Work in Sports
SOUTHEAST DIVISION |
3 Carolina Hurricanes
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 26
By Tim Crothers
When Carolina acquired defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh from the Avalanche in a draft-day deal in June, Hurricane Sandis blew into Raleigh with such force that he changed the team's entire game plan. Ozolinsh is the primary inspiration behind Carolina's tactical transition from a dump-and-chase style to a more aggressive attack, with the four-time All-Star expected to carry the puck through center ice and create scoring chances. Ozolinsh is among the most offensive defensemen in the NHL and among the least defensive -- although he does get defensive about his defense. "In the past I admit I believed that going for a two-goal lead was worth risking a tying goal, but I hope I'm smarter now," says Ozolinsh, who becomes the second Latvian on the Hurricanes, along with goalie Arturs Irbe, a.k.a. Archie. "Archie and I are old friends, but if I leave him facing lots of two-on-ones, we won't be friends by the end of the season."
Can Ozolinsh maintain his career 46-point average with a club that struggled to score last season (18th in the league) and then chose not to re-sign unrestricted free agents Gary Roberts, Sean Hill and Paul Coffey, its third-, fifth- and sixth-best point producers? Carolina will add speed with talented youngsters such as right wing Shane Willis and defenseman David Tanabe, but the club needs a solid season from 11-year veteran center Rod Brind'Amour, who was acquired in a January trade with the Flyers for holdout center Keith Primeau and scored just four goals in 33 games with the Hurricanes. "After the trade I was upset and frustrated, but time heals that," Brind'Amour says. "This team reminds me of my early teams in Philly, which eventually grew into a Cup contender."
First, the Hurricanes, who were 37-35-10-0 in 1999-2000, must reach the playoffs, a feat that has eluded them in seven of the last eight years. Coach Paul Maurice (whose five seasons in Carolina rank him, amazingly enough, second to Detroit's Scotty Bowman in tenure with his current NHL team) has survived everything from the unsettling Hartford-to-North Carolina move three years ago to the distracting saga of Primeau last season. "We've never made excuses, but it's nice that we no longer have to pretend to ignore things we really couldn't ignore," Maurice says. "This is a pivotal year for this franchise to establish the sport in this area, and you can only do that with winning, entertaining hockey."
These Hurricanes may finally be gathering strength; this season, though, they are still an imperfect storm.
Issue date: October 16, 2000
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