Going into the 2020-21 season, the Carolina Hurricanes are going to be a competitive team. With their continued success to be expected, they’re going to need to fight for their right to be called a contender.
The Hurricanes aren’t known to have any big rivalries and are considered one of the nicest teams in the league. But their kindness to other teams off the ice won’t work on the ice. They’ll need to do the opposite and incite some rivalries to compete as a true contender. We take a look at some teams that could prove to be legitimate rivals of the Canes in seasons to come.
The Montreal Canadiens placed an offer sheet on Sebastian Aho in July 2019. They tried to acquire the best player on the Hurricanes, believing they could actually acquire him. The surprise was that Aho signed the offer sheet. Of course, Tom Dundon and the Hurricanes matched the offer.
On Nov. 13, 2019, for World Kindness Day, the Hurricanes sent out a league-wide tweet, specifically addressed to the Canadiens:
The fact that the Canadiens had the audacity to try and poach the best player from the Canes stirred up some animosity that has subsided, but nonetheless there’s still some tension there that could lead to a rivalry.
The Sabres were favored to win the Cup the same year the Canes actually did it in 2005-06. To this day, there are those that still bring that up. When a team from North Carolina had beaten the Sabres, Sabres fans took offense. They ridiculed Hurricanes fans, mocking their lack of knowledge of the game and the team’s geographical location in the southern United States.
Needless to say, this generated some adverse feelings toward the Sabres from Hurricane fans. Ever since then, there’s a special pride held for the team that beat the other most recently. Buffalo is looking to make the playoffs, and if the Canes get in their way, sparks will fly!
The Hurricanes have usually been the more talented team when they’ve played the Panthers — the Hurricanes have won over half of the games they’ve ever played against the Panthers. It always seems like the Panthers have a little chip on their shoulder when they play the Canes. Florida slowly become a competitive team in the Eastern Conference, given all the talent they’ve amassed over the years.
While it isn’t a full-on rivalry yet, we’ll look for a more competitive South Florida team to give the Hurricanes a run for their money in the upcoming season. Perhaps even the first playoff series against one another, which would without a doubt boost the animosity.
New York Islanders
The Islanders played very well in the 2020 Playoffs, as they beat the Panthers in the play-in round and beat the Capitals convincingly four games to one in the First Round. After beating the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games, they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Islanders could be an important team to watch for the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes swept the 2019-20 regular-season series and shouldn’t expect to keep having that outcome with a hardworking 2021 Islanders team. Except for Johnny Boychuk, who unfortunately had to end his career early, and Thomas Greiss going to the Detroit Red Wings, the Islanders are mostly the same team that saw all that 2020 playoff success. The Canes will have their hands full when they play this competitive team again.
New York Rangers
It wasn’t pretty for the New York Rangers in the Qualifying Round of the 2020 Playoffs against the Hurricanes, as the Canes swept them in three games. This was surprising because the Rangers had an explosive 2019-20 regular season and swept all four games against the Hurricanes in the season series.
After being embarrassed exiting the 2020 play-in round, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Rangers came on strong in the teams’ next meeting. Also, the Canes acquired two important pieces from the Rangers in Jesper Fast and Brady Skjei. The new dynamic should make for some good competitive hockey.
Washington D.C. is the closest geographically to Raleigh, North Carolina, the home to the Hurricanes. So they see a lot of each other over the course of a season. The Capitals have won well over half of the games the two teams have ever played to date. A rivalry is starting to come about, fueled by the 2018-19 Playoffs that saw the Hurricanes upset the Capitals in seven games. This upset came the year after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup.
In that series, T.J. Oshie was checked into the boards awkwardly by Warren Foegele and suffered a broken collarbone, and Andrei Svechnikov suffered a concussion from fighting Alexander Ovechkin. If there was ever a rivalry to begin for the Hurricanes, the Capitals would be first in line.
In each of the last two playoff meetings, the Bruins have had Carolina’s number. They swept the Canes in the 2018-19 Eastern Conference Finals and won the 2020 First Round Playoff series convincingly four games to one. The Bruins have a tougher playing style that seems to get the better of the Canes. And with the Canes being a team that relies on its young talent, their playing style doesn’t feature aggressive play very regularly.
But to be a contender that’s capable of beating a team like the Bruins, they’re going to need to increase the aggression. Like the Capitals, the Bruins have the majority of the wins against the Canes in their head-to-head record. If the Hurricanes want to get to the next level as a contender, they’re going to need to get through teams like Boston by actually playing like “ a bunch of jerks.”
Almost the whole Carolina Hurricanes’ team could be candidates for the Lady Byng trophy. Over the last three years, they’ve been within the bottom three in fighting majors in the league and have been in the bottom six in two of the last three seasons in penalty minutes. So it’s not surprising that they don’t have any heated rivalries of note yet.
The upcoming season will be a test of the team’s resilience and ability to fight for their contender status against teams that won’t shy away from a scuffle or two in pursuit of their own interests. It’s time for the Hurricanes to be more mean than kind.