The Big Four
There's no question that the offense is the strength of the Hurricanes. The jury is still out on Ward, but they favor acquittal. The defense is a concern. Andrew Hutchinson was traded away. David Tanabe is still an unsigned free agent and Anton Babchuk went back to Russia. For the second-straight season, Frantisek Kaberle had surgery on the eve of training camp and is out indefinitely.
Bret Hedican led the Hurricanes in average ice time per game last season, but thought about retirement in the off-season after missing 32 games with hip and lower-leg problems. He's likely to be the workhorse again this year. Mike Commodore is also expected to log a lot of ice time. Tim Gleason was next, followed by Niklas Wallin. Glen Wesley remains on the blue line, along with Denis Seidenberg. Commodore is the only right-hand shot on the defense.
Get the point
Kaberle, Hedican and Seidenberg saw the most power-play action last year on a team that usually uses at least four forwards. Kaberle is probably the best power-play quarterback, a small and slick puck-handler who is adept at avoiding big hits. He's one of the best-skating defensemen in the NHL. Hedican is a good skater with limited offensive production. Seidenberg has a powerful, heavy shot that has yet to translate into point production.
Commodore, Wesley, Gleason, Seidenberg, Hedican, Wallin and Gleason all saw significant time on the penalty kill. Laviolette's tendency to use four forwards on the power play gives him fresh defensemen to rotate on the penalty kill.
In the Wings
Casey Borer -- Borer, 22, is probably the most advanced of a quartet of young prospects. He finished four seasons at St. Cloud State and joined Albany for a game last year. He's likely to return there for seasoning.
Kyle Lawson -- Just 20, Lawson is going into his sophomore season at Notre Dame, after playing for the United States National Team Development Program.
Brett Carson -- Carson, 21, was a very bright light for Albany last year in his first pro season. Carson is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and is rarely penalized. He had two goals and 18 assists last season while going plus-4.
Jamie McBain -- McBain, 19, is returning to the University of Wisconsin for a second season after playing two years for the USNTDP.
Tim Gleason -- A famous coach once famously yelled at a famous player, "Do you know who I traded to get you?" In Tim Gleason's case it was Jack Johnson, a highly touted young defender. This is Gleason's moment, the opportunity he's been waiting for since the Ottawa Senators took him with the 23rd overall pick in 2001. They traded him to the Los Angeles Kings in 2003 for Bryan Smolinski and the Kings traded him to Carolina last year. Gleason is only 24, is a solid 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds. His rugged style of play leaves him vulnerable to injury and the Hurricanes like shot blockers, so that could be a problem. Gleason has the opportunity here to jump into the top pairing and eat up lots of minutes. Frankly, the Hurricanes need him to do just that.