Not to Be a Gloomy Gus, but ‘Canes Look Familiar

The Carolina Hurricanes development camp has been in full swing this week. There have been good reports coming out of Raleigh. My colleague at The Hockey Writers, Dustin Nelson posted an article on Haydn Fleury scoring a ridiculous goal. Another THW colleague, Philip Botti wrote that Sergey Tolchinsky has been dazzling during camp. The young Russian definitely has some skills which can be seen in this nice one-on-one display:

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All in all the vibe has been very positive for the ‘Canes throughout their development camp. Especially with Noah Hanifin signing a three-year deal with the team on Saturday.

However

Amidst the excitement that comes with watching young talent is a stark reality for the Hurricanes. Not to be a “gloomy Gus” but I have to wonder what, if anything has changed? The needs that the team had at the end of the season are still needs that the team has now, and it’s difficult to see how those needs are being met.

Absolutely I am excited about the prospects and the future for the ‘Canes. But unless they bring something different to the ice – which will be tough to do with basically the same players – I’m not picturing a playoff berth yet again this season. It’s more likely than not that the “Caniacs” will have to continue to be patient while general manager Ron Francis and head coach Bill Peters rebuild their team.

Justin Faulk still needs help

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the absence of Andrej Sekera leaves a large gap on the Hurricanes blue line. That gap is still there as far as I can tell, even with the acquisition of James Wisniewski from the Anaheim Ducks.

Peters has had some past experience with Wisniewski, and said at NHL.com,

“He’s a guy that can shoot the puck. He’s a right-handed shot, and we need that. We need some depth on the back-end, and he gives us that.”

Francis called him a competitive guy which goes with the culture they are trying to establish in the locker room.

I see Wisniewski as a solid journeyman defensive player, not unlike a Tim Gleason. Chris Peters at CBSSports.com wrote that his addition along with drafting Hanifin bolsters the ‘Canes defense. Peters said,

“With the addition of Wisniewski, the selection of Noah Hanifin at fifth overall, and current top blueliner Justin Faulk, there’s more to like about Carolina’s defense next season after they traded away Andrej Sekera last year.”

I don’t disagree with that assertion, but I just am not convinced that Wisniewski is going to fill the gap left by Sekera, playing regularly along with Faulk as the top pair on the blue line.

I hope he has a phenomenal season for the Hurricanes, but only time will tell.

Skinner Trade?

A few weeks ago the Hurricanes let it be known that Jeff Skinner is available. The young forward with amazing skating ability and scoring potential could make a potentially positive addition to a team looking to bolster its forward lines. However here we are and there have so far been no takers.

Is there an unspoken message in the fact that another team has not stepped up for Skinner? Obviously negotiations that take place behind closed doors are situations to which we are not privy. Could it be that teams are saying, “No thanks?” Or is it the case that Francis simply has not found the right deal on which to pull the trigger?

Skinner’s season got off to a rocky start last year due to yet another concussion. Many including myself have written about his uncharacteristic low output after he returned to the ice. He just did not seem to be the same player for much of the season.

The overarching question is whether or not he will be able to return to his 30-plus goal output, or if the multiple concussions have left him unable to go fearlessly to the net. Like the question of who will step up on the defense, it is a question that only time will tell.

Familiar Faces

Like last year, the Hurricanes will have Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Skinner as their top four guys on offense. Alexander Semin is gone, Francis having said “See ya” a couple of weeks ago. Victor Rask had quite the breakout season last year and will very likely center the second or third line, depending where Jordan Staal plays.

Don’t get me wrong, I like these guys. I’ve found every one of them to be players who work hard and convey great professionalism. I’m cheering the loudest for this team to make the playoffs. But what will be different about a team that struggled all last season to score consistently?

The Hurricanes showed flashes of brilliance as a team last season. Can they do it this season and do it consistently? Will a young gun like Lindholm blow up and score 40 goals? Will Hanifin make the team and contribute this season? How about Fleury? Will captain Eric Staal score 40 goals? Can the team stay healthy?

These are all questions that only time will tell. For sure development camp is very exciting this year in Raleigh. Let’s hope the excitement is still here in December and February and beyond.

Mark Shiver is a staff writer for The Hockey Writers credentialed with the Carolina Hurricanes. You can follow him on Twitter @markshiver