While some are, it’s a pretty good idea to hold off on that. While Anton Khudobin was playing out of his mind in net and Jiri Tlusty nearly completed the hat trick, one huge question looms: Where was this all season?
Sure, Florida isn’t exactly the Pittsburgh Penguins or Anaheim Ducks, or really even the Washington Capitals. They’re actually one of the few teams that are worse than Carolina this season. However, the Hurricanes turned in a performance Thursday night that would have hung tough with nearly anyone in the NHL. So, again — where has this been?
Khudobin is a magnificent goaltender and deserves the starting job over the grease fire that Cam Ward has become. He proved that in grandiose fashion with his first shutout in a Hurricanes uniform. In addition to Tlusty’s pair of goals, Jeff Skinner got in on the act, and even Eric Staal was playing like an actual captain. It makes you want to question why there’s even any talk of them being dealt.
It’s a frustrating thing to see a team play bush league hockey for half the season and then punctuate that with inspired play like the Hurricanes showed against Florida. It would be acceptable if Carolina was an awful team that couldn’t hang with anyone. They’re not, though; they’re an excellent hockey team that is playing far below their potential.
The Florida game should stand out to VP of Hockey Operations and the likely candidate for the next GM, Ron Francis. Francis is a genius and knows his hockey. When he takes over for the avocado-with-eyes Jim Rutherford, who is stepping down at the end of the season, it’s games like Thursday night that will act as a guide for who needs to stay and who needs to go.
Francis needs to clean house next season — this is no secret. Using games like Thursday’s shutout of Florida can justify keeping guys like Skinner and Tlusty and why others like Pat Dwyer and Brett Bellemore need to be offseason trade bait.