Were the Hurricanes Wrong About Darling?
By Patrick Hoffman
For the last decade or so, there has always been one constant when it comes to the Carolina Hurricanes.
That constant is netminder Cam Ward. Ward, 33, a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Winner in 2006, has been with the Hurricanes his entire career, has over 300 victories (310), and has done everything and more that the franchise has asked of him.
While Ward is still with the team, the Hurricanes believed at the end of last season that it was time for Ward to pass the torch over to a new netminder. This new goaltender would be someone who would carry them into the future and provide them with the steady goaltending that is needed from the starter's position.
As such, the team went out and acquired goaltender Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks and then promptly signed him to a four-year deal worth $16.6 million. At the time, this seemed like a good idea and something that could end up paying huge dividends to a team that was looking to contend in the Eastern Conference.
Darling, 29, had played extremely well in his time with the Blackhawks as the backup. Many throughout the league thought that he was ready to take the next step and become a starter with a team.
It appears that there is a chance that the Hurricanes may have been wrong in thinking that Darling would be that guy. The team was supposed to contend for a playoff spot this season, but because of Darling's extremely inconsistent play, the team finds itself (As of February 6, 2018) outside the playoff picture looking in as they sit two points out of a wild card spot.
The only reason why the Hurricanes are still competitive is because of the play of Ward, not Darling. In 26 games this season (As of February 6, 2018), Ward is 15-7-2 with a 2.68 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and two shutouts.
In looking at the number of games that Ward has started, it is just four games less than the number of games that Darling has started. It was not supposed to be this way this year.
Darling simply has not been good enough this season to justify being the full-time starter. He is 9-14-6 with a 3.06 goals against average and a .892 save percentage.
These poor numbers are just the start of Darling's problems. He has allowed many soft goals this season, has had trouble controlling rebounds, has struggled at times with finding his position in net and sometimes, he just looks lost in his crease.
This is not what the Hurricanes expected when they traded for him last April and then signed him to a deal in the off-season. What they expected was a guy who would have the starting role, run with it, and get this team into the playoffs
Instead, what the Hurricanes have is a masked man that has struggled mightily this season. They also have someone that has forced the team to use Ward more, something that was not supposed to happen.
While there is still some time for Darling to right his and the team's ship, it appears that the Hurricanes may have made a mistake in thinking that Darling was the right man for the starter's position.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.