North Carolina's state motto is: Esse Quam Videri
Roughly translated from Cicero's Latin, this means: To be rather than to seem.
I thought this was rather fitting. For me last year they seemed like a contender. With Williams, Cole, Ward, Staal and Brind'amour, they had a nice group. Their approach was new NHL. They had a Cup to prove it.
Although they have lost a favourite of mine (apart form his Hab killing exploits) in Erik Cole – getting Pitkanen in return was canny, giving them a puck-moving defenceman – they still seem like a serious odds-on favourite to me to make the playoffs. And given the success of SE division teams in the playoffs after a season of rest in the past, it would seem like they have a chance to make noise in the East.
But can they be a contender? Can they be in the playoffs after missing out twice?
We'll get a better idea tonight.
They are certainly off to a decent start at 4-2-1. They sit in the playoffs for the moment.
Players to watch
Among the forwards, Eric Staal, as usual is a player to watch. He has started slower than some of his flying starts to the season, but still ha 4 goals in 7 games. Carey Price must beware because Staal is the kind of shooter who can really pick corners. He shoots high and scores high often. Carey's traditional weak spot will make him salivate.
The rest of the forwards look a little out of place on their new line assignments, as the Canes are still making up for the trade of Erik Cole and the long-term injury to star (and fellow Hab-hungry) Justin Willians. Brind'amour will do what he does. Whitney as well. The rest could surprise one way or the other. Personally I would be more worried about line 3 with Matt Cullen and Patrick Eaves than Rod and Sergei Samsonov...
The defencemen, while wholly improved over the squad from 2 years ago have also been decimated by the loss of Joni Pitkanen and Frantisek Kaberle. The group still has an offensive threat in Joe Corvo and able defenders among the remaining guys.
Cam Ward is the other player to keep a special eye on. He hasn't ever lost in Montreal. That goes back all the way to that series. Damn you Gerber... He has been off to a patchy start in what is now becoming a patchy career. Michael Leighton has played in 3 and won 2 for the Canes – so that tells you an awful lot. Will the Bell Centre ghosts put this situation right?
As you can see the Canes are not quite 100% for us tonight. In addition to offering the Habs a good opportunity to take advantage of the injury-ravaged roster, it also makes the evaluation of the team tricky.
Seems to be too early to make a call on them
In Habs news, I just read that Brisebois will be resting tonight, along with Laraque and Begin. So Carbonneau has decided that the uphill battle is unnecessary like the rest of us (for now). Maybe he didn't like the Cullen line against D4 and current D6 either...