As part of our gameday coverage, we had a few questions relating to the Hurricanes before puck-drop tonight.
With that, here is our pal Brian LeBlanc from Canes Country in today's instalment of Gameday Questionnaire:
1. What has been the greatest disappointment surrounding the Hurricanes this season?
Without question, it's the head-scratching failure of a team with this much talent contending for a top-five draft pick. That's not to say that there's one culprit behind it; it's a confluence of a lot of little things - injuries, poor play by one or two guys every night although who those players are changes from night to night, a loss of confidence - that, added up, get the Canes to where they are now. At one point Kirk Muller used the word "fragile" seven times in a three-minute press conference, and that's just it. A soft goal just collapses the whole house of cards, and the Canes can't recover. A bad turnover inevitably finds the back of the net. Over, and over, and over again.
It's not for a lack of trying that the Canes are in the position they're in; with any luck whatsoever they'd at least be up closer to the Jets in the standings, if not in the playoffs. Since Cam Ward and Justin Faulk were injured in the space of two weeks, the Canes' luck has simply evaporated, and even though Faulk's back now it still hasn't returned. You know the old cliche about how "you make your own luck?" The Canes are doing their best to turn that truism on its head, because their play has been strong enough that something should break their way. It hasn't yet, and now it's too late for it to do any good.
2. Would you consider Jim Rutherford's five-year extension of Alexander Semin a good move or a bad move?
I'm not at all comfortable with evaluating extensions like this one until after they've taken effect, but my initial reaction is that the price is right, a little below market value, and the term is about 2 years too long. It should be said, though, that they're connected; extending it to a five-year deal allowed the Canes to buy down the annual cost of the contract to $7 million per year, which is a totally fair number and, given what Semin has meant to this team this year, is right on target for what he should be making. There's been a lot of carping in the media about how Semin has been terrible since signing his extension, which I wrote about earlier this week, but the fact of the matter is that his role on this team hasn't been to score goals: it's been to set up Eric Staal to do so. Staal has 17 goals, and Semin 28 assists, so I'd say mission accomplished. (More to the point, extrapolating Semin's 28 assists in 40 games out to a full season would give him 57, which would be by far his highest total for a season in his career.)
Now, there's probably a bit of a threat that now that Semin has his cash, he'll simply ride high for the next five years and collect his paycheck. That's certainly a possibility, but the fact remains that Eric Staal loves having Semin on his wing, Semin's by far the best fit there in many, many years, and to his credit he has played through fairly significant injuries this year, including one he's playing through right now. The Canes are using Semin completely differently than he was used in Washington, and it's proving that Jim Rutherford took a wise gamble on him in the offseason. If he can keep this level of play up for the next five years, that deal will be one of the best bargains in the NHL.
3. Looking forward, what name on Carolina's draft board has fans most excited?
It's kind of funny; draft prospects haven't really been talked about much around here, and I'm not sure why. Usually the Canes' fanbase (and media) only starts dealing with the draft after the season's done, so there's not much to go on. That said, the Canes are in desperate need of a defenseman, so it would behoove them to win the lottery and have the chance to take Seth Jones, who would immediately become the team's best defensive prospect since Chris Pronger and would add a new dimension to what's long been the team's weak spot. Jim Rutherford has a tendency to obsess over puck-moving defensemen, and right now the Canes' roster has Tim Gleason and maybe Jay Harrison who don't fit that category. The Canes for ages have needed a do-it-all defenseman who plays with an edge but can contribute at both ends. Jones fits the bill.
Barring that, I wouldn't be surprised if the Canes trade down to grab a defenseman, since the other big names at the very top of the list (Drouin, MacKinnon, Barkov, et al.) are all forwards, which they don't really need - at least, not as much as they need a defenseman. I will say, though, that I wouldn't mind seeing them grab Drouin, if for no other reason that it would enable a bunch of gushing Allan Walsh tweets every time he takes a shift.
Ed. Note: We thank Brian for his for his time in this edition of Gameday Questionnaire. Look for our next edition of Gameday Questionnaire this Saturday with our pals from Lighthouse Hockey.