29 October, 2005

It's a FANFREAKINGTASTIC day for hockey!

Wow. Just…wow.


Tied for first in the East.



People are starting to talk about the ‘Canes now, and not just in connection with Winnipeg (who can just keep their grubby little paws OFF of my team, thank you very damn much) and Paul Allen (who can just sack up, dig into his Microsoft-enriched pockets, and fork over a damn franchise fee if he wants a team that badly).

The team’s hot, kids. I have a feeling that they might get cold water chucked on ‘em tonight in Pittsburgh, but it won’t take away the fact that this team is off to its hottest start since I was wearing diapers (and that is a long damn time ago).

Of all the moves that Jim Rutherford has ever made, bringing in Peter Laviolette may be one of his best. And I say that with a straight face.

When Lavi came into the fold, it came as a big surprise to a lot of us fans and longtime observers of the team—mostly because of who’s running the Hurricanes. Pete Karmanos has a reputation for keeping things “in the family”, so to speak, and encouraging promotion of “company men” from within—so much so that a lot of people are seeing Craig Adams’ return to the Hurricanes fold as a minor-league signing as yet another “favor for a family friend” (which it may well be, but since it’s been made clear that CAdams came back specifically to provide veteran presence in Lowell, it’s neither here nor there in my opinion). Paul Maurice was a promotion from within—so were Kevin McCarthy, Tom Smith (Lowell’s former coach), Tom Rowe (Lowell’s current coach and onetime part-owner of the Hurricanes), and Jeff Daniels.

So why bring in an outsider like Peter Laviolette?

The answer is obvious, even to a company man like Jim Rutherford: There are times when you need new blood, a fresh outlook on things.

Peter Laviolette is that new blood, and with him he has brought an oh so refreshing breath of fresh air. He’s just as much a player’s coach as Paul Maurice is—but he’s not content to “just get by” and muddle through. He genuinely wants to impress, even though he knows that his job is secure. His comments after the Hurricanes’ 5-4 OT loss in Toronto speak to that:

“…we're here to win hockey games.”

No “moral victories”, no “we’re happy to get a point”, none of that. The man wants to win, and he wants to show the fans how truly fun hockey is to watch and to play. I love talking about this team and this coach to people at my job. “Come on out,” I tell them. “You can get tickets for cheap upstairs, and I’ll be glad to sit with you and answer any questions you have or I can hook you up with some folks I know that’ll be glad to welcome you to our house.”

And people are coming to the games.  

Don’t let the cameras fool you, kids—many people sit on the same side of the arena as the cameras, and they sit upstairs (where the cameras generally don’t pan). Attendance is creeping up, in dribs and drabs—and they like what they’re seeing. They’re seeing barnburner firewagon hockey, they’re seeing guys that are enthusiastic about their sport again. My heart swells with love every time I watch a ‘Canes game now, because I see a band of brothers that are having a blast out there.

DAMN I love this team. I love this game.

Go ‘Canes.

A reminder: Today is Eric Staal’s 21st birthday, which means that it’s the last day to submit links for Carnival of the NHL #12—I’ve gotten some good ones so far, and I hope to get more before midnight tonight. Bring ‘em in, kids!

25 October, 2005

Hurricanes Impeach Senators, Film at 11

Last night’s game….wow. Beating the Senators, whose fans for the most part figured that the Brothers of the Sightless Eye would be a pushover—that was….wow.

This game and, oddly enough, the first Leafs game of the season are the best barometer of how much this team has changed since 15 December 2003 (the day that Chairman Mo was relieved of his duties and replaced by Peter Laviolette). Under the Great Helmsman, the ‘Canes would have been wtfpwnt early and often. The other team scoring first usually spelled doom for the ‘Canes—and if the other team got up by two then you may as well go home because the chances of survival were not good.

And if they’d come away with a point?  They’d have said they were happy with it.

Not anymore.

After the Toronto game, Hurricanes’ Warchief Rod Brind’amour said the following:

"All in all, it wasn't a very good game when you look at it from our perspective.  We're coming off a long layoff and they're a pretty good team and we're playing them in their barn. We got a point, but obviously that's not what we came here for."

If you want some quoted evidence of how much the team’s attitude has changed, look there. That would NEVER have been said under the old regime, never. If you want to see some tangible evidence of how much the team’s attitude has changed, look to last night. Down 2-0 at the end of the first period, the team went into the locker room, regrouped, and came out with cannons a-blazing.

And you see the result.

Dear Nashville,

You’re welcome.