The Carolina Hurricanes have a bit of a problem this fall, but it's a good one to have. Come training camp, the Canes will have a number of different options to choose from to run the point on their powerplays. They also have several defensemen who can flat out put the puck in the net.
The club had the exact opposite situation last season. With defensemen Aaron Ward, Andrew Alberts, Tim Gleason, Niclas Wallin, Joe Corvo, and Jay Harrison on the opening night roster, (Pitkanen was injured), the coaching staff's realistic options for running the point with the man advantage narrowed greatly after Corvo. Even when Pitkanen returned to the lineup, the team's viable options were limited.
The team tried a number of different combinations at point, including moving Erik Cole or other forwards back there at times, but more often than not the powerplay did not click and the team's record suffered because of it. Their results while with the man advantage were at the bottom or near last in the league for much of the season, but the team improved greatly near the end of the campaign and moved up to 22nd in the league with a 16.9% powerplay scoring percentage at the end of the year.
With the return of Anton Babchuk and Joe Corvo, defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain should have plenty of competition for blueline scoring honors this season.
Let's take a closer look at each player:
Joe Corvo: Last season, Corvo only had six goals for the year as he missed 30 games due to a leg laceration, but he scored 14 goals in 81 games during 2008-09. He has 31 lifetime powerplay goals and has scored 13 in the past two seasons. (NHL career goal scoring average per game: .14).
Anton Babchuk: The Russian sniper scored a team high, (for defensemen), 16 goals in 2008-09, and nine of those were powerplay tallies. In 168 career NHL games, he has scored 23 goals and has 38 assists. (NHL career goal scoring average per game: .14).
Joni Pitkanen: The Finn prides himself more on earning assists than he does scoring goals, but he has the skill to get the puck in the net by himself. He has 15 career powerplay goals and has scored 46 total goals in 411 career games. (NHL career goal scoring average per game: .11).
Jamie McBain: The youngster does not have much of a track record to look at because he has played just 14 NHL games, but "so far, so good" for the former Wisconsin Badger. To this point, he has three goals and seven assists in his brief time in the NHL. The good news for the Canes is that McBain has been able to score consistently at every level. He scored eight goals and had 34 assists in 78 career AHL games and had 15 goals and 64 assists in 111 career college games. (NHL career goal scoring average per game: .14).
Bobby Sanguinetti: Don't forget about the newly acquired previous first round draft pick of the New York Rangers. Sanguinetti has yet to score an NHL goal in his five career games, but he was a scoring machine in the OHL, (263GP, 70G 142A 212P). He also chipped in 15 goals and 69 assists in 150 games while playing for Hartford of the AHL.
There will undoubtedly be more scoring from the blueline this season than there was last, but will that translate to more wins? That's a debate for another day.