Today it was announced that Eddie Lack had sustained a concussion in practice and that the Carolina Hurricanes had recalled Michael Leighton on an emergency basis.
First, here is hoping that Eddie Lack recovers quickly and is back on the ice. Nothing in hoping for the Hurricanes to improve ever includes wishing physical harm upon any Canes players.
My original call to give Michael Leighton an NHL start
On October 31, I already wrote the article making the case to give Michael Leighton a start. At the time, Cam Ward was just coming out of his slow start. He had played well in the home opener on the previous Friday but then struggled again in the 4-3 home loss to the Flyers on Sunday. And the Hurricanes also had a back-to-back set coming up on Saturday and Sunday that could have been a chance to give Leighton a look.
An update on the Hurricanes goaltending situation
The situation is much less dire now with Ward clicking through a nicely-spaced run of home games and playing well, but Ward is not going to play out the string through 65 more games. In addition, the Hurricanes face a busy stretch of schedule with 3 back-to-back sets and 10 games total in the next 17 days. Meanwhile, Leighton really has not cooled off despite the Checkers struggling a bit of late. He has lost a few games, but his goals against average and save percentage sit at an impressive 1.66 and .937 respectively.
While Ward has seized the starting job and is playing really well, the Hurricanes still need a backup. Is it possible that Eddie Lack will find his way and be that guy? Sure. But is it also possible that a red hot veteran’s swan song could also be parlayed into some wins for the Hurricanes? I would not rule it out.
If I was coach…
I basically stand by my original assertion that the potential upside far outweighs the potential downside of giving Michael Leighton a single start and seeing where it leads. At a simpler level, the Canes need to give Ward a night off here and there anyway, and the upcoming schedule is exactly 1 of those situations. The Hurricanes have a busy 4-game week with games on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday with travel before each game. I think that Leighton will get 1 of the 2 weekend starts and would do exactly that if I was Bill Peters.
A possible restart for Eddie Lack
There is another more subtle silver lining here too. With the injury to Eddie Lack, it should now be possible to send him to Charlotte on a conditioning assignment when he is again ready to play. This situation is the best of all worlds. It would not need to be portrayed as a demotion that could damage his confidence. He, very simply, needs some game action anyway and even more so if he is on the shelf even for practicing. And as an conditioning stint, he would not need to go across waivers.
Look for Michael Leighton to get a start on either Saturday or Sunday (more likely Saturday) with the chance to earn 1-2 more (the other back-to-backs coming up soon) if he plays well. Also look for Eddie Lack’s next to starts to be for the Charlotte Checkers as he tries to relaunch for 2016-17 coming off his injury.