The Carolina Hurricanes' powerplay finished the 2008-09 regular season near the middle of the NHL with a success rate of 18.7%. Detroit and Washington were both at the top and achieved at better than a 25% clip while the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers finished last at 12.7% and 13.9% respectively.
But what happened in the playoffs? The Canes dropped to 10%, ahead of only St. Louis and Montreal, two teams who failed to win a single game in the postseason. During the summer, the club not only lost two players (Anton Babchuk and Dennis Seidenberg) who regularly played the point while the team was with the man advantage, but they also chipped in huge point contributions. So, what's the plan for this year?
I recently had a chance to ask Paul Maurice, who will play the point?
"One direction I think we will be looking at this year is moving Matty Cullen back there," Maurice said. "He was very good back there a couple of years ago. Then the powerplay struggled a bit and they changed some personnel around. But we think that Cullen will go back there. Joni Pitkanen would play about 36 minutes a night if given his choice, so he's going to be a big part of that. And Joe Corvo has that huge shot, obviously. Then we have a couple of other guys like Alberts, who can skate well and move the puck, and Ward, we'll be looking for shots from them. But we are going to need to move a forward to the back and probably work with that for awhile. But we aren't going to be flipping around, pulling a lot of different guys back there."
It sounds like the coaching staff will be trying a few different scenarios, to see what works best. Some teams have their number one defenseman double shift and stay on the point for almost the entire powerplay, and Pitkanen might get a taste of that. And Matt Cullen did have success at the point when he was healthy.
But Aaron Ward and Andrew Alberts averaged less than 20 seconds of powerplay time between the both of them last year. It will be interesting to see what they do with their chances.
One thing seems certain, the "Powerplay Professor" Ron Francis will have his work cut out for him this preseason.