“This is the year.” We’ve heard it a million times this season. “This is the year they make the playoffs.” The words weave their way into your head, filling you with joy and wonder at the idea of it. Then you wake up. You realize that it was just a dream, and that you’re living in a nightmare. You’re stuck with a team that struggles to just be mediocre a lot of the time. You’re stuck with a team that says they want to make changes, but cycles the same replacement level players through the lineup again and again. We’ve heard that load before. “Change is coming.” It’s easy to blame the coach, but can we really blame him? Has management done anything to actually make a change? Have we made an effort to actually bench underperforming players? No. The Canes benched a fourth line center and a third pairing defenseman tonight in order to “shake things up.” What did that do? It resulted in a crappy effort from the team. It’s sad when your seventh defenseman has outplayed a three time all star whenever he gets inserted into the lineup.
Lots of people like to rag on Peters for “not improving the team” and whatnot, but have you ever stopped to think that maybe it’s the players? Give Peters as much shit as you want, but I truly believe that he’s either a) lost the room, b) gotten as much as he can out of his players, c) run out of options with the roster, or d) all of the above. Peters can’t do much as it stands right now.
Take from this what you will, but I truly believe that the blame rests on the leadership and front office. After three awful efforts in a row, you have to wonder if the team really cares. Peters bag skated them, chewed them out, and benched a few players, but the team still played with little effort. What more can you do? It’s time for the co-captains to actually lead the team. Staal has played well this season, and he’s a factor night in and night out. Faulk not so much. After scoring 15 or more goals for three seasons in a row, Faulk will be lucky to hit seven this year. That’s unacceptable, especially when the team still relies on him to produce. His effort has sagged, and he hasn’t really shown us that he’s truly capable of being a leader. The co-captain thing was stupid to begin with, and we should only have one captain. The decision on who to keep as captain isn’t too hard if you think about it. Skinner’s play has sagged as of late, too. He can’t find the back of the net to save his life, which isn’t a good sign from the player who is a known scorer.
“But Matt, Peters is a terrible coach who can’t call up anyone!!!!1!11!” Shut up. Please and thank you. If you think Peters is to blame for not calling someone up, I don’t know what to tell you other than you’re wrong. Peters has been asking for the front office to do something. He keeps saying that we need help, that we need a guy, something. They haven’t called a single person up, and it’s likely out of fear that we’ll lose someone to waivers. The risk averse management doesn’t want to lose the likes of…Phil DiGiuseppe? Are you shitting me? Phil DiGiuseppe has one assist in 20 games with us this season, and he couldn’t even look competent in the offensive zone with Skinner and Lindholm on his line. DiGiuseppe won’t help this team win games, so what’s the point of keeping him up? Valentin Zykov has been effortlessly lighting up the AHL, “Oh but then who will we sit?” How about Lee Stempniak, who hasn’t done a whole lot as of late? Let Zykov play decent minutes, and at least see if he can contribute more than any of the underperforming players on this roster. Stempniak, Ryan, Nordstrom, you name it. Let Saarela come up and play a game, just to see if he can inject some life into this lineup. Foegele could easily come in and be an energy guy for the team, all while contributing. You have three players lighting up the AHL, but you don’t want to bench your underperforming NHL players? Get out of here.
I have to say it, and I know a lot of people will be upset. I’m tired of Derek Ryan on the Canes. I really am. He’s exceeded Eric Staal in one category, however. Derek Ryan now destroys my hopes and dreams on an odd man rush even faster than Staal did. Eric would at least wait until the circles to destroy my hopes and dreams, but Ryan is a whole other story. He manages to ruin an offensive chance just by touching the puck for an odd man rush. But who do you play him with? Rask hasn’t been great this season, and Staal works so well with Aho and Teravainen. We’re stuck in hockey hell, folks.
And now you have management sitting on their hands when it comes to trades. The “it takes two teams to trade” narrative is really dumb, because we have a lot of picks and prospects just sitting around. We could easily package a deal together for a player, but “oh, there’s the chance that Jake Bean turns into the next Karlsson. Oh, there’s a chance that any forward prospect of ours becomes the steal of the century.” At this point, I really don’t care. You have to shake up this team in order to be successful. If you don’t you’re stuck with another year of mediocrity and a shitty draft pick. “But Necas turned into a steal!” Great! Now we’ll get to watch him struggle on this team because Derek Ryan will get more ice time and better linemates than him. “Necas was a steal at 12 though!” yeah, well not all picks work out like that. Knyazev, Boychuk, Paradis, etc.
At some point you have to look at this team and realize that it’s not working. The coach is frustrated with the GM for not doing anything, and the team appears to have lost all respect for the coach. There’s a huge rift opening on this team, and unless something happens, we’ll be sucked into the void of mediocrity and the thirteenth overall pick.
As for me, I’m not spending money on this team until something happens. College rush tickets are cheap, and parking isn’t. Why would I pay $35 to go see the Hurricanes play flat for sixty minutes and only score one goal? I cannot sit here and say that it’s okay to spend money on the team. There are better ways for me to spend a Friday night. I don’t care if they make small upgrades to the arena. I don’t care if people get to meet players after the game. I don’t care if they change the way they enter. The only thing I care about is the team winning and playing consistently for sixty minutes. All of the other stuff is just extra. Put a winning team on the ice, and then I’ll spend money. That’s what fans have been clamoring for for years now. The time to give them a winning team is past due.
“This is the year. Change is coming.”