For the Hurricanes, I have no idea whatsoever how this season with play out for them. No matter how much analysis I do, I just can’t predict it. Every year since 2009 I’ve thought they had potential to be a playoff team. I don’t have that right now. I don’t think they aren’t a playoff team, either. Let’s take a look at the facts.
This is the same core that started the 2013 shortened season 15-9-1, looking like a sure playoff team. They were amazing, having one of the most lethal lines in hockey, containing Jiri Tlusty, Eric Staal, and Alex Semin. Then Cam Ward gets injured and they lose 14 of 15. They always have put a lot of faith in Ward, not having the greatest defense, so when he went down, they played too passive, trying to protect the net. Their scoring dropped, and the defense still wasn’t strong enough, especially with Pitkanen out for most of the season.
Last offseason, they grabbed Sekera and Hainsey, and had growth in Faulk and Bellemore; the defense improved, but the offense was still passive, even with Ward in the net. Coming into the season I was expecting a very hard-working team again, especially with the addition of Anton Khudobin, Sekera, and Hainsey. Injuries could not be an excuse this time, especially after seeing what Pittsburgh and Detroit went through. Even when Ward and Khudobin were both out this year, Justin Peters played like an elite goaltender, so the goaltender injury excuse alone could not be used. Most of the players, excluding the 4 defensemen I mentioned, showed little effort. Actually, while many won’t believe me, Alex Semin showed the most consistent effort all year long. People look at his stats and say he had a horrible season, but they’re mistaken. He played with a wrist injury that needed surgery the entire season and still scored 22 goals in 65 games. If he was healthy and played 82 games, he would’ve been the leading scorer on the team. He is probably the most criticized player in the NHL, yet he’s one of the most talented and hard-working in the league. I would slap a letter on his chest if it was up to me. The rest of the forwards, even the captain, Eric Staal, didn’t show that same consistent effort. Eric had his worst season of his career, only scoring 61 points. That’s not what a team needs from their captain who once scored 100 points in 82 games. He also was slow getting back on defense all season, while the defensemen and players such as Semin would rush down. Skinner scored 33 goals, which was a bit of a bright spot, but did it only in spurts; he should be a 40 goal scorer. Like Eric Staal, he also played inconsistent defense.
There are three problems this upcoming season that need to be addressed. They need to be more effective on the powerplay; they probably lost 20 points in the standings because of their inefficiency. They also need to be a stronger team at home. Lastly, they need to be able to start off games stronger; their worst period was the first.
This offseason, they had a change in the front office and the coaching staff. Ron Francis, replacing Jim Rutherford as GM, made improvements in the team’s depth by acquiring Jay McClement, Brad Malone, and Tim Gleason, as well as planning on giving young guys like Zach Boychuk a shot. Maybe even LaRose could be a good asset if they decide to give him an NHL contract. Other than the new coaching staff, though, there weren’t any big changes. This is where I have no clue what to expect. To me it will either be like the 2006 season or the 2010 one. If the core plays up to their potential, they’ll be great. If not, it will be another disappointing season. The young players will also need to play their best. It’s up to Bill Peters, Rod Brind’amour, and Steve Smith to get these guys to give 100% effort for 60 minutes, 82 times. Part of the problem last season was a bad relationship between coach Kirk Muller and the players, so a good relationship with Peters could potentially solve that problem. What happened with Patrick Roy in Colorado and Jon Cooper in Tampa gives me the belief that Peters can get the best out of this core. It’s still up to the players to listen, though, especially Eric Staal. He is the leader of this team, and he needs to show it. He wears the “C” for that reason, and he has to prove that he deserves it.
Like I said, it’s the core that got off to a 15-9-1 start in 2013, with a commercial airing about getting ready for another playoff run, but also the same one that fell to 13th in the East in the same year and this past season. Can the new coach turn it around? We’ll see.