy out of the whole bunch. The highest paid of the blueliners is Bret Hedican who has been very good at times, but hasn't been a consistent, dependable shut down guy. The next highest paid defenseman, Frantisek Kaberle has been a huge disappointment. The rest of the guys are not earning big bucks and can't really be compared to the league's elite.
- Hedican 2,432,000
- Kaberle 2,200,000
- Wallin 1,725,000
- Wesley 1,400,000
- Commodore 1,300,000
- Gleason 1,175,000
- Seidenberg 850,000
- Tanabe 600,000
The total salary amount this year for all of the Canes defensemen on the current roster is about $11.6 million. Compared to what some contenders are paying for their defense, the amount is miniscule. Is it surprising that the defense has struggled this year? That's not to say that the Hurricanes cut corners on overall salary expense. The franchise is paying the highest total team salary in the Southeast Division at just over 46 million. That's why Rutherford keeps saying that the team is "underachieving". But is it money spent wisely?
If we take a look at NHLnumbers.com, we can see that the Hurricanes spend a relatively low amount for their blueliners compared to the rest of the league. They are in company with Chicago, Atlanta, Columbus, Nashville, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Tampa Bay, and Washington. But the league's better teams are spending much more money for their defense. For instance Detroit's blueliners top 20 million while Ottawa's earn 17.5.
The primary difference between the Canes and the other previously mentioned teams paying lower amounts is that each of the other teams have at least one dude in the group earning more than 3 million. (Except Chicago who pays their goalies over 7 million). Usually, the highest paid defenseman of the team is counted on to play the most minutes and be the stopper. If a team has the right person, he can plug a lot of holes and play a lot of minutes.
Jim Rutherford's main mistake this year was that he front loaded the bulk of his salary expense on the forwards and didn't leave enough for the defense. Can he correct this disparity, or is it too late? I can't help but think that just one "go-to" stud defenseman could be a huge asset to this team. Imagine older guys like Hedican and Wesley not being counted on to play 20 plus minutes every night, and how much more effective they might be if they weren't playing more than they were capable of? The defense seems to play well when they are rested, but they just don't seem physically capable to bring it every night.
There really isn't much difference from the top of the Eastern Conference to the bottom right now. As poorly as the Hurricanes have played at times, they are still in the thick of things because the top teams have played poorly at times as well. Could the right acquisition put them over the top? I think that it's possible, but will JR pull the switch?
In other news, Keith Aucoin was recalled earlier today and will join the team in Nashville for the game Tuesday night. This blog has been asking for such a move since Cullen has been unavailable. Hopefully, Keith will bring the same energy that he provided last time he was with the big boys.
I'll take a look at more of the news during lunchtime and discuss the latest. Ciao!