A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Canes report card .... part 4 of 5

Here's part four of the Canes mid-season report cards. I'm almost done with the whole thing.

#27 Craig Adams (aka "CrAdams", aka "Craigassaurus Rex" aka "Craiggers", aka "Hands of Feet", aka "Hands of Stone") -- D+
CrAdams, like the unrelated Kevyn Adams, is not doing much to provide energy to the "energy line". He's looked bad at times, and has a cumulative -9 rating for the season, ranking him second to last on the team. Expectations were pretty low for the Brunei native, but even with increased ice time due to injuries, Craig has failed to meet the low expectations. He's appeared in every game this season and has accumulated just 9 points (6/3), which means he's behind defensemen Mike Commodore (16 points) and Anton Babchuk (10 points). He's also behind Cory Stillman, who has 10 points in just 12 games. He's slow-footed and lacks offensive ability, but he's very good on the backcheck and at battling for loose pucks. Not enough to get him a better grade, though. Craiggers will have two more years in Carolina.

#28 Andrew Hutchinson (aka "Hutch")-- B-
Due to a couple of long visits to the injured reserve last season, Hutch failed to meet the criteria for getting his name etched on the Cup -- 41 regular season games played OR 1 game in SCF), the Canes petitioned the League to have Hutch on there. The league approved. This season, the injuries have been to just about every one else, and hutch has seen his ice time and his role on the team increase. He went from being a seventh defenseman or healthy scratch to being an every night starter. He hasn't disappointed, but he hasn't exactly shone either. Neither a horrifying liability nor a tremendous asset. One thing the coaches asked him to work on last year was putting more pucks on net. He does a good job of running the power play, but they wanted him to shoot more. He's getting better, but he's not exactly what anyone would call an "offensive threat". That said, he's on pace to set a new personal best point production. Thanks to increased ice time.

#30 Cam Ward (aka "Wardo") -- C
The Conn Smythe winner got off to a really slow start this season, and has faltered at times. Still, he has a winning record (19-12-3), and his GAA (2.78) and his SV% (.901) are somewhere around 20th in the league. Not terrible. One mitigating factor in the grade here is that there has not been one single game this season where he has had a full, healthy blue line in front of him. Most nights, two or more defensemen are hurt, and right now, there are four out. When one of the few available defenseman is Avi Tanabe, there's trouble. Given that, I think he's done a fine job. We'll see what happens when Frantisek Kaberle et al return and Ward can focus on goaltending.
Defensive help or no defensive help, there's still the problem with Cam's rebound control, which has been spotty. I contend that this will get better when the Canes better defensemen are back on the ice, and they can deal with the rebounds.

#45 David Tanabe (aka Avi, aka "Snuggles") D-
Last night's game against the Islanders notwithstanding, Tanabe has been pretty bad. He's been irresponsible in his own end, sloppy in neutral ice, and non-existent in the offensive zone. He has tremendous speed, and should be a more active player in the Canes "everybody in" offensive system. He's made some horrible mistakes that have led directly to goals against, and some other plays that have indirectly led to goals against.
He has had a few moments of brilliance, which gives false hope that he's developing better skills. However, those hopes are quashed when he does something dumb on the next shift, or the next period, or the next game. He can be good in all aspects of the game, but he does it with such infrequency.

#47 John Grahame (aka Crackers, aka "Johnny Crackers", aka "Johnny G") -- D+
Carolina allowed Marin Gerber to head off to Ottawa, promoted Ward to the #1 spot, and went out and got John Grahame. Grahame had struggled a bit in Tampa, and was sort of in John Tortarelli's dog house. Peter Laviolette, however, has a good relationship with Crackers after having coached him a few times on Team USA. It was a gamble, but Canes fans were okay with having him as a back up.
Grahame is a very big dude with a completely different style from Ward, which probably gives the defensemen fits the same way a wide receiver struggles with a quarterback who throws the ball differently from the normal guy. Okay, it's nowhere near the same, but the way he sets up and the way he plays the shots and handles rebounds is so different from Ward's style that the players have to adjust when Grahame is in the pipes.
In limited appearances, Grahame has been inconsistent. That's to be expected when you only play once every ten games or so. Unlike some former Canes goaltenders who had been relegated to backup, he's not sitting there sulking and pouting, though. He wants to help the team, and is always one of the first guys out there to congratulate Ward after a win.
One thing that is disappointing is his focus. He gets rattled and stays rattled when he makes a mistake.
Honestly, I'd like him to get some more starts so he can have a chance to improve on the things like rebound control and concentration. It's hard to simulate that in practice. With a thinner schedule in the second half (fewer back-to-backs) there won't be so many obvious chances for Crackers to start.

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