As the dust settles in Raleigh, NC during this NHL offseason, the question rises to the fore, “Are the Carolina Hurricanes Playoff Ready?” Executive Vice-President and General Manager, Ron Francis has been active, axing off loose ends, attending to staffing details and making moves to bring in players that he hopes will make them playoff ready.
Ronnie’s Been Busy
A review of Francis’ activities shows that he has been busy. He replaced his goalie coach, David Marcoux with former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie coach, Mike Bales. The Hurricanes agreed to terms with assistant coaches Rod Brind’Amour and Steve Smith, as well as Video Coach Chris Huffine. Francis also announced that the team added L.J. Scarpace as video coach.
At the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Francis used all of his available picks. In the first round, he selected Martin Necas from the Brno Kameta in the Czech league. He’s a center that has demonstrated good two-way skills but there is concern about his size. In the end, Necas is another Francis pick that has potential to play in the NHL, characteristically well thought out by the ‘Canes GM.
Francis had hoped to use some of his flock of draft picks to trade for a veteran, proven scoring forward. That was not to be, so the Hurricanes’ cupboard is stocked for the future. Ultimately, it’s not a bad thing in the long-term, but for a team that is itching to break the playoff drought, it was somewhat of a disappointment.
Francis also re-signed Derek Ryan, got rid of Eddie Lack, and made good use of his Windy City connection, adding Chicago Blackhawks to the roster. The team is stocked with former ‘Hawks who have won the Stanley Cup and bring a winning resume to the Hurricanes. For a locker room that is being built on a foundation of young talent, these proven winners should up the expectations for the whole team. Former ‘Cane Justin Williams, who returns with two more Cup wins on his resume, said it best: “It’s time to climb the ladder and get relevant.”
Ryan Kennedy of thehockeynews.com recently wrote that the addition of Marcus Kruger was a smooth move, and opined that the Hurricanes could be a dark horse to make the playoffs.
Can this team get back to the playoffs in 2017-18?” Kennedy asked. “I believe they can. I don’t believe they can contend for the franchise’s second Stanley Cup until they find a true No. 1 center, but hey…baby steps.
It’s a question that will arise more frequently as the opening night puck drop draws nearer. On paper, it looks good. As Kennedy points out,
The Hurricanes have a talented, mobile group led by Justin Faulk, with Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin all still on their way up, in terms of potential. Adding Trevor van Riemsdyk brings another nice option and another former Blackhawk. Heck, the ‘Canes are practically Chicago South at this point. Along with Kruger, TVK and Darling, the squad already had Teuvo Teravainen, Klas Dahlbeck and Joakim Nordstrom. That culture osmosis could be very good for the Hurricanes.
I agree with Kennedy. The ‘Canes should enter the season believing they can contend for a playoff spot. Barring unforeseen injuries and a run of horrible luck, the team looks like a playoff contender. I still believe that a veteran proven scorer would seal the deal, but there are not many of those available for Francis to woo.
Very impressed by the #Canes and who've they added. Feel like they'll make the playoffs this year.
— Mark Lemke (@Der_Lemke) July 4, 2017
Another season from Sebastian Aho that builds on last year’s success, and another Jeff Skinner “doing what Jeff Skinner does” will help. But, players like Victor Risk and Elias Lindholm need to play consistently to their potential. Goalie Darling will need to prove he is a starter. Most importantly, the team will have to start the season in much better fashion than they have in the past several years. Overcoming a bad October is next to impossible.
At the end of the day, I believe the team will legitimately contend for a playoff spot. Regardless, it should be one of the more exciting seasons in recent Hurricanes history.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.