It’s hard to believe, but we’re exactly one month into the off-season, and a little less than five months from our 2010-11 opener in Helsinki, Finland. That being said, I thought I would check in with some thoughts and notes about the off-season so far.
- Excitement continues to build about the 2011 All-Star Game coming to Raleigh. Some of you may have caught the first in a series of All-Star-related Hurricanes commercials during Versus coverage this past weekend. If you haven’t seen it, look for Doug Warf’s blog later today, which will include a link to the ad. Several more of the spots, starring Eric Staal and Chad LaRose, will be produced, so look for those floating around the Internet in the coming weeks.
- It’s been widely reported that we will play an exhibition game in St. Petersburg, Russia, prior to the opener in Finland. As far as we know, details are still being finalized between the NHL and the KHL for the game, which would be one of two potential exhibitions between NHL and KHL teams.
- Ray Whitney was named player of the game after earning a pair of assists for Canada in the team’s IIHF World Championship opener against Italy on Saturday in Germany. Whitney was celebrating his 38th birthday, making his age equal to the combined ages of his two linemates, 19-year-olds John Tavares and Matt Duchene. Also participating in the tournament are Jussi Jokinen (Finland) and prospect Justin Krueger, who skated more than 19 minutes in Germany’s overtime victory against the United States on Friday. That game was played at VELTINS-Arena in Gelsenkirchen in front of a world record crowd of 77,803 fans. Another Hurricanes prospect, Oskar Osala, participated in pre-tournament activities for Finland, but isn’t on the roster for group play.
- Two players from the Junior Hurricanes program were selected in 2010 Ontario Hockey League Priority Draft on May 1. Forward Bryan Moore was picked by Sarnia with the first selection of the sixth round, and forward Mitchell Eisenberg was chosen by Erie in the ninth round. You may remember that Matt Gellatly became the first Junior Hurricane selected in the OHL Priority Draft, when Saginaw chose him in 2008. For additional information about Moore, who grew up in Charlotte, check out this feature on the Charlotte Checkers’ site.
- There continues to be a handful of Hurricanes connections in contention for the Stanley Cup this year, including Peter Laviolette, Kevin McCarthy and the recently activated Michael Leighton in Philadelphia, Niclas Wallin (who returned from injury in Game 5) and Dwight Helminen for San Jose, Vancouver’s Andrew Alberts, Andrew Ladd for Chicago, Mark Recchi and Dennis Seidenberg (injured, but starting to skate again) in Boston and Pittsburgh’s Craig Adams.
Out of the group, Recchi has been especially fun to watch. Now 42 (!) years old, he is tied for sixth among NHL skaters in playoff goals with six, seemingly all of which have been pivotal, game-changing scores. Recchi is one of the classiest people I have ever come across (I felt that way during his time here in 2006, but that fact was completely verified by his actions after what had to be a heartbreaking loss: the Canes’ victory against his Boston Bruins in 2009). Quietly a sure-fire Hall of Famer, Recchi is an easy guy to pull for this spring.
- In addition to the on-ice connections, several people with ties to the team have done quality television work during the playoffs. Our own John Forslund has of course called a slew of games for Versus. He is today returning to Vancouver, where he will call Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinal series between the Canucks and the Blackhawks. Also, former Hurricanes Aaron Ward and Kevin Weekes have done fine work, with Weekes putting in time for CBC and the NHL Network, and Ward working as a studio analyst for both TSN and Versus. Both former players have looked confident and comfortable on camera, and clearly have futures in broadcasting.
- The Sharks’ 2010 playoff run is feeling awfully familiar. Strongly favored in their opening series, they fell behind early before dominating the Colorado Avalanche to advance. In the second round, they established a commanding 3-0 series lead before being blown out on the road in Game 4. The Sharks then responded by putting the Red Wings away at home on Mother’s Day weekend in Game 5.
In 2006, the Hurricanes fell behind 2-0 in their opening series to Montreal, before putting the Habs away with four consecutive victories. In the second round, they faced the red-hot New Jersey Devils, and quickly took a 3-0 series lead. The Canes were blown out on the road in Game 4, only to return home on Mother’s Day and finish off New Jersey.
Guessing those in San Jose would be just fine with continuing to follow the path of the ’06 Hurricanes, with a couple of Game 7 victories in the next two series. Maybe they can even get some overtime magic out of the Secret Weapon before it is all said and done.
- Kyle Hanlin and I each started our own Twitter accounts, since Twitter presents an easier way to get the word out quickly about Hurricanes media appearances and notes. Even if you don’t have Twitter yourself, you can keep up with the alerts by visiting http://twitter.com/MikeSundheim or http://twitter.com/KyleHanlin. Some of our tweets will still go out through the Hurricanes official twitter account (http://twitter.com/nhl_canes), but our own handles will allow us to put out even more information for fans who don’t want to miss a Canes-related interview, feature or tidbit.