I know what you’re thinking. “How can she possibly be telling me to focus on the positive? Has she been watching the same Carolina Hurricanes I’ve been watching?”
Yep, sure have. And believe me, I understand how easy it is to get bogged down by losing streaks, poor showings from highly-paid players, and the general sense of malaise that settles over a team with a season like the Canes have had so far. But here’s the thing—they’re not as bad as their win/loss record makes them out to be. Carolina ranks 14th in the league for Corsi-For% close (51.3%), and 18th in score-adjusted CF% (50.2%). These numbers aren’t amazing, but they’re not McEichel territory—not like Buffalo, for example, at 36.7% and 36.0%, respectively.
The outlook may not be amazing, and it’s definitely not playoff-worthy, but there are still some positive factors to keep in mind, I promise. Let’s take a look at three.
1. Jeff Skinner
Remember him? Calder winner, former figure skater, dimples? After a not-great lockout season, due in no small part to a low shooting percentage of 5.9% at even strength and 8.2% overall, Skinner lead the Hurricanes in goals last year. It’s not unreasonable to think that if he gets his game going, he could do this same this year—he’s currently tied for second in goals on the team with Elias Lindholm, and only two behind Jiri Tlusty.
With Jordan Staal out and Eric Staal and Alex Semin both missing chunks of time, Skinner has been going up against tougher competition so far this season than in any other season in his career. When Staal returns, that should level off a bit, which should theoretically free up Skinner to get a little more offense going. And Skinner’s a guy who tends to score in chunks, so once he gets going, there’s a good chance he’ll stay hot for a little while.
2. Jordan Staal
He really is coming back. Honestly. He’s been going through drills, and even filled in for older brother Eric when the elder Staal sat out morning skate recently! Look. No matter what team you are, losing your second line center in preseason, and losing him to something long-term, is going to screw a team over for a while. Only getting Staal back into a game situation will tell how much his presence will help the Hurricanes bounce back from their current slump, but let’s be real here—it’s definitely not going to hurt them.
Let’s look ahead to a future where things don’t get better for the Hurricanes this season. The team keeps losing games they should win (I’ll have another post on this in the coming weeks), players aren’t performing up to their potential, and the Canes end up with a high lottery pick at the end of the season. Maybe even a top three pick. Maybe even a pick that will allow them to snag Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, who, as I’m sure you have heard, are pretty good at hockey.
Tlusty will probably be used as trade bait. Dwyer might be re-signed, or he might be allowed to walk. That honestly depends on how the rest of the season goes. But think about this. Adding McDavid or Eichel to a forward corps of both Staals, Skinner, Lindholm, and Semin—as well as Chris Terry, who appears to have played himself into a regular spot—will help this team take a giant leap. Make sure that’s complemented by good depth forwards and upgrade the defense, and next season forecasts to be much brighter than this one.