What a day yesterday was for the goaltending situation here in Carolina. We started with learning more about Scott Darling’s lower body injury which has been stressed as nothing serious, but will still cause Darling to miss a couple weeks which sounds to be more precautionary. In what is poised to be Darling’s comeback season this is a setback, but one I believe he will overcome swiftly.
I know what thought probably went through many of your minds— of course, nothing new but more bad luck and rockiness with our goaltending in Carolina, right? But in response to this news the front office has responded promptly and has sought out the help of 35 year old Curtis McElhinney who is coming off a pretty good season filling the backup role in Toronto. Now, he will add goaltending for the Hurricanes to his extensive résumé.
Why not Nedeljkovic?
Before we dive into the details of McElhinney I wanted to take a moment to address this question. With our current goalie situation, looking outside the organization is our best bet considering Ned will be the veteran goalie in Charlotte this year, and if you took him out of the picture to back up Mrazek while Darling is out you are leaving the young Callum Booth and Jeremy Helvig to defend Charlotte. I have all the confidence that they could step up to that role no doubt, but the smarter move is to add more depth. Let Ned focus on his job in Charlotte and bring in an experienced and— in the words of Don Waddell— “…proven NHL goaltender.” With Darling’s return we will probably waive McElhinney, and he will most likely be claimed when that happens, but for now he will be suitable to help with our current situation. Depth is okay.
Who is Curtis McElhinney?
Curtis McElhinney began his NHL career as a Calgary Flame when he was drafted in round 6 of the 2002 draft at 176 overall. Since then he has played for Anaheim, Ottawa, Arizona (Phoenix), Columbus, and Toronto. He has 186 NHL games under his belt with a record of 62-71-13, eight shutouts, and a save percentage of .909. He has had some subpar seasons, but overall he does his job pretty well.
Last season McElhinney played his first full season as a Leaf and had a career high of three shutouts in a season serving as a serviceable backup for the Leafs star goaltender Freddy Andersen. He completed the season with a .934 SV% and a record of 11-5-1 in 18 games. It is also important to note he wore the red and white for Canada at the IIHF World Championship for five game. During the tournament he had a .936 SV% with a 3-2 record. This was an improvement from the previous season where he played 7 games for Columbus with a .924 SV% and a record of 2-1-2 before being claimed on waivers by Toronto and playing 14 games with a .914 SV% and a record of 6-7 in 14 games. He made a lot of improvements as a Leaf which will hopefully transfer into his time as a Hurricane (I don’t doubt it).
From what I have seen of McElhinney’s play he can play a little chaotically sometimes, but even with his frantic play he can makes saves. Personally, I like him as a backup. He is a guy Leafs fans have come to somewhat trust after the season he had with them last year. It showed today after the panic that arose after him and Calvin Pickard were claimed (Pickard being claimed by Philly also to help with an injury situation), and even before when there was some debate over whether the Leafs would use him or Garret Sparks as their backup this season. Regardless, I am confident McElhinney will get the job done for Carolina no matter how they decide to split the net between him and Petr Mrazek while Darling is out.
With that being said, seeing how the situation with Darling’s injury was handled has made me even more confident in this organization and its moves. Teams will always face issues and adversary. How you handle those issues is what makes or breaks you. It looks like this is being handled very well which should only make our team stronger, and soon we will be able to watch Darling make his return for his hopefully epic comeback season. Until then, let’s welcome Curtis McElhinney and watch him help Mrazek protect our net for the start of this season.