The Hurricanes fell for the fifth straight time in regulation last night. We will pause right now while you go outside and scream, yell, throw a pillow, however you release anger and frustration… just go ahead, we all want to at this point.
There is so little to write that is positive from last night or the past five games. It is very easy however to sit here and criticize this team including the players, coaches, and management.
Is the criticism warranted at this point? That’s up for debate, but what isn’t is the fact the Hurricanes have dug a deep hole and are having a difficult time climbing out. For the first time in 82 games the Canes got shut out, and the bad times seem to be getting worse and worse. Last night just continued to show the walls of that hole are starting to cave in and the way out is becoming smaller and smaller by the game. So what on earth happened last night? Let’s talk about it.
The Hurricanes power play unit was one to fear in October and November. The forwards made quick decisions and the defense knew when to shoot. Now it’s just a bunch of grown men who seem to be clueless on the ice. The power play went 0-4 last night in what seems like a normal occurrence nowadays. It has dropped to 23rd in the league and has been about as bad as you can be lately.
What on earth has gone wrong here? How do you go from top 10 to 23rd? Jeff Skinner certainly has been a huge part of the problem but so have Victor Rask and Lee Stempniak. These three players led the team in the early months and now all three have been doing just one thing consistently: not scoring. The power play unit needs all three to step up along with other forwards such as Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho if they are going to start converting more often.
An Undeserving All-Star
Oh, Justin Faulk. Once considered a leading candidate to be the next captain of this team, Faulk has had a very tough year this season. Faulk let the Kings walk around him on both of their goals (minus the empty netter) without laying the body, using his stick, or getting down to block a shot — just see below.
While these goals cannot be completely on Faulk but he has to be a better leader and a better player. He no longer fights and he hasn’t hit anybody in what feels like ages. How are the younger guys supposed to learn and get better when their supposed leader isn’t doing the simple things needed to be done to win in the NHL?
Faulk may be going to LA to represent the team in the All Star Game but he doesn’t deserve to be. He has not been playing like an All Star this year, nor has he even been close to the best player on the Hurricanes.
Faulk has played on the biggest stage of them all in the Olympics, and is a multi-year All Star for the Canes but one has to wonder if he is on the trade block at this point. You have to give to get, and with so many young defensemen in the system, Faulk offers the highest value to get an elite goal scorer here which is what the team needs now.
Cam has lost his cool
It is very difficult to lay any blame on Ward for the first goal given up. Faulk played it bad and the team got caught changing. The second goal we saw Ward give up a bad rebound, but he still shouldn’t have been in the situation: his defense failed to handle to puck once again. Ward has been through a lot lately and a streak of 20+ straight starts has to take its toll on an older goalie.
Ward looked good last night until the last 5 minutes when the entire team fell apart. That’s the positive sign. The bad thing we saw is Cam once again was caught by the cameras slamming his stick and throwing a mild temper tantrum after he was lifted for the 6th attacker. Ward is clearly fed up with the rest of the team and himself.
The Hurricanes gave up on Ward tonight just as they did far too often over the past few games. He surely knows this was the best team he’s played for in years up until about 2 weeks ago. He is fully aware of where the team is in the standings and his thirst for the playoffs has to be very high. Ward losing his cool can be turned in to a positive but only if he channels it into a teaching and leadership moment.
As the only guy left from 2006 and ’09 Ward knows this market better than anyone in the organization besides Ron Francis and Rod Brind’Amour. I can only imagine that the guys are getting chewed out by Cam on a nightly basis now, and if they aren’t then they should be. He needs to be a vocal leader and hold these young guys accountable because if seems as if though the coaches have decided not to.
After the game the Canes sent Michael Leighton to the Checkers and activated Eddie Lack. Lack was then sent to Charlotte too on a conditioning stint which is much needed. Maybe Eddie can come back and find his game, because Cam needs a break and a reliable backup ASAP.
While this point may not reflect directly on last night it reflects on something that should have beenprevented last night and the past five games. Bill Peters and his staff are not being hard enough on these young guys. Where is the fire and passion at? If it is being shown in the locker room is surely isn’t translating to the ice. The offense looks like crud. The goaltending has been crud. Plus the defense has looked like crud - for five straight games! They’ve tried tweaks but nothing significant enough. Benching Teuvo Teravainen and Noah Hanifin was a good start, but it’s time to make a stand and bench a real leader who isn’t producing, like Jeff Skinner.
Peters has preached accountability for years yet he doesn’t really hold his stars accountable. Look at Eric Staal while Peters was here, and now Jeff Skinner or Jordan Staal or Justin Faulk. Send a message, Bill! Last night the team collapsed and gave up once again, a story told so many times it’s being heard more than the latest hit pop song on the radio. This falls directly on the coaching staff and management.
Speaking of management, is Ron Francis just going to sit around and watch the team fall out of the race? It seems that way. The team clearly needs offense and clearly has had something a lot of teams don’t have needed to acquire such a thing: young talent. We have a plethora of young talented players and draft picks, and it’s beyond time for Francis to make a move to try and salvage the team. Sorry, but picking up Ty Rattie just ain’t gonna cut it. Make some moves so we don’t lose another five straight, please.
Moral of the Story
The Hurricanes showed up and played 55 decent minutes of hockey. Then five minutes before the horn sounded the team hit the showers, blowing yet another close game and coming away with nothing to show for it. The All Star game break can’t come at a better time for the Canes as it gives them time to reset and try to get back to December shape.
Last night left a lot of fans furious just as the last five games have. Bad plays and the leadership failing to show up have left us all wonder what in the world is going on with this team and where the team from a month ago has gone. Here’s to a different story coming out after the break and a different kind of streak. The Canes desperately needs to turn it all around and figure things out before the bad becomes too ugly to bear.