Did you ever wonder why certain players have had more success playing for the Carolina Hurricanes, than they had performing elsewhere in the NHL? There are a few players who fit that description.
Matt Cullen has had his career best years in Carolina. His previous best numbers were in 2001-02 at Anaheim where he scored 16 goals and had 48 points. In his very first season with the Canes in 2005-06, he eclipsed those numbers with 25 goals and 49 points. After he signed as a free agent with New York, the numbers dipped again. (41 points) But when he returned, the numbers jumped back up, and even though he only played in 59 games his first year back because of concussion-like symptoms, he still had 49 points. In this disappointing year, Cullen is still on pace to hit his averages.
Sergei Samsonov was slumping in both Montreal and Chicago and the Blackhawks ended up putting him on waivers. But after he was claimed by the Canes and played here just a few weeks, he was like a different player. He scored 14 goals and had 32 points in just 38 games in 2007-08. The next year he had a total of 48 points, the most since 2001-02 when he was playing in Boston.
Joe Corvo reportedly wanted out of Ottawa and they seemed more than happy to let him go. But he has played top pairing minutes while with the Canes. In Canada's Capital, he scored 8 goals in 76 games in 2005-06, then 6 goals in 51 games before he was traded, but after the trade he scored 7 goals in just 23 games and had 14 goals last year, almost double his previous production.
Jussi Jokinen was put on waivers by Tampa Bay last year. They misused him and did not want him. But he came to Carolina and was one of the team's clutch performers in the playoffs last season. So far this season, he is on pace to beat his career best numbers in Dallas and has already matched his production in Tampa last year, even though he has only played about half the number of games.
I asked each of these players if there were any particular reasons why they had better results in Carolina than they had at some of the other places they have played.
Jussi Jokinen praised the coaching staff and management. "I think everything starts at the top. All the stuff that Jim Rutherford has done and the staff he has hired. It's very well run and professional. The whole organization treats you with respect."
He elaborated more about the coaching staff. "The big thing for me personally is that they try to find something positive after every game. I think that's huge, to build a positive atmosphere, and that makes it easier to have success. It's a long season and you're going to have some bad games as a team and as an individual, but still if you can try to find the positive things that you can build on, and maybe do a little bit better, that helps to build your confidence. And that for me I think is the biggest thing."
Rumors aplenty surrounded the Joe Corvo move to Carolina and the defenseman did not mince any words when I asked him if it was true that he asked to be traded out of Ottawa. But it had nothing to do with the "intense Canadian media", like some reports had indicated.
"In Ottawa, they already had their top four picked. In December, I asked Bryan Murray if there was any chance that I could be playing in the top two or the top four. He said it wasn't likely, so I asked to be traded." Corvo went on. "There is no glass ceiling here. No one said, "the top four is set." And it's nice to be recognized that I can play in the top four and I get a chance to do that."
Corvo has certainly been playing in the top four, as well as the top two during his stay on Tobacco Road. When asked what the secret to his success in Carolina was?
"For me, the number one thing was playing time, just having a chance to play."
The blueliner paints a common picture for hockey players. They all want ice time and can not succeed without it.
Sergei Samsonov did mention the media when the same question was posed to him. "In some of the larger cities, the scrutiny in the media can be overwhelming at times. Here, a player has a chance to get on their feet and settle in to a comfort level."
But the winger was quick to mention that it was a combination of things which helped him to have some success here in Carolina.
"I think having the opportunity to play and being put in a position to succeed, can help that player to succeed. Plus, this is a skating team and it's aggressive. It fits my game. And sometimes a change alone can help a player to gain confidence."
Samsonov added. "But I can't stress enough about being given an opportunity. For instance, if you are put on the powerplay with good players, it certainly increases your chances of success."
Matt Cullen loves the atmosphere here, but said much the same as the others, that playing time was very important.
"I think a number of things go into it, like having a comfort level with your surroundings and your teammates, as well as being put in situations on the ice where you can be successful. If you have a lot of powerplay time, that can make a difference. It's so important to have the opportunity. It builds your confidence and goes from there."
Two of those four players were put on waivers, just like what happened to Aaron Ward earlier this week. But they were able to turn around their seasons and eventually have some success. Ward has the same opportunity starting tonight against Dallas.
We will have the game day preview posted after the morning skate, around lunchtime.