Though they have three more games remaining in October, the play of the Carolina Hurricanes this month has looked oddly familiar. A stagnant offense, inconsistent goaltending, and a defense that’s good at preventing everything except high-quality chances, which is the opposite of what one might like to see. For all intents in purposes, the first eight games of this season could have been tacked onto the end of the 2014-15 season and no one would be the wiser.
The negatives that have been displayed this month are too many to count. Once again, the Hurricanes’ top talent forwards are noticeably ineffective. Eric Staal has 4 points thus far. His brother, Jordan, has yet to hit the scoresheet. Elias Lindholm has only a single point. Jeff Skinner has 2 points, though he, at least, has been noticeable even when he’s not scoring. There’s too much talent on the team to have such a non-existent offense, especially when the Hurricanes are putting up 30-40 shots a night.
The defense is a prime example of moving deck chairs around the Titanic. The names may have changed a little from the 2014-2015 season, but unlike the forward corps, there remains a severe lack of talent on the back-end. Noah Hanifin has made some rookie mistakes, but has clearly shown why he deserved to be drafted as high as he was. After those two, however, it gets ugly. Ron Hainsey and John-Michael Liles would be bottom-pairing defensemen, at best, on any decent team, yet the Canes have them playing in their Top 4. Ryan Murphy has shown some great offensive instincts, but his defensive abilities still need a lot of improvement.
The kind of goaltending Carolina gets this year depends on a lot of factors. Cam Ward has outplayed newcomer Eddie Lack by a wide margin. It’s unfortunate to say, but the highlights (or rather lowlights) of Lack’s goaltending performance against San Jose give a pretty good indication of how he’s performed this year. Shots that should be routine saves wind up being bobbled and end up in the net. The Hurricanes management has to be a bit worried, considering they signed Lack to an extension before seeing him play a single game with the team. Ward himself has had his ups and downs, but at this stage of his career, even his high points aren’t that high.
What may be most concerning for the Hurricanes is that there’s no one issue that’s consistently a problem. There’s nothing that head coach Bill Peters can point at and say “We need to fix this and we’ll be golden.” In some games, the offense will show up and the goaltending will perform well, but the defense will give up too many prime chances. In others, the defense and goaltending will prevent what they can, but they won’t get the offensive support to earn a win. At least one aspect of the team seems noticeably absent every game, and there’s no telling which aspect will be missing on any particular night.
The #Canes have scored 3 power-play goals this season. Related: Justin Faulk has scored 3 power-play goals this season.
— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) October 25, 2015
The Hurricanes are watching history repeat itself. Not that that always leads to a negative thing. Justin Faulk has continued his stellar play from last year, and Viktor Rask has followed his impressive rookie season with a good start in October. And rather than starting the season 0-6-2, they’ve managed a 2-6-0 record thus far, a small improvement. But for the Canes, the negatives far outweigh the positives. Unless something changes soon, the team could, one again, find themselves well out of the playoff race by the end of December. Déjà vu.
Jonathan Gardner currently lives in Raleigh, NC and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.