As I said yesterday in Cam Ward’s report card, I honestly did not do it intentionally, but perhaps the hockey gods had a hand in dropping the last two 2016-17 Carolina Hurricanes report cards, featuring the Hurricanes goalies, right into the front end of a holiday weekend where many will miss them.
For anyone catching up, a menu of previous player (and also coaching and GM) report cards can be found at the bottom of the article.
Eddie Lack’s starting point for the 2016-17 season
Eddie Lack arrived via a series of NHL draft day moves during the summer of 2015. In a combination of deals, General Manager Ron Francis sent previous backup Anton Khudobin to Anaheim for James Wisniewski and almost simultaneously traded a third and a seventh round draft pick to Vancouver for Eddie Lack. Lack had stepped in for Ryan Miller during the second half of the 2014-15 season and led the Canucks to the playoffs. Before Lack had even stepped onto the ice at PNC Arena, Francis inked Lack to a two-year extension, more or less committing to three years.
Lack started slowly. In his first 9 games (7 starts and 2 relief appearances) stretching into early December, Lack was 1-5-1 with a save percentage of .863 and a goals against average in the neighborhood of 3.50. Lack rebounded in December and played better into the winter, but in total his .901 save percentage and relatively low hit ratio for putting up quality starts that gave his team a chance were not good enough for a backup role, let alone for rising up and seizing the starting job like many had hoped when he was acquired.
Eddie Lack’s 2016-17 season with the Carolina Hurricanes
Lack entered the 2016-17 looking to use the summer off for a fresh start and stronger second season with the Hurricanes, but unfortunately the season started similarly to the previous one. In his first four starts Lack posted a 1-2-1 mark with an .856 save percentage and a goals against that was approaching 4.00
Then before Lack could find any kind of rhythm, his 2016-17 season was further derailed by injury. He was diagnosed with a concussion in late November and then again in late December just when he was about to return to the ice. There was a short conditioning stint in the AHL in the middle, but there was a three-month gap between his November 6 and February 7 starts.
Only 4 starts after the long layoff, Coach Bill Peters verbally launched into Lack with his controversial MAFS comment on March 3. Lack seemed to respond. His best run in net as a Hurricanes player came during the remainder of March. In 7 starts, Lack was 5-1-1 while the team surged, and he posted a much-improved .935 save percentage and a goals against average in the neighborhood of 2.00.
The run ended when Lack was carted off the ice after an overtime goal by the Detroit Red Wings on March 27. Fortunately, he suffered only a neck strain and returned to action a few days later. Like the team in total his April was nothing to brag about.
When all was said and done, Eddie Lack had posted one good 7-game run, been derailed by a couple injuries and other mostly struggled in net. Just like his partner Ward, his good run was not enough to balance out the tough stretches and his .902 save percentage and 2.64 goals against average just were not good enough even for an NHL backup role.
Grading Eddie Lack
Graded as: Backup goalie with potential to be 1A/1B if needed.
Grade: C possibly with a dash of incomplete. Those who have followed along might remember that Cs have been the lowest grades so far, Lack’s C is not a middle ground kind of grade. First, it is important to note that Lack’s 2016-17 season was incredibly disjointed because of three injury setbacks, and one could go the route of giving him an incomplete because of that. In grading what he did do on the ice, it simply was not good enough, especially when it mattered. His late push in early March boosted his numbers and salvaged something for the season, but in total, I still arrive at a C.
Looking forward to 2017-18
The goalie situation for the Carolina Hurricanes for 2017-18 is still a bit TBD with three goalies currently in tow. My best bet is that Ward will stay and that Eddie Lack will either be traded or bought out, but there are definitely scenarios that see Ward depart. If Lack does return, he would be the backup and be looked at to intermittently step in give his team a chance to win in most of 20-25 starts and possibly take the reins for a stretch in the event of an injury or rough patch for Scott Darling.
If Lack does not return, he will be remembered as a player who made a much bigger mark than his tenure, ice time or role with the team would seemingly make possible. That is a strong testament to the absolute quality of Eddie Lack as a person.
What say you Canes fans?
This is another one that was addressed in a poll or two in the Coffee Shop, but if you had your choice between Cam Ward and Eddie Lack for the backup, who would you choose?
If you are in the camp that things he will be the odd man out for next season, do you Francis can package him in a trade or somehow incorporate him into something expansion draft-related? Or do you think he will need to be bought out?
To what do you attribute Lack’s struggles now through two seasons in a Hurricanes’ jersey? Did he just never settle in? Did coaching and use play a role? Was his level of play just overestimated from the beginning? Or…?
Previous report card articles