The 2010-11 season for the Carolina Hurricanes was a long journey for a young team—all the way from the NHL Premiere in Finland to a home loss that finished the 'Canes just one win away from a playoff berth.
Still disappointed about that defeat? Yes, we all are. But here are some good signs for the future:
- This Hurricanes team went from being the second-oldest team in league and finishing 12th in the conference in 2009-10 to being the fifth-youngest team and finishing 9th in the East this past season.
- The 'Canes had 313 NHL man-games played by nine different prospects at or under the age of 23, and just 279 NHL man-games played by just six players in their 30s, two of whom are no longer even on the team.
- If prospect contribution at the NHL level isn't enough for you, the 'Canes AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, finished fifth out of 15 in their conference, sixth out of 30 in the league, and second in the league in offense (goals for).
However, for now, despite a bitter defeat to cap it off, the past 82 games over the last six months has been quite a ride for this new crop of Hurricanes. Here are the 2010-11 season team awards.
Dwyer was not nearly as worthless as last year's award winner, Tim Conboy, but he was not the most productive player either. Despite three full AHL seasons and two partial NHL seasons of experience, Dwyer broke into the NHL at 27, only to record a mere eight goals, ten assists, a minus-six rating and zero points over the 'Canes final 15 games, when they needed it the most. Furthermore, Dwyer won 80 out of 238 faceoffs, or 33.6 percent.
Thankfully, Dwyer's contract expires this summer as an unrestricted free agent. We figure he will not be back.
Not Very Honorable Mention—Justin Peters: Although Peters is still young, his play in limited action this season was not much better than dreadful. His 3-5-1 record actually makes him seem better than he really was, as his 3.98 goals-against average (GAA) and .875 save percentage prove. Also, Peters had four penalty minutes in just eight starts. By comparison, starter Cam Ward did not have any PIM in 74 starts.
In his first year as captain, Eric Staal saw a decrease in his penalty killing time but still easily ran away with special teams player of the year. Although he was the leader of an incredibly poor powerplay, averaging a team-leading four minutes and 27 seconds of PP time-on-ice per game, Staal still managed 12 man-advantage goals in addition to three shorthanded tallies.
Jussi Jokinen was second with eight powerplay goals, followed by Tuomo Ruutu with seven.
For a team that started so dreadfully in faceoffs, it's quite an accomplishment that the Hurricanes actually managed to finish the season not last in the league in that regard; their 44.6 team winning percentage eventually passed the Oilers' 44.3 percent mark.
One of the more underrated draw-takers on the lineup was Jussi Jokinen, who was the only player to average above 50 percent that took any significant number of faceoffs. Although he had just 169 wins, compared to Staal's 840 (Staal finished at 48.0 percent), Jokinen finished the year at 52.8 percent. If he's resigned this summer, he ought to be considered for a bigger role in this department.
The rookie phenom led all Carolina players by scoring on 14.4 percent of his shots, or about one goal every seven tries. His final count was 31 goals on 215 shots.
Jussi Jokinen was second at 14 percent, as he scored on 19 out of 136 shots.
As usual, the Captain ran away with the Best Playmaker award, topping Tuomo Ruutu by five to lead the 'Canes in assists with 43. Staal's coolness on the ice always seems to help in focus so he can make that perfect seam pass, and he was certainly on his game this season.
Ruutu finished with 38, while Jokinen finished third with just 33.
Carolina did a very good job getting their younger players of the future a lot of NHL experience this season, using frequent recalls to give their prospects as much time in the big leagues as possible. Although the Hurricanes had the fewest man-games lost to injury by starters in the entire league, five different AHL players still managed to make double-digit NHL appearances.
2008 first round pick Zach Boychuk had four goals, including one game winner and one on the powerplay, and three assists in 23 games played. 2007 third rounder Drayson Bowman, who had just one assist played an all-around solid game, and undrafted Jerome Samson, who continued to remarkably climb up the ranks with two assists, each played 23 NHL games, as well.
Furthermore, '08 second rounder Zac Dalpe made his NHL debut with 15 games early in the season and put up a very respectable three goals and one assist, while Flyers '06 third rounder Jon Matsumoto, acquired at last June's draft, had two goals in 13 appearances.
It's hard to believe that veteran Erik Cole was in the center of a swarm of trade rumors in just February of this season.
The good news is, he wasn't traded, and Cole went on to further cement a career year for the 33-year-old. He played a full 82-game, 52-point season and finished third on the team with 26 goals, 44th in the league. Even more impressive was his brilliant touch for clutch performances, scoring nine game winning goals, fourth-most in the NHL.
That means that about one out of every four 'Canes wins this year was won by a Cole goal, many of which came in the dying minutes or even past that—in overtime. Best clutch player? I'll say.
Honorable Mention—Despite Cole's runaway with this prize, Cam Ward also, most definitely, deserves a mention here. There may not be a stat that proves it, but Ward's play in tight games with two points on the line was absolutely spectacular. This is quite an honorable mention.
While Bodie, who was claimed off of waivers from Anaheim last November, was scratched on March 12 and saw no more NHL action this year, he proved his worth in the times he did play, not because of his one goal and two assists, but by using his fists.
Although the 'Canes had the sixth-least fights in the league, Bodie managed 10 five-minute majors in 50 games for Carolina. He stood up for teammates, sparked energy in disappointing times and, from time to time, simply unleashed his anger on any willing combatant available. While he likely won't be re-signed this offseason, Bodie made an "impression" during his time in Raleigh.
While it may be hard to say that the "Best Enforcer" also showed the "Most Sportsmanship", the trait that determines the Lady Byng trophy, Bodie actually managed the highest games-per-minor-penalty ratio, with just two minor infractions in 50 games.
Also in contention was Joe Corvo, who had nine minors in his complete season, Brandon Sutter, who had 10 minors in 82 games and Patrick Dwyer, who played 80 games although with very little time on ice and had six minors.
However, no one came close to Sutter's mark last season, when he became the first player since 2001 to score 20-plus goals in one season and take just one total penalty.
Injuries were, thankfully, a scarcity for the 'Canes this past season, and, as a result, a great number of players were able to complete full 82-game seasons. Skinner, Sutter, LaRose, Gleason, Ruutu, Cole and Corvo all hit the mark, and Staal fell just one appearance short, too.
Last year, only one player—Tom Kostopoulos—played all 82. In fact, this season's total of seven players is the most in Hurricanes history! Reliability is definitely something we can count on with this scrappy squad.
Erik Cole continues his productive night in terms of hardware by winning the best veteran leader award. Staal may carry the 'C', but Cole's mentorship of Skinner and the energy he provided to this team at the most vital time won him a lot of respect and gave him a leadership role that we've never seen him take on before.
Still, he ought to have. Cole turned into the perfect fit for the role, and the longtime 'Cane is also a runaway winner of this trophy.
Brandon Sutter has come a long way since being a little skinny kid just two seasons ago. Last year, he found his offensive touch with 21 goals. This year, he proved his defensive worth by posting, by far, the best plus/minus rating on the team and becoming one of the team's most reliable defensive forwards.
After going minus-one in both 2008-09 and 2009-10, the 2007-11th overall pick was a plus-13 this year, winning this team award by eight marks. Sutter was used on the penalty kill, in last-minute, defending-the-lead situations, and became a versatile center that was excellent in all areas of the ice.
Oddly, the two players that came in second were Derek Joslin and Brett Carson, the latter of whom is no longer even on the team. Furthermore, they played just 17 and 13 games, respectively, for the 'Canes. After Jay Harrison came in fourth at plus-five, two more players that spent well less than a full season for Carolina, Bryan Allen and Ian White, were each plus-four in their limited stints here.
LaRose takes a seat on Justin Peters as the Blackhawks push the puck into the net.
This award was created specially for Rod Brind'Amour, who's marks in this regard during his final years were nothing short of horrendous.
However, despite his absence, Chad LaRose carried the torch nearly perfectly this season, finishing worst on the Hurricanes at minus-21. The small, gritty 29-year-old also placed 13th in terms of worst +/-, a very "honorable" finish out of 891 players entered in the running.
Let's just say that we aren't too keen on re-signing him this summer.
Being 37 with an expiring contract, Cory Stillman may not stay much longer in his second career stint with the 'Canes, but, although they did not complete their goal, Stillman turned out to be a very smart addition at the trade deadline.
After scoring seven goals and 16 assists in 44 games for Florida, Stillman came over to the Hurricanes at the end of February and had five goals and 11 assists in 21 games. Not quite as good as his 2006 playoff explosion, but still a very nice contribution.
Another deadline acquisition from Florida is defenseman Bryan Allen, who has a couple years left on his contract and may stick around. Allen had five assists, a plus-four rating, and proved very handy in a lot of goal- and game-saving situations.
With the maximum salary rules for rookies in place in the NHL, the best rookies always bring the best bargains. But, this time, Jeff Skinner took it to a whole new level. The phenom had 31 goals and 32 assists and was paid just $1.4 million. That's just about $22,200 per point. For comparison, Staal, who's by no means an overpaid player at all, earned $108,500 for each of his 76 points.
The Hurricanes also got solid play for little pay from Brandon Sutter ($1.225 million), Jiri Tlusty ($500K) and Jay Harrison ($500K).
If you're going just by offensive production, the worst bargain on the 'Canes NHL roster was Tim Gleason, who, with a mere 16 points from the blueline, earned about $171,900 per point.
However, it was truly Joni Pitkanen who was the worst bargain for Rutherford's salary cap management. Pitkanen did have 35 points, although only five goals, giving him a mark of $114,300 per point, but his poor defensive play makes that number a good deal lower than it should be.
Who remembers a penalty-kill specialist forward who joins a team mid-season, leaves a team mid-season (just later in the season), and manages to put up three total points (all assists) while averaging eight minutes and 18 seconds of ice team per game during his 32 total games?
Yeah, us neither. And guess who it was? Oh, of course, you can't remember the name. Well, it was Ryan Carter, a former Duck, current Panther, and a completely forgettable 'Cane.
Honorable Mention—"Joins a team mid-season and leaves the team mid-season" also describes Ian White's stint with Carolina. He was traded for from Calgary to give the 'Canes some more defensive strength in early November and then sent away to San Jose when he job he was supposed to fill had been filled by someone else. Another similarity between White and Carter was the fact that they never scored a whole lot with the 'Canes.
We can't say we miss Tom Kostopoulos, Anton Babchuk, Sergei Samsonov, Brett Carson, or the aforementioned Carter and White very much, and that was the extent of all of the departed players this season.
However, this summer could bring some sad farewells as both Erik Cole and Jussi Jokinen hit the market. There's obviously a good chance for both of them that they'll be back in the red and white next fall, but there's also a good chance they'll be somewhere else, too.
We've already discussed the magical things Cole has brought, but watching Jokinen go wouldn't be our best day, either. Jokinen has blossomed in all things besides his supposed strength—the shootout—during his three-year stint in Raleigh, and the Finn has been a solid contributor, although his performance fell a bit this season after leading the team in points last year.
We've already brought up the stat that, by the numbers, Gleason may be the most overpaid player on the team, and we'll also admit this was not one of Gleason's best years.
However, even though he only put two goals in himself, his knack for tying up the opponent's stick, blocking a laser shot, or clearing the puck out of the crease is something to be amazed by, and it just seems that the former Olympian just doesn't get enough credit.
Another under-appreciated one is Tuomo Ruutu, who quietly finished third on the Hurricanes in points this year with 57 and fourth in scoring with 19 goals. And another quiet stat that's slightly impressive? Ruutu, in addition to his scoring touch, finished second in the entire league with 309 hits.
We've mentioned Cole a lot during our little unofficial awards ceremony, but how about his dramatic makeover from last season?
The New York native played just 40 games last year and had only 11 goals, five assists, and a minus-nine rating. Age 32 at the time, a lot of fans figured Cole was just not going to last the distance—yet, this year, they were certainly proved wrong.
Cole went from playing less than half a season to a complete full season and over doubled his goal count, over tripled his points count, and cut his plus/minus to just minus-one. And another figure no one saw coming? Cole finished in the top 15 in the NHL in hits.
After scoring 14 points with a plus-six rating in only 10 games up from the AHL last March, young defenseman Jamie McBain also earned a lot of expectations based on a very short hot streak.
McBain fell far short of those for the first several months of this past season, and he soon became a third-pairing player making a great deal of rookie mistakes. He was named to the 2011 NHL YoungStars Competition more as a favor towards the home crowd than as an accolade towards his play, but the recognition seemed to make McBain into a more confident and decisive player.
He became a very solid player down the stretch and finished third among defensemen with 30 points—seven tallies and 23 helpers.
Underappreciated 22-year-old prospect Chris Terry, the 'Canes fifth round pick (overall no. 132) in '07, has not yet made his NHL debut, but likely will next year after leading the AHL playoff-bound Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes minor league affiliate, in scoring with 34 goals and 30 assists in 80 GP.
Terry also had a 16.0 shooting percentage, better than any player on the 'Canes (in all fairness, he did play some lesser goaltenders), and looks to be a player that could jump into the elite prospect tier with another solid season next winter.
The youngest ever player in an NHL All Star Game, Jeff Skinner, didn't have much competition for the 'Canes rookie of the year award, but if he did, we have no doubt he still would've won. He might have some tougher, better players to beat out to get the league-wide version, the Calder Trophy, but we have no doubt that he'll win that one, too.
Skinner felt like a savior from God given to the Hurricanes for much of the season; a player that could single-handedly make this team one of the best teams in the league in a couple of seasons. But, for a while, it felt like he might just be single-handedly making the 'Canes one of the best teams in the league this season.
Although the dream of the playoffs didn't come true, still-18-year-old Jeff Skinner (he will be 19 by next October, though) had a spectacular year, scoring 31 goals, 63 points, a plus-three rating, and winning the rookie scoring crown by a decisive seven points over San Jose's Logan Couture (who had four more years of minor league experience to work with, too).
Want to make a prediction for his numbers next season? You can try. Just make sure that it has (at least) three digits in it.
What did you think, that Justin Peters would win it?
Nonetheless, all jokes aside, you better not have. Cam Ward saw his stock rise from "solid goaltender" to "elite goaltender" this year, and he earned it.
Ward led the league in saves by a long shot and had the second most out of everyone in a single season since the lockout. He had a very respectable .923 save percentage, 2.56 GAA, and 37-26-10 record that would've been better had he had a defense better than the 'Canes, which ranked last in the NHL in shots allowed.
He was "super goalie", "team leader" and "ultimate winner" all at the same time; a perfect puree of everything a goalie ever needed to be able to do, and more. We may call him Wardo, but he probably should be something more like Sir Saint Ward The Third.
While we're praising Corvo here, we'll let you know that we're going to let his minus-14 rating slip our mind for a few paragraphs. But, don't worry...he has a lot of other positive statistics to make up for it. And, after all, the field of contestants for this award were all part of one of the worst defenses in the NHL.
The winner of the Best Defenseman award is Joe Corvo, who had 11 goals and 29 assists this year and transformed himself into a solid blueline leader. He continued to be a captain for the powerplay, despite its struggles, and he also took on some penalty kill time, living up to his position's title a little more than he has in the past.
Corvo may not be the ultimate defenseman available, but he brings experienced, well-balanced play on both ends of the ice, and can also take on some leadership over the unit. We made sure he brought home some hardware today.
Jeff Skinner gave him a run for his money, but the additional chips brought to the table by the older Staal gives No. 12 another major award. With 33 goals and 43 assists, Staal totaled 76 points this season, the third-highest mark of his seven-year career. Staal also finished 11th in the league in that category and scored two goals in yet another All Star Game appearance.
The captain led all forwards by a large margin in time on ice per game, and put in his fair share of game winners as well; eight. Truly, that falls only one short of Cole's mark, and placed him seventh in the league for decisive tallies. Staal also picked up his play on special teams with eight powerplay goals, also seventh in the NHL and three shorthanded markers, 10th in the league.
All in all, another quality year for the 'Canes franchise cornerstone.
Is it Skinner? Cole? Nope. Staal? Nope.
Let me tell you, we just couldn't give Ward enough credit for everything he did for this team this year.
So we gave him the MVP, although it's not like he wouldn't have won it anyway.
Since we've already gone into his heroics; his sprawling saves stretched out across the crease, his glove saves on shots that no one else could even see, his pad stops on rebound after rebound from point-blank range, etc., we'll just conclude it like that. After all, no one can truthfully doubt that Ward didn't deserve it after all.
And, in case you were wondering, Brandon Sutter (pictured) says, "Congrats, buddy!"