2014/15 Season Preview – Carolina Hurricanes

2013/14 Season Record – 13th in Eastern Conference, 7th in Metropolitan Division

W

L OT PTS GOAL DIFF.
36 35 11 83 -23

2013/14 Season Recap

The Carolina Hurricanes had a new home in the Metropolitan Division but got the same old scenario as they slipped to a 5th consecutive non-playoff season. It was always going to be a tough year adjusting to the new division and it was made tougher with the Canes group of top paid forwards all having a down year with Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alex Semin & Jiri Tlusty all failing to hit their preseason aims, and despite Skinner hitting the 30 goal plateau they failed to be playing after the regular season ended.

The season didn’t get any less turbulent to start the summer as the organization had an entire overhaul off the ice, with GM Rutherford being replaced by Ron Francis and coach Kirk Muller getting the chop in favour of Bill Peters.

Projected Roster

LW

C

RW

Jiri Tlusty

Eric Staal Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe

Jeff Skinner Elias Lindholm
Chris Terry Riley Nash

Patrick Dwyer

Zach Boychuk Jay McClement

Brad Malone

LD

RD

Andrej Sekera

Justin Faulk

Ron Hainsey

Ryan Murphy

John-Michael Liles

Jay Harrison

G

Cam Ward

Anton Khudobin

EXTRAS

Victor Rask

Brett Bellemore

Drew MacIntyre

Top Call-Up Options

Forward

Brock McGinn

Defense

Haydn Fleury

Goal

Drew MacIntyre

Top Prospects

  1. Elias Lindholm
  2. Haydn Fleury
  3. Brock McGinn

Key Additions

  • Brad Malone (Free Agent, Colorado)
  • Jay McClement (Free Agent, Toronto)
  • Tim Gleason (Free Agent, Toronto)

Key Subtractions

  • Justin Peters (Free Agent, Washington)
  • Manny Malhotra (Free Agent, Montreal)
  • Joni Pitkanen (Free Agent)
  • Mike Komisarek (Free Agent)
  • Radek Dvorak (Free Agent)

Roster Thoughts

Forwards:

The season has already started badly with Jordan Staal breaking a leg, leaving a top heavy forward corps without one of its major lynchpins and resulting a big hole in their roster. The Canes will need Eric Staal, Semin and Tlusty to return to the numbers they put up in the lockout shortened season as there is a huge drop off in scoring talent which given the amount of dollar committed to the top 4 it’s no surprise.

Elias Lindholm figures to have a big season with consistent top-6 minutes but it figures to be a tough ask for the group to light the lamp on a regular basis. The bottom 6 forwards looks to lack any real punch and will be a mix of veteran grinders and prospects and the Canes will need some of them to step-up to take the heat and defensive match-ups off the top 6 whenever possible and creating balanced scoring whenever possible.

Defense:

The defense, so long a weakness for the Canes, figures to be their main strength – especially with a defense first coach now installed behind the bench.  The undoubted star is Justin Faulk who is emerging as one the best young defensemen and a real anchor on the blueline, with a new contract in his pocket he’s going to need to take on additional leadership and help bring up those around him.

Sekera had a career year and will be after another with free agency looming, look for him to be moved to a contender if the Canes are out of the picture. After that there is a bench of solid veterans in Hainsey, Gleason, Harrison, Bellemore and Liles while Ryan Murphy is ready to breakout and live up to 11th overall pick billing and could really help add some offensive punch to the D corps.

Goaltending:

There could be a real tough choice for Peters over who will be his #1 when the season opens. Cam Ward has been a long time starter in Carolina but after a season where he struggled with form and injuries Anton Khudobin is waiting in the wings as heir apparent. The free agent pick-up filled in admirably for Ward at times last season and has a real shot at dislodging him. There is also the real possibility that 2014 pick Alex Nedelkovic sees some time in net if either struggle as the rookie has been earning rave reviews for his efforts in the Prospect tournament.

Special Teams:

The Canes only managed 41 goals on the powerplay last season giving them the #28 ranked unit, with only Buffalo and Florida fairing worse, and given the turnover (or lack of it) on the personnel side it’s hard to see where the improvement is going to come. The only potential bright spark could be Ryan Murphy, if the rookie can get his skillset going in the NHL he could be a real threat as a puck moving D and an offensive boost from the point, especially under the guidance of JM Liles, as things stand the Canes look set to be in the bottom 5.

On the other side of the puck the Canes were a middle of the road team in terms of kill but a disciplined game saw them as one of the least penalised teams. The PK could be a saver for the offensively challenged squad as a defensively responsible group of veteran D along with the addition of renowned penalty killer Jay McClement could see them firmly with-in the top 10 on the kill.

Key Player

The Hurricanes’ key player is hard to define with Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin all needing to earn their contracts, especially in the absence of Jordan Staal for the first 4 months, and there could be a case made for all of them after a dip last season. However just edging out Captain Staal for the key is Cam Ward. If he can shake off the injuries which have been dogging him and return to all-star form then the potential offensive woes won’t be under the spotlight, and taking the pressure off the forwards to score 4 a night would be a huge boost.

2014/15 Expectations

While the Hurricanes got the off-ice overhaul they needed, unfortunately they didn’t have much turnover in the playing ranks, and for a team that’s missed the end of season dance for 5 seasons that’s a bad thing. The club will return a large chunk of last season’s roster with no marquee changes and so hopes will have to be that the culture can change following the moves in the office.

It figures to be a long struggle for the rebuilding Canes, especially after losing Jordan Staal to start the season, unless they have everyone playing above and beyond their expected norm and they’re probably a key injury or 2 away  from being amongst the NHL worst on paper.

I expect a firesale at the deadline and unfortunately for Canes fans it looks like the unwanted streak is going to hit six, if/when the struggle sets in just keep an eye on Connor McDavid and cross your fingers for the lottery…

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