So with today’s big news of the trade for Kris Versteeg, surely that is the answer. Right? Actually, no. While I think Versteeg is a good addition and that his offensive abilities are a good addition, it is not him.
When you turn to the statisticians, the report is that the Canes goaltending has been average at best and more often below average over the recent run of seasons that are minus any playoff games. Cam Ward actually rebounded last year, but again the stats suggest that the Canes could be better in net.
Especially for teams who are on the outside looking in on the playoffs, this is not good enough. The goalie position can be the great equalizer in the NHL and many times can lift an entire team for stretches of games or a whole season. Because of that, I think the biggest potential difference-maker is Eddie Lack. As relatively young NHL goalie just entering his prime, I think a big season by Lack trumps all others. While an improvement for the Canes will require a number of players old and new to step their games up a notch, a great season by Lack instantly makes the Canes better more so than a 20-minute per game skater. At the end of the day, Cam Ward’s play will obviously be dictated by Ward himself, but I think Lack could actually help here too. Ward has always been at his best when he is loose and just enjoying hockey. Just maybe Lack’s fun-loving, loose nature also helps to spark Ward as a backup or 1B type goalie.