The Carolina Hurricanes are not playoff worthy. The gods of hockey have seen fit to forgive their many disappointing displays this season and allowed them to remain within striking distance of a wild card spot. But, the Hurricanes have shown no reason for that grace to continue, and barring a miracle, will not make the playoffs…again. It’s a tale that has been recited repeatedly in the past several years that has not had a happy ending.
Same Story, Different Year
Yes, I’m stating the obvious. Anyone with a grasp of reality can write this story. It’s painful and will likely be written multiple times. With all they have had within their grasp, the Hurricanes are still empty-handed. The fans are disappointed and the coach may be out of a job. The general manager, Ron Francis has stayed quiet, and essentially left the team to its own devices, to sink or swim without interference or help from management. No one is surprised, although many hoped and looked for Francis to do something since the team was and is still close to a postseason berth.
Unless Francis does something in the next few hours, the trade deadline will pass again without the Hurricanes’ participation. Rick Nash, thought by some to be a good fit for the Hurricanes, has been traded by the New York Rangers to the Boston Bruins. The difference is that the Bruins are worthy of a big trade, while the ‘Canes have given no indication that they are serious about contending.
It’s a story that has played out for this the third year in a row. The Hurricanes get close to a wild card position, get everyone checking the standings every day, hoping they will make it, and eventually miss by “ever so little.” I’m guilty, as I’ve been checking the standings since December, when it became somewhat obvious that even though the team was at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, they could still be in playoff contention.
Excitement has built when the ‘Canes would slip into a wild card position and deflate when they would quickly go out and lose that spot. It’s the “Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football” act over and over. It’s an act that is getting tired.
With a game Tuesday night against the Bruins, likely a little more charged up with Nash on the roster, the Hurricanes have to decide if they want to continue to play with obvious apathy, or buckle down and play like they are worthy of playoff consideration. Jeff Skinner has to decide if he wants to win and exert at least a semblance of defensive ability when he is on the ice. Getting his groove on and grabbing some pucks around the crease and maybe even scoring would also be nice.
Skinner can be lethal on offense. Lately, he’s been dismal and very disappointing. Whatever has head coach Bill Peters starting him on third and fourth lines needs to be dealt with or put aside for the possible good of Skinner playing hard again. Then again, maybe Skinner and Peters are at such odds that nothing will help and Skinner will simply ride the season out and see what happens in the off-season. Something is amiss between these two, and it’s hurting the team.
Ever since the crucial overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this month, the Hurricanes have been treading water and the Flyers have left the wild card fight and are trying to win the division. That game glaringly shows that there are consequences to losing and benefits to winning, even if a game ends in overtime.
Amazingly, the Hurricanes are still only three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot, even after their recent round of going 0-4-1, and outscored 20-6, there is still hope. If Sebastian Aho, Justin Faulk, Teuvo Teravainen and the rest of the “young guns” want to start scoring and stop shooting blanks, now would be a great time.
The problem is that the team looks like it just doesn’t care. If they give their all and don’t make the playoffs, that’s one thing. But, to drag around the ice waiting for the season to end when there is still a chance to make the playoffs, is inexcusable. This team needs a gut-check, and now.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.