When the 2013-14 season begins, the Carolina Hurricanes should have their starting goaltender Cam Ward back to 100 percent. The veteran netminder missed much of the second half of the shortened 2013 season with a knee injury. While the initial hope was that he would play before the season ended, he was unable to recover and make it back in time.
Even if Ward had been in the lineup for that last month and a half of the regular season, would it have made a difference in the playoff fortunes of the Hurricanes? In fact, it’s very possible that the result would have been exactly the same, as the Hurricanes may boast one of the more overrated netminders in the game.
Ward burst onto the scene as a rookie back in the 2005-06 season in the playoffs, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Canes went on to win the Stanley Cup. He went on to win 30 games in each of the next three years, with his best statistical season coming in 2008-09, when he posted a 2.44 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.
That 2008-09 season helped to earn him a lucrative new contract from the Canes. However, since that season, even in the seasons that followed the Cup-winning year, we just haven’t seen the same level of play from Ward. Some of that relates to health, but even when he is at 100 percent, we haven’t seen that same Conn Smythe-winning form.
Among goaltenders, Ward carries the fourth highest cap hit in the entire league. Meaning that he has a higher cap hit than the likes of Jonathan Quick and Jimmy Howard. So the financial aspect alone makes it pretty clear that the Canes employ one of the more overrated netminders in the league.
The numbers simply aren’t there for Ward. He has a career save percentage of just .910. His career goals against average is 2.74. None of those numbers exactly indicate that Ward is a franchise goaltender. If the Hurricanes are going to be taken seriously as a contender in the Western Conference, part of what will be needed to turn it around is a big jump in the level of play from their goaltender.
That’s not to say that Ward’s job is in any jeopardy in Carolina. But if he’s unable to help the Hurricanes get into the playoffs, with one of the more potent offenses in the league in front of him, as well as a blue line that will likely improve this summer, he’s going to be out of excuses.