The Carolina Hurricanes were only 10 points away from making the playoffs last season. They come into 2014 with a new regime and a hope to bring back playoff hockey to Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes held a day at Town Hall where they addressed the media and fans giving them some answers on the upcoming season.
The team wasn’t very active during free agency this offseason and fans will see familiar faces on the ice this October. Young players like Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, and Justin Faulk will need to inject the line up with winning energy. Veterans like the Staal brothers, and Andrej Sekera will need to play on experience and provide the team leadership.
The Metropolitan Division is going to be a dog fight this season with all teams making a strong case for being playoff contenders. The Hurricanes will need to get by perennial tough teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers. Young teams like the Columbus Blue Jacks, and New York Islanders have proved they are teams that the Hurricanes will need to out play all season to make the playoffs.
Let’s get into four ways the team can bring playoff hockey back to North Carolina.
A Dangerous Power Play
Last season the Hurricanes power play was terrible. There is no way around it, they were at the bottom of the league (28th in the league to be exact) with a 14.6% on the power play. The team scored only 36 power play goals the entire season which also put them in the bottom of the league in power play statistics. To steal points away in close games the team will need to put pucks in the net on the man advantage. Coach Bill Peters will have his hands full trying to put players in the right positions on the power play that will help up the goal totals and make opposing teams scared to take stupid penalties. Expect to see Jeff Skinner and Andrej Sekera on the power play as they were the teams leading scorers with the man advantage last season.
Jordan and Eric Staal need to be huge for the Hurricanes this season. Eric will make $8.25 million this season and Jordan will make $6 million. That’s a big chunk of the teams salary cap which hopefully means that both players will be a big reason the team succeeds. Both players didn’t have terrible seasons last year, but that much cash has fans hoping for some dynamic brotherly love. It would be exciting to watch them play on the same line, and play off their family chemistry. Hockey fans saw Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play on the same line during the playoffs when the Penguins were making a push for the cup. Let’s see the Staal brothers get on the same line and bring some magic to some important games where Hurricanes need that extra spark.
Great Goalie Competition
What’s better then having one proven goalie on your team going into training camp? Having two. Cam Ward’s resume includes a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy. With his struggles in the past couple seasons behind him, Ward can bounce back this year and give the team a veteran goalie who can keep the team in close games. Anton Khudobin proved he can be a starting goalie in the NHL last season, and posted a 2.30 GAA and a .926 SV%. Training camp will be important for both these goalies and the new coaching staff will have two goalies that can play at the NHL level. That’s a problem that most NHL coaches would like to have.
A Healthy Alexander Semin
There have been questions about how Alexander Semin’s wrist all summer long. Recently, its been reported that he was not fully recovered from offseason wrist surgery. GM Ron Francis put a stop to those questions when he told media members that Semin would be ready for training camp and has been doing extra rehab in the United States. The former 40-goal scorer when healthy can add a terrifying offensive threat to the Hurricanes. The Russian Sniper will add a huge boost to the Hurricanes power play.The NHL season is growing closer by the day and with training camp right around the corner, fans are starting to get that hockey itch back. What are some reasons do you think the Hurricanes will make the playoffs? Do you think they will be Stanley Cup contenders or pretenders?
Philip is a Sports Journalist covering the Pittsburgh Penguins. Duquesne University Journalism Grad 2013.