Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Loss of Kaberle will hurt 'Canes

Yesterday's announcement that defenceman Frantisek Kaberle would miss anywhere from four to six months passed with little fanfare, especially considering the 32-year-old Czech was the highest-scoring blueliner on the Stanley Cup champions last season.

Struggling with a shoulder injury over the shortened off-season, Kaberle finally had to go with a surgery — and a significant one at that. The timeframe of his injury means he'll be back in action anywhere from mid-January to as late as the March trade deadline.

If I was Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, I'd approach the coming season as if Kaberle wouldn't be back at all — although finding a replacement for his power-play minutes won't be easy.

2005-06 was a breakout campaign for Kaberle, the less-famed older brother of Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Tomas, and his 44 points represented nearly twice the totals as the next highest-scoring Carolina defenceman (Bret Hedican, 27). Seventeen of Kaberle's points came with the man advantage, and it's on the power play where the Hurricanes will need a replacement.

Already down Cory Stillman to a similar shoulder surgery, Carolina also lost Matt Cullen and Aaron Ward to free agency this summer, and taking another defencement out of the mix leaves them with an even less competent crew on the backend. Mike Commodore and Hedican are now at the top of Carolina's depth chart on the blueline, with role players like Nic Wallin, Glen Wesley and David Tanabe filling the No. 3 to No. 5 roles. Oleg Tverdovsky and Andrew Hutchinson give coach Pete Laviolette some options in that power play QB role, but they aren't intriguing ones.

The title defence is already off to a rocky start.


At 5:18 p.m., September 12, 2006, Blogger d-lee said...

I hate Oleg Tverdovsky. He's been a major disappointment to the Caniac nation. I immediately thought that this would be devastating, but it might not be. After taking time to breathe and consider the options we have, it'll be bad, but not crushing. As far as the power play is concerned, Andrew Hutchinson will have to step up big time and give those minutes. I've already supposed that he'll play more frequently than not and that Tevvy will be a scratch pretty frequently.

Anton Babchuk is looking good in pre-camp, and I've liked everything I saw from him last season, so I think we'll see a lot of that young guy. He can also run the power play, and has one of the heaviest slapshots I've ever seen. In a way, he kind of reminds me of a younger, less skilled Kaberle.

Commy and Heddy on the first pairing. Wallin and Wesley on the second. Hutch/Tevvy and Tanabe/Babs on the third. All those 8 players are NHL tested, and with the exception of Tevvy, none of them make me cringe at the thought of seeing them on the ice.

Indeed, it will be tough to play without him, but I'm confident that our depth guys will find a way to fill the void.

I guess the positive thing about this happening in the off-season is that it won't disrupt chemistry. They'll start from day one with "plan b" rather than going into it on the fly.

At 10:39 p.m., September 12, 2006, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I'm always leery of a 32 year old who has a "breakout" season. Nineteen times out of twenty, "breakout" should be spelled F-L-U-K-Y. I'd always want to see really good reasons why someone that age suddenly produces a spike in production.

My guess is that Kaberle would have been a very useful piece for the 'Canes, at the same time everyone kept asking why he was having a disappointing season. I suspect that he's really a 25-point guy, and Carolina was going to have to replace the rest of that production anyway.


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