There is a laundry list of excuses why the Hurricanes fell just short of making the playoffs. It's safe to say Cam Ward is either way, way, way down on that list or totally missing from it.
The Canes' #1 netminder finished his sixth (!!) season with Carolina and bounced back nicely from an injury-plagued 2009-10 campaign with good stats across the board. The highlight was being selected to take part in his first All-Star Game, where he was the first draft selection by his teammate and All-Star captain Eric Staal and was honored with the start in his home rink.
Ward's play down the stretch (11-5-2 in March and April) was great, but was it tempered by a so-so 10-10-5 January and February in which he gave up four or more goals seven times? You make the call.
#30 / Goalie / Carolina Hurricanes
Feb 29, 1984
|2010 - Cam Ward
The Good: As mentioned above, Ward was named to his first career All-Star team, and deservedly so. After a season in which he didn't post one shutout, Ward pitched four in 2010-11, including a memorable one the day after Thanksgiving in Boston two days after his wife gave birth to their first son. Ward finished the season tied for sixth in the NHL with a .923 save percentage, despite clocking in with a 2.56 goals-against average, good for 21st in the league. He made an incredible 2,191 saves, a franchise record by a mile and the second-most saves in a season since the lockout behind Roberto Luongo's 2005-06 campaign.
Ward received little help from his defense all year, facing a league-leading 2,375 shots (no other goaltender was within 200 of that number). Despite that, the Canes were 9-1-1 in the 11 games where Ward stopped 40 or more shots, and in two games in December, Ward made more than 40 saves in back-to-back games, the first time a Canes goaltender had performed that feat since Sean Burke in 1997. Speaking of Canes goalies from days gone by, Ward broke Arturs Irbe's team record for games played with his 310th career game in Boston on January 17.
In recognition of his efforts, the PHWA Carolina chapter voted Ward the team's MVP for the 2010-11 season, and his teammates selected him as the Canes' nominee for the King Clancy Trophy for leadership on and off the ice.
The Bad: This isn't a criticism of Ward so much as one of Paul Maurice's goalie-management strategies, but Ward could have used a break at times during the season. His 74 games played was second to Irbe's 77 GP in 2000-01 among goaltenders in franchise history and his 4,317-plus minutes played was over 100 minutes more than any other player in the NHL. Ward played 40 of the Canes' final 41 games, which speaks to the team's trust in him but also illustrates the need for a seasoned backup to shoulder some of the load. Brian Boucher should help considerably in this department next season.
Oddly, Ward was consistently inconsistent when it came to wins and losses: he never had a streak (winning or losing) of more than three games all year.
The Money: Ward completed the first year of a contract extension signed in 2009, and next season his salary and cap hit will both be $6.3 million. By cap hit, Ward is the second-highest paid goaltender in the NHL behind Henrik Lundqvist, although thanks to creative accounting (come on down, Ilya Bryzgalov and Roberto Luongo) Ward will be the fourth-highest paid in actual dollars next season. He remains under contract to the Canes until the end of the 2016 season.