Eight seasons and counting. That’s how long the Carolina Hurricanes have failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
General manager Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters staged a season-ending press conference Wednesday at PNC Arena to talk about what went wrong – again.
A lack of scoring depth, poor goaltending and an inability to win in overtime were among the main topics Francis and Peters discussed. The Hurricanes produced just 2.59 goals per game last season, their goalies combined for a save percentage of .901 and they dropped 15 matches in the extra stanza. Improvement in those three areas will be a high priority for Francis in what promises to be a hectic offseason, according to The News & Observer.
The Hurricanes finished 36-31-15 this season, missing the postseason by eight points. A year ago, the Hurricanes were 35-31-16.
“There’s a lot of things we got better in and things that maybe stayed status quo,” Francis said during the press conference. “It’s disappointing we didn’t get in (the playoffs), but I do think we did make progress.
“At the end of the day, it ended up not being good enough.”
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) April 12, 2017
Four teams in the loaded Metropolitan Division compiled over 100 points. The Hurricanes had 87. “To close that gap,” Peters said, the Hurricanes will explore the trade and free-agent markets. A proven scorer or two, a No. 1 goalie and rotational defensemen will be coveted, The News & Observer reported.
Francis has an abundance of assets he could utilize to round out the roster. The Hurricanes have 11 selections in the 2017 NHL Draft, with seven targeted for the opening three rounds. Peters spoke of the possibility of trading several high picks to acquire proven veterans.
Francis said the upcoming NHL expansion draft will create a lot of player movement. With each franchise scheduled to leave one goalie exposed to the Vegas Golden Eagles, Francis anticipates being busy this summer.
Hurricane’s Goalie Dilemma
Solving the Hurricanes’ goaltending woes will be one of Francis’ top chores. A veteran of 12 seasons with the Hurricanes, Ward was overworked because of the injury status of backup Eddie Lack. By late December, the backup suffered two concussions that sidelined him for extended periods of time. Ward ranked 44th in goals-against average (2.69) and 52nd in save percentage (.905). Lack had a 2.64 GAA and a .902 in save percentage.
“That’s certainly an area we have to look at closely and fix,” said Francis, who announced Wednesday goaltending coach Dave Marcoux will not return next season. “If we look at the team it’s not a secret.”
Looking ahead to 2017-18, the Hurricanes will be eager to see if its three young defensemen, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin, take the next step in their development. Slavin and Pesce both registered team-high ratings of plus-23 and Hanifin helped fill a void after veteran Ron Hainsey was traded, according to the News & Observer.
Eight years and counting. Francis’ primary job this offseason is to find the missing links to end that fruitless streak.
Jeff Hawkins is a career sportswriter who has collected eight industry awards, including two Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) honors. Hawkins has served as a beat writer for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks and UHL’s Adirondack IceHawks. A husband and father, Hawkins enjoys live music, hiking, New York-style pizza with Dr. Pepper, and writing with his golden Labrador retriever “mutt” cuddled around his feet.