Two weeks ago, the Carolina Hurricanes 2011-12 Season was full of uncertainty. And then it got worse. And worse again. While no one is pretending the team is out of the woods (especially if they are checking the Conference standings), at least this two-game win streak gives us a break from the free fall. Whether the Canes will complete this transition and put together a solid series of wins in what remains of the month of November is still to be seen.
UPDATE (8:45pm) - Cam Ward was interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada Radio this afternoon [AUDIO - 12:40]. Ward talks about Paul Maurice, the last couple weeks and how it's been. Jeff Skinner, Team Canada in 2014. ★★★★★
Chip Alexander saw something symbolic in the highlight reel from the game last night: Like Skinner in Philly, Canes turning it around - Canes Now As for Jeff Skinner's goal, ...suffice it to say he spun around Kimmo Timonen, leaving one of the league's best defensemen flatfooted, got off a shot and then poked in the rebound. ★★★★★
"Coming through the neutral zone, I didn't think I had any speed, so I tried to generate a little by turning it around," Skinner said.
Another look at that gorgeous move, plus updates on Ryan Murphy, more on Mo, Staal and Ward as Fantasy plays, and a little levity at the end (cause, Lord knows, we could use that around here.)
Because you can't watch this too many times: Jeff Skinner Spin-O-Rama Goal:
Looking at the Philadelphia Flyers postgame reaction, we've also seen this before. Hubris is a dangerous thing: Timonen: Flyers had 'no energy' - Philadelphia Inquirer For the second straight game, the Flyers lost to one of the Eastern Conference's worst teams. ★★★
Ryan Murphy Updates
Another key component to the Hurricanes future is also in a much better situation than he was a few weeks back: Notes from the Kitchener Rangers - The Waterloo Record
Ryan Murphy looked sharp skating with assistant coach Troy Smith at the Aud Monday morning. The Carolina Hurricanes draft pick flew to Raleigh, North Carolina later in the afternoon to consult with team doctors. The 18-year-old was knocked out of action more than two weeks ago when he was hit by Niagara’s Tom Kuhnhackl at the Aud. He’s hoping to be cleared by doctors to return.
UPDATE (Tuesday morning): Chip Alexander spoke with Murphy when he was in Raleigh yesterday: Canes' Faulk plays; Murphy recovers -NewsObserver.com ★★★★
"It's tough to say right now when I can play," Murphy said. "I want to get back as soon as possible but not at risk."
And from Kitchener this morning, Mike Farwell, @farwell590:
#OHLRangers D Ryan Murphy expected to resume full contact in practice today.
Everybody's Favorite Topic: Paul Maurice
This story has been in the works since Thursday but was published this morning at ESPN.com Crucial period ahead for Carolina Hurricanes - Scott Burnside ★★★★★
He knows fans in this market want change, and specifically, they are asking for Maurice's head. "If you don't have fans with lots of opinions, you're not in a very good market," Rutherford said.
Unlike many of his peers Rutherford, in the 18th year of his tenure with this franchise, has been tasked with not just building a team but building a market. Over the years he has planted the seeds and tended to the fan base as you would a prized garden. He knows there is no fertilizer quite like success and right now the 'Canes are anything but successful.
- Monday: Paul Maurice's future - Kurt Dusterberg, HurricanesBeat.com Would Firing Maurice Solve Anything? ★★★★
- Also Monday, an interview from Sunday night when Toronto media came to town: Canes' Maurice not worried about job security - Mike Brophy, Sportsnet.ca Paul Maurice doesn't live every second worrying about job security. That's just how it is when you have coached more than 1,000 NHL games. ★★★★
Luke DeCock covered the Canes for the N&O during the first Maurice tenure, stayed through the Laviolette turn at the wheel, before the beat reporter assignment was given to Chip Alexander at the beginning of the 2009-10 season. DeCock's voice continues to resonate with many in the hockey world as his focus on the Hurricanes has intensified again in recent months.
- Friday evening: Hurricanes Looking To Turnaround Ship - ESPN Video: Scott Burnside and the N&O's Luke DeCock on Hurricanes struggles [3:49] ★★★★
- Story from the N&O print edition Friday morning: Fans file 'Mo'-tion to dismiss - Luke DeCock, NewsObserver.com ★★★
Amid all those similarities, the biggest change is the way fans feel about Maurice. Eight years ago, most fans didn't know any better. They had never known any other coach. Now, they have. They have seen the Stanley Cup. They're savvier about the game of hockey. And they're tired of all the losing.
Spotlight on Canes players
- The Real Spiel: Staal still valuable despite slow start - NHL.com's Fantasy News The Hurricanes have often gone from slumping to unbeatable status in recent years and Eric Staal has just as often been the reason why. Stay patient and enjoy the eventual rewards. ★★★★
- More about Fantasy Pool Value then anything, but.....Cam Ward: From Meltdown to Rebound - The Goalie Guild ★★★
- The 5 Players who’ve taken the most shots this season….without scoring | Backhand Shelf, theScore.com How come Tomas Kaberle, Joe Corvo and Dennis Seidenberg can't seem to separate themselves? ★★★
- Red Light District: First quarter all-underachieving team - Eric Staal and Tomas Kaberle: Come on Down! ★★★
Over the past few weeks, I notice Cam Ward is not as "set and ready" as usual. He’s sliding through his angles, pushing through his destination points, and moving a lot more than usual. This is due to a number of things, including a lack of confidence in – and support from – his defensemen, a lack of focus due to frustration and the internal pressure to win.
Phoblographer at work
Canes vs. Leafs 11.20.2011 - Jamie Kellner. The set includes the celebration of the first Canes goal scored after being shut out for 154 minutes by none other than the Canes newest Norris Trophy candidate Jay Harrison, as rookie Justin Faulk gets his first NHL point with the helper.
via Jamie Kellner
For the recent games (still in progress) check out: Jamie Kellner's Photo sets for the Carolina Hurricanes
Stats geeks have at it
- Scoring Chances: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Buffalo Sabres 11/18/11
- and vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 11/20/11
- and vs. Philadelphia Flyers 11/22/11
Montreal Canadiens Erik Cole finally clicking with new linemates - Hockey Independent ★★★★ with a video clip (below) from the French broadcast captioned by a Habs blogger thusly:
Erik Cole is mocking his former teammate Tuomo Ruutu who was sitting in the penalty box after a tripping call. He also reminded him that he signed a four-year, $18-million free agent deal in the summer with Montreal.
Did you see this moment last Wednesday night? (I didn't) Do you think Cole is mocking Ruutu? Keep an eye out tomorrow night at the RBC Center for more teasing, and going both ways - which I don't for a moment think was (or will be) malicious.
The Charlotte Checkers and other Prospects
Boychuk Back Later than Expected - Paul Branecky, goCheckers.com "It was awesome," Zach Boychuk said of his most recent NHL experience. "I was expecting to go up for one game to fill in for Stewart, but one game turned into two and two turned into a month." ★★★★
Charlotte Checkers Weekly Report - goCheckers.com ★★★★ Chock full of information, starting with:
In the pipeline: Keegan Lowe vs Cam Braes, Nov 19, 2011 - Edmonton Oil Kings vs Lethbridge Hurricanes - hockeyfights.com (The Canes 3rd round pick Keegan Lowe is #4 in white) ★★★
Other NHL Coaches under scrutiny:
We're at the 20 game mark of the season. As happens every year, the head coaches of any and all teams that are not performing as expected are subject to scrutiny by the media. Here are five for starters. (And this list doesn't even include the Islanders or Blue Jackets. Or the Hurricanes, for that matter.)
I clipped the phrases that seemed to me to echo local conversations. But please read the entire articles if you have the time. Maybe one of these guys will be available sooner than later?
Washington: Would firing Bruce Boudreau make the Capitals a better team? - Puck Daddy Wyshynski begins by telling the story of what transpired four years ago this week.
So McPhee fired [Hanlon], and he promoted a cherubic farm-hand from the AHL named Bruce Boudreau on an interim basis.
At the time, Hanlon's firing was viewed by veteran players as a result of their own failures. Said Olaf Kolzig to the Washington Post: "It was pretty evident what we were doing wrong, and we went right back out in the second period [Wednesday] and did the exact the same thing. That has nothing to do with coaching, and has everything to do with individuals not listening and being on their own program."
Speculation around the team is all about Joe Sacco, the club's third-year coach, because that's how it works in the NHL. Something wrong? Anything at all? Fire the coach. Hot dogs too cold? Beer too warm? Restroom lines too long? Fire the coach. Has Jacques Lemaire gotten bored with retirement yet?
In Montreal, Martin’s personnel choices and line-juggling puzzle some, enrage others. The can-do-better crowd would now have struggling Scott Gomez in the minors, Tomas Plekanec off the power-play point forever, and every observer can form four productive lines that can be rolled effectively.
So does that mean the players have tuned Babcock out? That sure seems to be the prevailing thought, and that's going to be tougher to get back. Now is the time where you either show that you're the coach we think you are, the guy who can lead this team back to the promised land, or we find that you're simply a guy who inherited a great team and you've lost the room.
With the Flames, Sutter simply does not have the type of team that can win those tight-knit, low-scoring games. The defensemen aren’t good enough to keep opponents at bay, and when they do fall behind, the forwards aren’t good enough to rescue it.
- This thing seemed like a much bigger deal last year, didn't it? 2012 All-Star Fan Balloting Week 1 leaders. Look at all those Ottawa Senators!
- Hockeymom special: Grange on Crosby: His father's eyes - Michael Grange, sportsnet.ca ★★★★★
- Keeping an ear to the ground on the CBA negotiations: Chicago Blackhawks: NHL players closely watching NBA lockout - chicagotribune.com Hawks general manager Stan Bowman believes with a salary cap already in place, the process in '12 should be smoother. ★★★
Troy Crosby doesn't pretend being Sidney Crosby's Dad is no big deal. He doesn't walk around with a sign, but he doesn't take it for granted. His daughter plays hockey at a high school in Minnesota, and Troy watches her whenever he can too, but it admits it's different: "She's a goalie, I'm a nervous wreck."
At long last, a little (long-awaited) levity
TORONTO - After performing an in-depth 15-year study of professional hockey penalties, penalization practices, and the behavior of penalized players, independent hockey-law reform group JustIce concluded this week that the NHL's use of the penalty box does "absolutely nothing whatsoever" in the long term to deter players from committing violations.
Thanks to the Canes own Michael Smith for the link: How to Pronounce Carolina Hurricanes NHL Hockey. He said his favorite was Zach Boychuk. And, yep, it's good. Personally, Chad LaRose got me giggling. ★★★★★