The Carolina Hurricanes have some promising opportunities for increasing their output on offensive. They desperately need to improve on the offensive side of the ice.
Many have opined that the defense is where the Hurricanes are most in need, but I tend to disagree. Their offense was lacking throughout the season, and had they scored more goals, may have had a legitimate chance a making the playoffs.
Throughout much of the season Carolina was first or second on the penalty kill. This doesn’t happen with a shoddy defense. They ended up fourth overall in the penalty kill.
Of course having a good penalty kill unit does not necessarily mean the overall defense is good. The Hurricanes were 13th worst overall in goals against, allowing 219 goals. But, look at the Anaheim Ducks, who allowed 221 goals, or the New York Islanders who allowed 224. They both made the playoffs, and Anaheim still looks very strong in their series against the Calgary Flames.
The difference is in goals scored and the differential between those and goals against. Carolina was a -0.44 on the season, having scored only 183 goals. The Islanders were a +o.26 with 245 goals scored, and Anaheim a 0.09 with 228 goals scored.
The teams that made the playoffs had positive differentials in goals scored and goals against. Of course, this makes sense as a team has to score more in a game then their opponent to win. But, in the course of the season, the Hurricanes just did not score enough goals. That is what they need to correct going forward.
The team has the potential for offensive firepower already in-house. Team captain, Eric Staal can be an offensive threat. He has a 45-goal season under his belt. That was 10 years ago, but he has had 30+ goals scored seasons four times since then.
His output over the last four years, however, has been sub-par. It’s been well-documented that he has been injured during much of that time. But, a 35-40 goal output from Staal next season would work wonders for the Hurricanes.
Alexander Semin makes a lot of money. He has proven the ability to score goals in the NHL. But, last season was by all accounts a disaster. His production for the Hurricanes amounted to six goals and 13 assists, a whopping 19 points.
No one knows what was going on with Semin last year. As I wrote in Inside Hurricanes Locker Room, Part Two, even Semin admits he “did not know what was wrong.” That’s really not a good answer, but at least it’s an honest one.
Semin has scored 40 goals in a season, and has had a couple of 30+ goal seasons. As with Eric Staal, a return to former form from Semin would go a long way in helping this team.
The Hurricanes scored 36 goals less than they allowed last season. It is not out of the realm of rational thought to believe that two of the team’s highest-paid players could close that gap.
Jeff Skinner came into the NHL with an enviable skating ability and was a natural goal-scorer. He has a 33 and a 31 goals season under his belt in two of his short five-years with the Hurricanes.
He also has had three concussions. His latest, early last season, may have taken him out of his game. He ended this past season with just 18 goals.
Questions swirled throughout as to whether or not he is going to be able to recover mentally from the concussions. After all, even if subconsciously, Skinner may very well be hesitant to crash the net and take chances for fear of another concussion. Only time will tell if he can make it back to his previous place of being a reliable scorer for the Hurricanes.
One again, if the three players on the team that have proven they can score will live up to their potential next season, the goal differential should be much closer, and this team can honestly think about being a playoff-caliber team.
Justin Faulk is emerging as a top-level defenseman in the NHL. His 15 goals and 34 assists were an excellent showing, and only second to Eric Staal on the team. Andrej Sekera is gone. So yes, the Hurricanes do need a good d-man to replace him. But, should they go for a defender with their fifth pick in the draft, or try to grab a forward with near-term potential?
I say grab the forward. Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer wrote recently
about the potential for this draft to yield some pretty good forwards. Mitch Marner, wrote Alexander,
“A center with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, he was the second-leading scorer in the OHL this season.”
Alexander also wrote,
“Lawson Crouse could be their guy. A 6-4, 215-pound power forward for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, he has been compared to former Philadelphia Flyers forward Eric Lindros.”
He is bigger than Marner, but both could add a much-needed offensive punch to the Hurricanes.
Seems to me anybody thinking Mitch Marner is too small may have reason to rethink that based on these SC playoffs.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) May 7, 2015
Elias Lindholm is one of the young guns on this Hurricanes team. Third in points for the ‘Canes this past season, he has developed quickly since being drafted 5th overall by the Hurricanes in 2013. Alexander makes mention of another “Lindholm-like” forward that may get the team’s attention, Mikko Rantanen of Finland. The Columbus Blue Jackets mentioned him, too.
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) April 22, 2015
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.