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

Monday, January 08, 2007

Canes report card .... part 5 of 5

This is the final installment of the Canes mid-season report cards. At the end of the regular season, I'll grade them again, plus Frantisek Kaberle will be back in the mix. I'll also have something to say about newly acquired defenseman Dennis Seiderberg. By then, I hope to be able to do this more concisely.

#48 Anton Babchuk (aka "Babs", aka "Yentl") -- B
Babchuk has been somewhat of a surprise. Astute observers last year could see potential in the youngster, but he had far more detractors than fans. This season, he's proving the astute to be just that. Make no mistake: I'm not saying he's the next Chris Pronger, but he's quite good and he's only going to get better. He's still only 22 years old. The thing everyone notices about him (aside from his massive frame) is his slapshot. He's got one of the heaviest shots around. When he can get his shot through traffic and to the goaltender, there's trouble. Even when it's off net, it hits the end wall so hard that it gives a nice rebound out front.
Here's the thing, though. The kid can actually play defense. Seen mostly as a depth guy last season, he's been leaned upon heavily this season and he's responded very well. I know the coaches worked very hard with him over the short off-season.
He's second on the team among defensemen in scoring with 10 points (2/8) and both of his goals have been game-winners.
When Frantisek Kaberle returns sometime late this month or early February, Babs might see his ice time diminish, but in the mean time, he's doing a good job holding his own.

#59 Chad LaRose (aka Sharpie, aka "Chadders", aka "Rosie") -- B
LaRose has been the only good thing about the fourth line this season. K-Ads has been awful and has been sent packing. CrAdams has been a little below average. Sharpie gives everything he's got on every shift, out-working teammates and opponents alike. He's a really speedy guy with above average skill, but his size will prevent him from being a force unless and until he can improve his skill set. He does what's expected of him and a little more. Even though the scoresheet never tells the tale, he's often one of the best players for the Canes. He won't make mistakes that hurt the team. He's an excellent forechecker and a great team guy. Eventually, he'll be more productive offensively, but he's doing what he's doing just fine for the time being. Nobody expects 20 goals out of a fourth-line guy.

#61 Cory Stillman (aka "Stiller", aka "The Silent Assassin") -- A
What can I say about Stillman that hasn't been said so many times by guys who get paid to say it? Nothing, but I'll say it anyway.
Stillman is one of the most underrated players in our sport. The last two full seasons, he was a point-a-night player, and won the Stanley Cup two seasons in a row. After missing half the season this year due to shoulder surgery, he picked up right where he left off. In 12 games played, he's got 10 points (1/9). When he's in the lineup, he makes everyone better. He doesn't even have to be on the ice. He leads on and off the ice. In the room, on the bench, he's making everyone better.
He's definitely one of the best passers in the game. He's smart and accurate with his passing (excepting, of course that SCF game 5 blunder last summer) and knows just how to create a play. In the offensive zone, he's patient and skillful, knowing when to pass and when to shoot. I still say that this was the best free agent pickup of the 05-06 NHL.
Folks were a little surprised when he was immediately given an "A" upon his arrival in Raleigh, but any doubts were silenced before camp was even over.

I'll never understand why a guy can produce at a point-a-night for three straight seasons without getting love from the MSM.

That's it. I'm not actually going to give Stormy a grade.

I might or might not get around to grading coach Peter Laviolette and GM Jim Rutherford. We'll see.

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