Last week, Ward returned from injury and was assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte for a brief conditioning stint. So close to the 2014 Winter Olympics break, it would stand to reason that he’d spend a little time in Charlotte to make sure things are in tip top shape. Why would a team call a recently injured goalie back up with three games before a two-week layoff?
This seems to be the “logic” employed by Carolina GM and perpetual catastrophe, Jim Rutherford.
Sunday afternoon, as the rest of the sports-watching community was gearing up for their Super Bowl parties, the Hurricanes announced they were recalling Ward from Charlotte after two games. How did he do?
Friday evening, Ward stopped 35-of-36 shots against Lake Erie (AHL). So he only let one goal in? Great. Charlotte had been on a four-game winning streak and Ward went ahead and snapped that for them as they were shut out. The Clutch is a place Ward isn’t so familiar with these days.
Sure, Charlotte won the following game as Ward stopped 24-of-27. Two of the three he allowed in the all-important second period which Carolina has struggled with.
Put all this together and Ward allowed four goals in two games. This gave him a 2.50 GAA in two games — in the AHL, a league he should have torn through like a pair of boxers from the dollar store. It’s ludicrous to compare his NHL stats to his conditioning stint, because those kids were lucky to share the ice with a goaltender of Ward’s status. Nothing was stopping him from owning that stint.
Yet after two games because he says he’s “ready to rock and roll,” Rutherford just calls him on up.
It is not a slight on Ward by any means, however — what’s the rush? Carolina is doing great without him. Anton Khudobin was named the First Star for January and has a 2.15 GAA. Khudobin is a monster right now. Backup Justin Peters is reliable enough to hang out for another three games. Why does Ward need to come back up now?
Honestly, there’s no harm in letting him hang out in the AHL another couple of weeks. That way the team can be good and sure they can rely on him again since right now they cannot. This way they call him up, he sits on a bench behind Khudobin for three games and then does nothing in two weeks during the Olympic break.
Good call, Rutherford.
The only promising thing right now is that Peters remains on the roster, and head coach Kirk Muller has adamantly said he won’t announce a starter for Tuesday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets until closer to game time.
The hard to swallow truth is that the only reason Ward is being fast-tracked back to the club is because of the name on his back and that name’s ability to sell jerseys. If his name was something else he wouldn’t be in Charlotte — he’d have been traded. Rutherford is allowing his affinity for his high-priced talent to cloud his already sketchy judgement.