Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How Good Was Carolina In 2006?

The Carolina Hurricanes won the 2006 Stanley Cup. They did this in a playoff where I contend there were no elite teams. Just how good a team were they?

If this season ended right now, they would hold down sixth seed in the east. That is solid but unspectacular. Of course, there are plenty of explanations for this such as "Stanley Cup hangover" and roster changes. Afterall, the NHL CBA os set-up so that it is impossible to keep successful teams together. Carolina lost Mark Recchi to Pittsburgh, Doug Weight to St Louis, Aaron Ward and Matt Cullen to the NY Rangers and Martin Gerber to Ottawa as free agents. Injuries have kept Cory Stillman and Frantisek Kaberle from playing so far this year. This current team is a weaker version than the Stanley Cup winners.

It amazed me that Carolina could win the Cup with as weak a defence core as they had. Aaron Ward, Fratisek Kaberle, Bret Hedican, Glen Wesley. They may all be NHL regulars but none are particularly oustanding players at this point in their career. In fact, I think its the weakest defence to win the cup in recent memory.

Their goaltending must have been strong. Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe trophy (though he was a poor choice). Martin Gerber was the starter throughout most of the regular season. Ward certainly got hot. He played the best hockey of his career so far (by a large margin). He put up a good saves percentage of .920 (though he was beaten in saves percentage in the playoffs by Cristobal Huet, Ilya Bryzgalov, Dwayne Roloson, Martin Brodeur and Miikka Kiprusoff). His GAA of 2.14 was only beaten by Bryzgalov. He certainly played well, but how good a goalie is Cam Ward? His regular season in 2005/06 was awful. His .882 saves percentage was among the worst in the NHL. This year, he doesn't look much better. He has improved to a .894 saves percentage, but this is still among the league's worst. Martin Gerber has moved onto Ottawa where he sports a .896 saves percentage which is hardly any better. In fact, he has played so badly in Ottawa that for the time being, he has lost the starting job to Ray Emery. Gerber's career appears to be one of ever dropping saves percentages. He peaked as a rookie in Anaheim with a .929 and has dropped steadily ever since. It appears as though teams have caught onto Gerber's style and have learned how to beat him and he is unable to adapt. I think neither goalie is too spectacular. I would argue that this is quite likely the weakest goaltending tandem to win the Stanley Cup in recent memory. Unless Cam Ward turns his career around, he could go down as the weakest player ever to win the Conn Smythe. Two of the worst goalies in the NHL so far this season were the Stanley Cup winners last season.

Carolina's strength was their offence. It was quite good. Rod Brind'Amour, Erik Staal, Cory Stillman, Ray Whitney, Mark Recchi, Doug Weight, Justin Williams and Matt Cullen form a very good core. Eric Cole, another talented player was out injured. This is the kind of offence that can win Stanley Cups, but its not good enough to do it alone. An offence of this quality would need defence and goaltending to win (at least prior to this CBA). The defence never existed. A young goaltender who has so far been a poor regular season keeper got hot and provided goaltending. That is what it takes to win a cup today. That is less than it took in years past.

I think Carolina was a good team in 2005/06. I think they were not a great team. When compared to other Stanley Cup winners in recent memory, I think they are the worst one. There was no better team in the 2006 playoffs. The CBA managed to get rid of the truly elite hockey teams that would have won the cup in the past. It left several teams that were about as good as Carolina and one had to win it. It turned out Carolina was the one.

offense and defense are spelled with an /s/ not a /c/
Offence and defence are originally British spellings that are acceptable in Canada.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?