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More questions than answers regarding Canes

Brandon Sutter, Sidney Crosby, and company are favorites to top the Metropolitan Division again this season
Brandon Sutter, Sidney Crosby, and company are favorites to top the Metropolitan Division again this season
Justin K. Aller

It's that time of year again when bloggers, journalists, and pundits alike are writing season previews.  Many writers ask each other for various opinions about the respective teams they cover.  When asked about the Carolina Hurricanes, there are no easy answers.

As in seasons past, yours truly is asked about the Hurricanes and as always, I try to answer the questions as best I can.

Recently, I exchanged questions with Paul from Pens Initiative.  Paul came up with some good questions.  Here is a link to the questions and my responses:

Canes Country Q&A..

Teaser... who is my choice to have a  dark horse break out season?  Elias Lindholm

I asked Paul a few questions as well and here is what he had to say:

1. What are your first impressions of Jim Rutherford?  Good things he's done and bad?

When I first heard that Rutherford was going to be the Penguins GM, I was disappointed. This was the man that gave Semin 5 year 35 million dollar contract, Cam Ward 6 years and 37.8 million and was convinced by Pittsburghers that he was fleeced in the Staal/Sutter trade (which is still up for debate). I really didn’t want a guy who is considered "old school" coming into the organization and foolishly spend money on albatross contracts.

When the Penguins signed Rutherford for 2 years it was made clear that he is being used as a mentor/stop-gap for assistant general manager Jason Botterill. Botterill is considered a "cap genius" and served the entire term behind ex-Penguins GM Ray Shero. Rutherford’s vast experience and guidance can only help Botterill take over the team in two years.

This summer Rutherford address the Penguins Achilles heel of toughness and depth by acquiring Downie, Comeau, Hornqvist, Spaling, Goc, Ehrhoff, Greiss and Carcillo (to a PTO). The Penguins will be a lot harder to play against, sure, but no longer has to bare the heavy burden of carrying the entire team on their backs.

Rutherford has also made all of these acquisitions 1 year deals (besides Spaling and Suter’s 2 year deals) which gives him tremendous flexibility for the trade deadline and next offseason. He has a new team and wants a fresh perspective on it all. No rush, nothing foolish, and the capability to adjust easily was a surprise for me but the right move.

Overall I like Rutherford’s cautious approach but I have to wonder if he will hesitate to pull the trigger on a large deal in fear of changing the dynamic of the Penguins for his predecessor.

2. Who do you see as the Pens toughest competition in the Metro this season?

I’d love to be nice and say the Hurricanes but in all honesty I think it is the New York Rangers. They lost B. Boyle, Stralman, Pouliot, but kept their core intact of Nash, St. Louis, Stepan and gained D. Boyle, Glass, Lombardi, and Stempniak to replace supplemental scoring. I think of of all Metro Division Goalies the Rangers have to be one of the most consistent. This is a team that made it to the Finals last year and haven’t lost most of the moving parts that got them there.

3. Do you think the Pens are improved from last year or worse?  Why?

I’m always optimistic every year. We got rid of a lot of dead weight in Engelland, Orpik, and Glass, but we lost Niskanen, Jokinen, and (locker room distraction) James Neal. I think the team is balanced as it ever was. The bottom 6 has vastly improved. Hornqvist will replace a good chunk of Neal’s scoring, Scuderi (HAS TO) have a bounce back season, and our pipe-line of blue chip defense men will fill in for injuries. With an entirely new coaching staff and management there is always concern of a disconnect between the players and coaches but when you have arguably the two best players in the world on your team you have to expect success.

A short answer is a trepidatious yes. Took away a little scoring but balanced the lines. Became "meaner" and can rely on solid goal tending. A healthy Crosby and Malkin and you can possibly predict a Metropolitan Championship and a deep playoff run.

4. Marc-Andre Fleury's contract is up this season.  Do you bring him back?

I do. I feel that Rutherford's approach to all his signings give him maximum flexibility. All one year non-committal deals that will allow him to further sculpt this team into championship form. Not committing to even his starting goal tender can give him (and his 99 assistants) and entire season to make an informed choice. I am not going to over react with this choice but I think it is the right one to make. Most of the current staff on hand doesn’t know Fleury on that intricate level that working with him for almost 10 years like the previous regime gave them. I do think a deal gets done and it will be fair. 40 win goal tenders are not easy to come-by let alone an established franchise goal tender. Other team's in a constant state of flux with their goaltending would love to have an athletic and consistent net minder like Flower between the pipes.

I will post more Q and A's in time as they are published.

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In other news, the Canes prospects are in Traverse City to participate in the annual tournament hosted by the Red Wings.  So far the team is 1-1.  The club sent media staff to cover the tournament this season and Michael Smith has been doing a great job with the coverage.

Carolina took game one against the Sabres, 6-1.  recap.

They dropped game two against the Stars, 4-2.     recap.

Reportedly, Victor Rask is having a good tournament so far and has two goals and two assists in the two games.  Phillip Di Giuseppe had two goals in game one.

Next up, they will face the Rangers, Monday at 6:30.

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Here are links and highlights from a few Carolina season previews and other Hurricanes news:

The Score; The Score Hurricanes Preview.

The Hurricanes have the benefit of playing in the relatively weak Metropolitan Division, but based on Francis' static approach to a roster that finished 10 points out of a playoff spot last season, it's hard to imagine much in the way of improvement, even if Skinner takes the next step and E. Staal and Ward return to form.

On top of that, divisional foes such as the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals took steps to improve, meaning the Hurricanes could very well bottom out and, be in the mix for another high draft pick next June. Considering the 2015 Draft features Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, that might not be a bad thing.

And if things go too far south, those long-talked about sweeping changes may become a reality prior to the trade deadline.

Liberty Voice: 30 in 30.

When it all comes down to it, Carolina simply needs to find their consistency on the ice. On paper, their forward corps and goaltending should be enough talent to compete for a wildcard spot, even with the questionable defense they are icing. However, a tough Metropolitan division was seemingly made even more difficult to play in this offseason, and the lack of any real moves being made to improve the team could leave the Carolina Hurricanes on the outside of the playoff bubble once again.

Leader Post - Hunt grateful for chance to impress.

Dryden Hunt impressed enough at development camp that he got invitation to play for Carolina at Traverse City.

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Finally, Peter Koutroumpis at Triangle Sports Network has got an excellent review of the recently announced rule changes on his site.  Check that out here:   Fans Guide to Rules Changes