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Why this year's Hurricanes will Rock Like a....Well a Hurricane

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Why I think the Carolina Hurricanes will surprise a lot of people (especially in the national media) and make the playoffs.


By Remkin




The Past.


Last offseason Jim Rutherford ended years of El Cheapo and made two monster moves to help this team: acquiring Jordan Staal, the #2 overall pick and proven top 2 way center, and the bold move of signing super talented but maligned Alexander Semin. That offseason it was an easy move for the national hockey pundits to pick the Canes as a sleeper pick. After all, we hadn’t missed the playoffs by much the year before, and how could these two powerful players not help us over the top?


And after a slow start w/ no training camp, the team did indeed build some steam and started winning and looking pretty good for a stretch.  But then the wheels came off and we sank like a lead brick (though not quite far enough for a top 3 pick, but I digress). So we finished the season essentially #26 in a league of 30 teams. 


So, it seems that many national pundits now look at a team that was a couple of losses from the basement and think, “Well what have they added to that rag tag collection? Not much really”. Then, they think, “add that the Canes are moving into a division of big boys. If they couldn’t handle the Southleast how are they going to handle going against real men?”


Look, there is some validity in those points. We gave up more shots than a flu clinic. Our special teams were terrible. Our secondary scoring was tertiary, our tertiary scoring was, not there. We had a 21 game stretch from March 15 where we went 2-15-4. And those were not close losses. We were horrible. And it’s not that the team laid down either. They were trying….and failing miserably.  And while we’ve actually done ok vs the big boys, we did see a lot of back up goalies. Further, the NHL in its infinite wisdom and sense of fairness made the conferences lopsided so more teams in the East will miss the playoffs. That math is pretty straight up.


So, if the equation is taking the team of that 21 game stretch and adding Sekera, Komiserek, Gerbe and Khudoben, (and just now Hainsey) and asking: “was that enough change?,” then I would agree with the naysayers, we may be a bit better, but not playoffs.


But that equation misses some pretty big factors. That equation is deeply flawed. That 21 game collection of horrors was a team in disarray. A team hit with a bevy of critical injuries and underperforming guys (Jussi for one) who could not get out of their own way. A team that never had defense as a strong point, suddenly had a completely ineffective AHL and even junior hockey defenders in front of an AHL goalie. We could not stop the mighty mites from scoring if our lives depended on it. And try as one might, once that starts happening a few nights in a row, even the most heroic of players are going to find it hard to find their mojo. That is what it looks like when the wheels come off.  That is not a fair baseline. That is the extreme worst case.


So I reject the premise of the equation of: take last year’s finish, look at additions/subtractions = this year’s outlook. Sometimes it’s just not that simple.

This is one of those times.


There are two major reasons why this team will be miles better than that team. Yes, one is additions (and subtractions). However I would argue that while we did not add huge names, we added absolutely position critical new players who are underrated; key cogs that will fix crucial defective pieces to the machine. But the bigger reason, the one that the naysayers are VASTLY underestimating, is the improvement or availability of players that were already on last year’s roster.


The key additions and subtractions are exactly at our greatest weakness, defense (and goalie), and don’t underestimate the subtractions (Joni excluded) on defense.


Then add in the chance for a relatively new coach to finally have a full camp to teach and install his system (correcting errors as they happen and reinforcing things) and better evaluate his entire team and prospects, a coach that the players respect and will play for, and this time, things will be different.


And I’ll give the specifics in Part II.

Edited by remkin

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Why I think the Hurricanes will Surprise a Lot of People and Make the Playoffs:


Part II A


Area of concern #1: (by far)


Goals against. 


We were #29. That’s really about all there is to it. Last year none of the bottom 9 in goals against made the playoffs, while 3 of the bottom 9 in goals for made the playoffs. As boring as it is, a team must have at LEAST a middle of the pack defense –goalie combo to make the playoffs most years.  Last year only teams with top half defenses won more than 7 playoff games. The goals against should be at least top 20 to make the playoffs, but really to have a decent run in the playoffs, must be at least top half, and the higher the better.


This is really THE issue, FAR more important than bottom 6 scoring. Even w/ our bottom half forward scoring drought we were #13 in goals for and that was with a feckless powerplay.


Why will we be better here?


1. Cam Ward. The word is that he is in great shape. He’s not put a lot of hockey on that body for a while. He will need a full training camp, but there is reason to think he will be healthy and return to form. The effect of this goes beyond his GAA and Save %. The team plays better knowing he’s back there also.  If he can return to his All Star form, this will make a big difference.  This topic gets sooo much ink on these boards, on here are those that simply do not think Cam is or ever was anything but ------- -- ----, and I will not convince you any other way.


2010-11 Cam Ward was #3 in wins and of goalies with at least 50 starts, was #4 in the league in save percentage despite being hung out to dry pretty regularly. He had also improved his save % every year since winning the cup to that point. That Cam was elite.


It is purely speculative, but he is healthy and hungry and rested and has a full camp and a better defense and I’m predicting 2010-11 Cam returns. If so, that alone will help a lot w/ goals against, but not enough by itself. Still that 2010-11 year Cam was #13 in goals against despite all the point blank shots our weak defense allowed. Still, to really get it done, we need more than a good to great goalie.


2. Sekera for McBain. McBain was in my opinion our worst defensive defenseman. He shot out of the gate when he first came up and put up a bunch of points over a few games and got everyone really thinking:  since then, not so much. Mr. Healthy Scratch was usually the coach’s last choice to go in there, and for good reason. To me he looked more uncomfortable and unsteady on a nightly basis than Kid Murphy did on his emergency call up from Juniors. McBain was a touch better than some of our AHL call ups, but that ain’t saying much; addition by subtraction here.


Sekera. Only know what I’ve read, but what I’ve read is that JR found a hidden gem here, especially for what we need. If one suspends fantasy (teams don’t give up their Chara’s), it is hard to think of a dramatically better pick up here. All kinds of great advanced stats on the guy, history of top of team plus minus, coaches gave him the ice time of a trusted defender, and his strength, fundamentally sound, and great at getting the puck out of our end and making that first pass. Sound like the opposite of someone? McBain, perhaps? This is a HUGE upgrade not to be overlooked.


3. Komiserek for Corvo. Ok, not a straight up trade, but still, that’s basically the equation. So….


Corvo has had some good times with the Canes, and he put up some offense, but at his age, he was not helping the goals against thing, especially last year. Prone to mistakes and uh oh moments, just not strong in our end. Not particularly physical; more addition by subtraction. Just don’t call him back JR.


Komiserek:  If Sekera for McBain and a second rounder was prime JR, picking up Komiserek practically for free was classic JR.  IT was SUCH a low risk, high reward move. All he has to do is limit shots and goals against better than Corvo. All he has to do is be our #6 defenseman and we’re better.


Luke DeCock a few days ago:


Komisarek, at 6-feet-4, 235 pounds, could be the big, crease-clearing defenseman the Hurricanes have lacked for years.

   That’s what Komisarek was, once…..


When he was in Montreal he was a top pairing shut down guy. Toronto gave him the big contract and he tried to get more offensive. Then the media got on him and he lost his confidence.

If he just keeps it simple and moves people out of the crease. Big upgrade. Anything more is gravy. From a GAA perspective he will be an upgrade on Corvo.


4. Hainsey: I can’t really say that Hainsey for Pittkanen is a massive upgrade. But it is a very important fix that in past years might not have happened. El Cheapo would not have made this move. Yes, he is not massively expensive at $2 million (oh could I not be expensive at that rate). But I still think 3 years ago JR would have lost Pitkanen and still managed to “like our group”.  So at some level this move is key because it happened. JR is not going to sit back and just take the loss of Joni.

Also Hainsey is a more traditional defensive defenseman, and this team, that gets scored on more than the corner…well gets scored on a lot, needs that.  Pitkanen loved to rag the puck deep into the zone, but not always to great effect, and to some disruption of the team.  Hainsey will be a traditional defenseman. That could be a good thing.

I’m not sure I wouldn’t still prefer a totally healthy, totally focused Pitkanen, but then we rarely got that even before this terrible injury. On balance this is a small upgrade. And more importantly, a setback averted.

The most important thing is that we now feature 6 legitimate NHL defenseman that all play defense. We are missing a Chara-like beast, but our defense by committee has 6 strong committee members.


5. Khudoben. Not buying the Khudoben becomes #1 hype for a second, but if he can keep near his NHL small sample size numbers, he will be a very very good back up. This will also help goals against, get Cam some rest and hold us in there for any injuries Cam might face.


6. Murphy.  What a turn of fortune has played out for our former first round draft pick. He has off the charts offensive skills and has improved his defensive game. He did not look bad defensively in his emergency call up from Juniors straight to the big club which was itself in full implosion mode. He has looked very good in prospect camp and Traverse City.


But mainly he has seen ALL of our offensive defensemen suddenly gone. We are far better on defense for that, but this team with offensive dmen to spare, suddenly has one: Murphy. Further this is a team that sported a horrid powerplay last year that finally started looking decent only when it got a quarterback (MAB).


Barring a trade or injury he would have to be dman #7, but that is very possible. We are going to want that offense, especially on the PP.



Key guys get healthy: 


If Gleason was really playing on a broken foot, we can expect him to play better on a not broken foot.


It is easy to kind of forget about Justin Faulk in that he is just so steady. But Faulk was one of the KEY losses last year. Like Cam he covered up a lot of bad. But he is still a kid and will just keep getting better. He is ready to really lock down top pair and that will be an improvement. Faulk will also flash more offense this year. It is a natural progression and a team need. He has the chops. He has not peaked, and is already our most talented defenseman.


Harrison is a nice 5-6 guy: big, character, hits, solid bottom pair at a nice price. And puts up a few points. Teams need guys that can function and leave cap space. But he needs to be a bottom pair guy. Having the new additions make keeping him there likely. He is effective there. He needs to stay there to be effective.


These changes on defense represent an overhaul. 50% of the first six are changed out. They were exactly the changes that needed to be made. With the offense we have, we just need average defense. We clearly have that, and if Komiserek and Hainsey find their form and Gleason is healthy, and Faulk grows more, and Murphy can quarterback the PP….this could be above average.


Put Ward and a better back up goalie behind that…..


The Muller plan is to forecheck aggressively, creating pressure forward. We are not going to be a neutral trap, sit back and counterpunch team. We will score more than average. We do not need to be a steel trap on defense. We have disproportionately good scoring forwards. But we DO need to get to at least in the ballpark of the league average for goals against. If we do, we will be good to go.

Edited by remkin

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IIb: Key Forwards           


So one thing that the prognosticators like to do is look at the team’s record from last year, then superimpose additions-subtractions. It is one of the half glass empty people’s main thesis points.


I have already suggested that the defensive and back up goalie additions are much bigger than they seem (as are the defensive subtractions).


But one thing that is not really considered is the expectations for better years from existing players. That, I think will be the other hidden power thrust for this team.


Key among them:


#1 Jeff Skinner: It is almost 1a and 1b here, but I put Jeff first because he seems to have the most people concerned. The concern over repeated concussions is legit. The concern over his play deteriorating outside of that is not.


This is a “what I seen with my own eyes” analysis. And what I seen was two players last year. One, rested and recovered from the concussion at the start of the year looked GREAT. He was clearly using his teammates more and looked even better than 18 year old phenom Skinner. Then he took the big hit again. After that and being used differently, he was not the same player.


So, which is the real Jeff Skinner? Which guy will start this season. Well after the last concusion/recovery, we got a guy who looked to breakout. He works hard offseason, and I think he will come in and blow the doors off. He has such skill that he can be a clear cut All Star, or in a different year, Olympian.


A rejuvenated Skinner will make a HUGE difference.


#2: Jordan Staal: the data is there. J. Staal has already proven he can put up 65 points including playoffs while on second or third line. Why would he regress? There is ample evidence that two factors often lead to down years: new team, big new contract. Even last year Staal’s numbers were not horrible, just not where we expect them. There is very good reason to think especially if Ruutu is healthy that J. will also break out.


I predict his numbers will look decent for some first line centers and will be near the top for second line centers (probably not going to outscore Malkin, but after that…).


J. might struggle again, but I believe the odds strongly favor a bounce back at least and very possibly a breakout.


#3: Tuuom Ruutu: Here’s a guy who barely played last year at all. This is a guy who when healthy is good for 50 points and 20 goals. But what’s more he makes plays with his physicality. When he was healthy he hit harder than anyone on the team by far. Here’s a guy who can rock you into the boards, take the puck away and make a play. A “you better keep your head on a swivel” guy who affects the other guy. And he’s Mr. Good Attitude. If his hips are good to go and he returns to that guy, having him back is like signing a big time free agent.


#4: Elias Lindholm. JR picked him ahead of the obvious JR pick: Sean Monahan. This tells me that JR and the brain trust are very high on him straight up. He is the number 5 pick in what may be the deepest NHL draft ever. Say what you will about late round picks, JR and company have a very good record with first round talent evaluation. I doubt he pulls a Skinner, but if he is an average NHL third line forward year one, that is a clear addition. And imagine our forward line up in a couple of years as he finds his complete game.

Those guys are a safe bet to up their production and contributions for last year, and in the case of Ruutu and Linholm, just need to beat out the guys who were in those slots (their last year production) who will not be hard to beat.


Wild Cards:


Brenden Morrow:  Will we get him? At this point, who knows? But he’d complete this team and take even more guesswork out of how good we should be. Since he is at best 50-50 to join us, I will offer another…


Nathan Gerbe: This is the smurf that will make the team, not The Kidsky. So, Gerbe has put up actual NHL points: his best year he put up 34 points in 64 games: .53 ppg. That is acceptable second line productivity, let alone third line. Word has it he’s had injury problems. If they are better he could hit or surpass that again. This is a classic JR pick up, and JR is really good at finding guys just like this.


Riley Nash: Riley Nash has shown NHL ability and has raised his game at the big level. It is subtle. He has not broken out, really not even in the AHL. But he makes nice little plays. He is a set up man, and that is kind of a need.  A lot of people have counted him out, not me.


There are several others who could step up: Dalpe, Boychuk, Paluhsaj, Bowman,  and Radek Dvorak to name a few.


So with all that improvement up front, how can we go backwards? Well really only if our stellar first line falls off. Could that happen? Clearly. Tlusty had a dream year. Semin and E. stayed pretty healthy. Semin was an assist machine. Teams will be keying on them.


Still that chemistry is real. Tlusty was not a fluke. Sure he benefits from playing with two great players, but he meshes with them, and they are still there. While that line could drop off a bit, it will be far less than the improvements below them.




Final Summary:


If you’re still reading…


This is not last year’s can’t win a game plus a few cast off additions. This is last year’s team that was starting to get it going pre injury parade, plus several KEY additions and expected improvements from key stars.


The number one problem of defense was addressed with a defensive overhaul. We are far more defensive back there. We have jettisoned our two worst defenders and replaced them with solid NHL veterans. We have dealt nicely with the blow of losing Joni by adding another solid NHL veteran in Hainsey.


We will clear the crease, clear the puck, get the puck out, and block more shots. We will cut down shots and more importantly point blank shots, and with Cam back there our goals against will drop. This improvement will have dramatic impact.


This better defense with #1 goalie will also allow fewer goals by way of the PK.


I add that I think Murphy will amaze with his offensive contributions.


New forward additions: Dvorak, etc can help on the PK also.


The 5 on 5 offense was good last year, but look out Pittsburgh this year. If we get Morrow we will be at the very top in goals scored. It not, we still could be.


The remaining question in my mind is the powerplay. There will be no Joni, no Corvo, and we still have a band of guys that have just never really cracked that nut. I see Faulk really stepping up here, and maybe one of our other new guys. But mainly I put Murphy out there to quarterback. I cannot claim to have a warm fuzzy about this one area, but it can’t be much worse, so there’s that. And we will draw a lot of penalties which could offset. Mainly, there is no place to go but up.


We have a tough new division, but the only team that I just have to put above us is Pittsburgh. Everyone else is beatable. No one else scares me, except we have a thing about losing to Philly.


Our coach has his first full training camp to fully implement his system and find out who will fit it. Also to work on special teams.


We are in the perfect situation. Once again other teams and much of the national hockey media have us as feckless and simply overpowered by our big tough new division. That is the easy story line.


It is also when the Hurricanes tend to surprise people. The moves of two years ago will gel and strengthen, along with the full return of Ruutu, and the practical return of Skinner, and the addition of Lindholm will make that already good offense off the charts. But what will matter most is the gelling of the new improved defense in front of our “return to elite” goalie and his capable back up.


Prediction: Second in Metro, behind Pittsburgh.



There it is.


Of course, this is just my opinion, I could be wrong…….nah.

Edited by remkin

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Oh man great write up Remmie I got to get through your third write up yet but this is really good. One thing you could add to the defense, and probably because we blocked it all out of our minds, the great Sags experiment, whom was in our top 4 at some points due to injury. Oh and as I write this up what plays on Spotify? ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE!

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Thanks Ichigo. 


I know we've kicked a lot of these topics around before, but at one point there was a lot of doom and gloom and glass half empty prognostications. That's when I started writing this. Then the Pits thing derailed me. But now back on track.


I hope people feel free to add to this. Or comment on parts.

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There goes our Remkin using up all the NHL bandwidth again :lol:


Nice write up, never hurts to start out on a positive note.

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Rem, Thanks for the inspirational writeup, and I totally agree with every word. I must admit, that there were

 times that I was anxious, but never Doom and Gloom. In defense of those that were/are, I can somewhat sympathize as 4 years with no sniff of a playoff game, combined with the deafening silence that overwhelms this franchise during the off season, and one can sometimes "fabricate" alot.


I suppose that the latter is the reason that I despise the Detroits, Torontos, Montreals, Pittsburgs, etc. who flood the airways so much with so much hype.

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Great write-up Rem! I think you hit all the salient points.


The only thing I'll add is I'm hoping Dvorak will be a great 4th line/PK surprise and provide some leadership to the young guys on the team.

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Remlin, you should be awarded "Thread/Post of the year".  :goodpost:


I'm not a prognosticator, and I have no idea if what you lay out will work out.  But I appreciate the analysis.


What I can say is I'm almost ready to throw my XM Radio out the window of my car.  Not only the hosts, but every guest has the same analysis which goes like this: "The Canes are in Metro.  Game, Set, Match, they are Toast.  End of story."


Or as you put it so eloquently, "add that the Canes are moving into a division of big boys. If they couldn’t handle the Southleast how are they going to handle going against real men?"  Repeat, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.  ENOUGH!


I'm tired of hearing this, and I hope that our boys are too. 


Let me at least say this: at least the XM guys have finally recognized that Ellis was injured most the time he played.  We were running on goalie fumes.  Earlier this summer they kept repeating the mantra that there was zero goalie depth.  Hey, there was some depth, but it got hurt too.  The last week or so, they've stopped saying that and have recognized Ellis' injury.  I suspect some Caniacs called in and opened a can of whoop <you know what>.


I digress.  I don't know what this year brings, but I appreciate your thoughts.  We can hope.  All I know is the Canes have pretty much officially been crowned the Basement Of Metro (yes, even below Columbus, because they have that Stud named JJ.)  Let's hope the boys can prove the wrong.

Edited by wxray1

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Nice job Rem!   


I'd just like to add that as one who really gets into the prospect world, we've got a new crop of guys on offense in the pipeline I'm excited about. Hopefully, we can add a few d-guys to that optimism.


Good teams have depth.

Edited by coastal_caniac

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Excellent write-up.  There is plenty of discussion about upside/rebound on this board so I'll just comment on the risk side.


You've pointed out a few risks/questions: Skinner staying healthy, Jordan rebound, Ruutu's hip, a better PP, possible improvement to bottom 6 forwards.


I'd add that the team's two top stars are returning from MAJOR knee injuries, and IMO immediate, sustained and full recovery is not a given, yet.


I hope to be surprised on the upside this year, but it is the Canes, right?  I'm still keeping the balance between the many risks for the season, including those you've mentioned plus the knee recoveries.  Those risks are fairly substantial.

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Great Posts Rem!!!!!!  Sound like I'm talking to my dog Remington.  We call him Rem.....at any rate.


I agree 100% with your analysis on our defense.  I'll trust y'all's judgement on the Forward Lines, because I haven't been able to keep up with all the stuff in the offseason.  I do think that top line is obviously untouchable.  After that, I guess Muller will have to figure things out, and find out what works best to get Skinner going.  The third line will be the key issue, finding out what kind of players can emphasize/protect Skins. 


I also concur that the continuing worry over the lacking powerplay is probably well-founded.  I think we have defensive upside, no fall off on offense, and an unknown powerplay.  All that being said, I'm way excited to see this team play.  One thing I think you left out of your analysis is this:


When the Hurricanes played "top tier" teams, including Boston late last season, they all stepped up their game and rose to the challenge.  That late season victory against Boston (when Harrison fought Chara) was a huge boost to the morale of the fans and the team, whom had gone on that horrible injury/slump run.  Spending the whole season playing those solid teams every night, may bring the same team effect the entire season.  If that is so, then we may be in for one heck of a wild ride...........and I wish I had season tickets, but even the 12 game plan was not in the cards for me.  Two more years, the kid will be out of college, and maybe I can resume my long road trips to the PNC.  We'll get up there this season, just not as often as we'd like.  CI here we come.

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Some day I'll explain my weird board name. 


I though of changing it to remcane but I am not authorized to do it.



I appreciate the appreciation. I really think the XM's and the other national hockey gurus are mostly missing the story here and this year's Canes are going to once again catch a lot of people by surprise. The simplistic view: Canes were just awful last year, and this year they're aren't going to have the Southeast to push around any more. Did they add enough? No.


They are widely missing the real situation. Widely.



Yeah, last year's debacle was a bit of a perfect storm. Loss of Cam combined with loss of half of an already thin defense, including Joni. Skinner concussion. J. adjustment issues. Despite attempts to stay positive, hockey is such an intense game that all that swiss cheese goal letting simply HAS to have an affect on overall play. Things go from bad to worse. That is NOT the baseline team to build on. That was a massively depleted, demoralized team.


Before that the team was sailing along pretty well and that was without Sekara, with McBain, without Komi with Corvo. Without Ruutu, without Lindholm. I say we have added to THAT team, not the team that sported a struggling Sanguinetti, M.Jordan, etc. with McBain and Corvo all in front of our third string AHL goalie.



Training camp has me once again hopeful that a couple of familiar AHL type names will put things together and break out at the NHL level. However, I've had that feeling before.



The upside to the wheels coming completely off: we got Lindholm due to that. Two more losses and we'd have Jones, but hey, can't have everything. On trading up or down in the draft, it would have been a BAD move. Why? Nashville was not going to trade out of Jones. Are you kidding? They are sitting there and Jones falls into their laps and they're going to trade him? "Sure we'll trade spots with you. All we need are your next 5 first round picks and Skinner." 


Trading down was the same problem. The big drop off was generally seen as #5 and below. So teams below us were not offering much of anything to trade down. 


But Linholm is going to be special. 


Anyway, I am optimistic. I really do think we are going to be very good. I guess I've made that point though.

Edited by remkin

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They just might.  It's a mix of healthy veterans and new blood, and the team usually performs better against  a top team like the Pens than someone like Florida.  If not, there's always Mitey Mites at intermission. :tripping:

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Nothing in the red-white scrimmage changed my mind at all. 


The only thing I'd add is that my thoughts about our top line falling off some are overblown. They might even be better.


Loooooking good.

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I am still standing buy it, but any injuries outside average will trigger an injury disclaimer! 

Well,  they won again, now without Skinner tonight.(My vote is null and void, the 1st time we have to call up an Everblade.;) )

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Great write-up Rem. Muller has his first full camp and the guys are clearly responding. The moves made in the off-season changed the face of this team and - I believe - added just enough guys who are young and hungry and enough who are old and hungry. I think the Lindholm acquisition is a chance for Skinner to take someone under his wing and no longer be "the kid" - and sometimes THAT kind of growth (maturity) is more valuable than any other sort.


Since the Montreal game (the one IN Montreal), I'm also feeling (surprisingly) good about D-corps. Knowing we won't have Joni back has to be a unifying force on the back end. Beats heck out of uncertainty ("Is he coming back?" "When will he be back?").


And we finally seem to have found a legit backup goalie.


Now, let's keep working on those face-offs, boys... 

Edited by top-shelf-1

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