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Winning With Mixed Feelings?

Some fans of the Carolina Hurricanes do not know whether to feel good about the team's most recent winning streak or not.  While critics might say, "this is just proof positive that you can never please fickle fans", there is some logic to these fans' seemingly, contradictory behavior. 

As the team continues to win, these devotees think that the best available talent in the summer's draft, is slipping away.

But slow down Caniacs, and enjoy the winning streak.  

First of all, none of the players available in the upcoming draft are projected as being franchise changing players.   There are no Sidney Crosby's, Alex Ovechkin's, or even Eric Staal's in this group.

Of course, the acquisition of Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, or Cam Fowler could have an immediate impact, but none of them are guaranteed stars.  Hall might not have the size to excel in the NHL,  Seguin did not even make Team Canada's junior team, and we all know how difficult it is for young defensemen to develop in the NHL.

John Forslund said it best last night on the Aftermath.  "The best thing to do is to play to win, enjoy any success the team can get, and let fate handle what happens at the end."

Despite the recent winning streak, the Hurricanes' present position puts them very much in the running for one of the top three picks, and they should continue to be in the mix.

Presently, Carolina is still in last place in the Eastern Conference with 43 points while the 14th place Leafs have 44.  Edmonton has the fewest points in the league with 38.  There is still a large gap between the three worst teams in the league and the rest of the bunch though.

The New York Islanders have 54 points and are in 13th in the East.  Columbus is the closest team in the West and they have 51 points.

Some folk are clamoring for the team to finish in last place, but as long as the Hurricanes come within the bottom five spots, they still have a chance for the number one pick in the draft.  Not that there seems to be a consensus number one this year.  For instance, there have been hints that Edmonton might take Cam Fowler with the number one pick if they get it.

Who knows?  But finishing in last place will not guarantee you the number one pick anyway.

The NHL instituted a draft lottery several years ago to help the league maintain integrity because some teams might have felt the urge to lose on purpose down the stretch as they vied for certain draft positions.  With the lottery, you never know for sure what position you will get until after the season is over and the lottery is completed.

Of course, the lower teams have the best chances to win the lottery, but anything can happen.  When Carolina finished in last place in 2003, Pittsburgh won the lottery and selected Marc-Andre Fleury.   But it still ended well for the Canes as they picked Eric Staal with the second pick, who was number one on their list anyway.

Odds of Winning the First Overall Pick

48.1% - Last place (Edmonton - 38 points)
18.8% - 2nd to last (Carolina - 43 points)
14.2% - 3rd to last (Toronto - 44 points)
10.7% - 4rth to last (Columbus - 51 points)
8.1% -  5th to last (NY Islanders - 54 points)

While it seems that the team will need to finish in the bottom three to get a prime pick, you still never know.  Perhaps Erik Gudbranson, (currently ranked 8th), or someone like him will be the steal of the draft?

How long will the winning ways continue?  Time will tell.  This present situation reminds me of a couple of years ago when the Canes were playing several call ups from Albany while the club struggled through a bevy of injuries. 

Rod Brind`Amour, Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, and Justin Williams were among the missing, but Eric Staal put the team on his back and with help from Ryan Bayda, Keith Aucoin, Tim Conboy, and others, the Canes won a high percentage of games down the stretch to put them into position to win their division.  What happened?

Whitney, Cullen, and Williams came back, (seemingly too soon), and the team went on to lose three of their last four, including a must win game against Florida at the RBC which turned out to be the last game of the season.

Could the same thing happen when Erik Cole, Tuomo Ruutu, and Joe Corvo return and the team is forced to bench Brett Carson, Jiri Tlusty, and Patrick Dwyer?

Cheer for the wins while you can Caniacs.