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Red and Black Hockey

Canes defense remains a mystery

The Hurricanes have trimmed their training camp roster to 33 players, and with the regular season just 10 days away, there are still quite a few lineup issues to be resolved.  The most intriguing issue is the blueline.  There are still nine defensemen in camp, and only three of them—Joe Corvo, Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkänen—are guaranteed roster spots.  And this doesn’t count the enigmatic and AWOL David (aka “Avi”, aka “Snuggles”) who has not shown up for camp and claims he is still concussed.

The News&Observer has opened the floor for the debate:  How will the defensive pairings be filled out?  Everybody agrees that Gleason, Pitkänen and Corvo are in the top four.  The debate is about who among Anton Babchuk, Tim Conboy, Frantisek Kaberle, Josef Melichar, Dennis Seidenberg and Nic Wallin will play every night, who will be a healthy scratch, who will be relegated to Albany, and finally who will be traded to Los Angeles.  To make matters more confusing, free agent Bryan Rodney is among the last men standing after another round of cuts on Sunday.

Of those players, only Tim Conboy has a two-way contract, so he is the only one who could be sent to Albany without going through waivers.  As far as I know, Rodney is under AHL contract with the River Rats.

Nic Wallin has a no-movement clause which he already exercised last summer when the Hurricanes attempted to trade him for Joni Pitkänen.  He’s looked terrible in preseason action, but will probably iron out the wrinkles and find himself on the third pairing.

Anton Babchuk and Jim Rutherford have apparently buried the hatchet after their falling out in February 2007.  Babs was useful to the Canes in 2005-06 because of his offensive upside, but that isn’t necessary anymore now that they have Corvo and Pitkänen.  I always found him to be a bit of a defensive liability,  but he is an NHL-calibre rearguard, so I see him as a healthy scratch.

Conboy provided a lot of spark and spunk last season whenever he was called up from Albany.  He’s fairly responsible in his own end and is a consummate team player.  I like his chances, but his best chance will be as a third pairing defenseman. 

Seidenberg has worked really hard, but has proven to be a high risk for injuries.  Then again, the entire team less Eric Staal (knock on wood) has had injury problems.  For a full breakdown, see my world-famous “injury hogs”.  Still, I like him, and I think (if healthy) he’ll be competing for a second pairing job.

Josef Melichar is a great unknown, but was signed to a one-way contract for a million bucks.  He played in Sweden last year, but spent a bunch of years with the Penguins.  I don’t know what his fate will be, but I doubt that it’ll be as a regular with the Hurricanes.

Frantisek Kaberle.  What can I say about him that I haven’t already said a million times before?  Sure, he scored the Cup-winning goal in 2006.  Ever since he had shoulder surgery that summer, he hasn’t been effective at all.  He was never much of a checking defenseman, but he doesn’t even really play defense anymore.  Mostly he stands around, gets in the way, makes bad passes in his own zone, takes lazy penalties, allows wingers to blow right by him unabated to the goal, and a few other bad things.  I’ve been clamoring all summer, and even last summer, for him to be traded.  Right now, the Kings are in desperate need of warm bodies on the blue line and they still need to spend some dough.  I’d love it if the Canes could get a couple of young forward prospects in return, but Carolina would honestly just like to get rid of him and his $2.2M salary.  Frankie is a swell guy, but things just aren’t working out anymore.  He needs a change of scenery.  This is for him.

Bryan Rodney is the darkest of dark horses, and nobody expected him to still be standing at this point.  He was signed by Albany last spring as an emergency fill-in from the Florida Everblades, and he stuck there.  I’m pretty sure he’ll go back to Albany.

So after all that, here’s how I see the D parings

Pitkänen / Gleason
Corvo / Seidenberg
Conboy / Wallin

Melichar, Babchuk as “extras”.

Thoughts?

An arbitrator is going to settle the Tanabe ordeal sometime in October, and I fully expect that he will be placed on the LTIR.  If he ever gets cleared, I fully expect the Hurricanes to drop him immediately.

Filed in: Carolina Hurricanes, | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: anton+babchuk, bryan+rodney, carolina+hurricanes, david+tanabe, defensemen, dennis+seidenberg, frantisek+kaberle, joe+corvo, joni+pitkanen, josef+melichar, nick+wallin, tim+conboy, tim+gleason

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About Red and Black Hockey

David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science.  He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows.  Sometimes, all in the same day. 

David has contributed to CBC.ca for their Stanley Cup playoff coverage in 2006 and to the New York Times Slapshot blog for theirs in 2008. Red and Black Hockey was founded in July of 2005.