NHL Season Review: Carolina Hurricanes
Welcome to NHL season review: a brand new series that will breakdown every NHL team this off season. You can expect to see a new post everyday until the end of July, starting from the 30th place team, and finishing with the Stanley Cup champions. With so many changes coming in the off season, some teams will be improving dramatically, while others will be forced to make some tough decisions for the future. It’s going to be a fun month of hockey talk, so sit down, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Year in Review
- Record: 30-41-11 (71 points)
- Goals per game: 2.23 (27th in the NHL)
- Goals against per game: 2.67 (18th)
- Power play: 18.8% (15th)
- Penalty kill: 84.7% (4th)
- Shots per game: 30.8 (12th)
- Shots against per game: 27.3 (3rd)
The Carolina Hurricanes missed the playoffs for the sixth season in a row. For a team that was league average defensively, they were unable to find any consistency in net. Couple that with their inability to score goals, and you’re looking at a team that finished 26th in the NHL last season. The Hurricanes are a sound team defensively, but there’s no question they need to add a player or two up front to help them score a few more goals next season. With the free agency market being so thin, it may need to come via trade, but Carolina will need to proceed with caution and not move some of their up-and-coming talent. There’s no rush for them to win now, so the team can afford to wait for the perfect deal to come to them.
GM Ron Francis entered the draft with the 5th overall pick and was ready to use it. The Hurricanes used that pick to select Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin. The freshman had 23 points (5 G, 18A) in 37 games with the Eagles last season—third most by an NCAA rookie. The 6-foot-3 blueliner became the youngest player to suit up for Boston College and should help make an already good Caroline defense even better (assuming he doesn’t return to BC next season).
Management wasn’t done adding defenseman to their team. Francis also acquired power play specialist James Wisniewski from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for goaltender Anton Khudobin. Khudobin struggled last season for the Hurricanes, going 8-17-6, with a 2.72 GAA and a .900 SV%, making him expendable this off season. Wisniewski has always been know for his hard shot and ability to run a successful power play but hasn’t been able to stay healthy long enough to make a significant impact. The 31-year-old will be joining an already talented defensive group and should help provide some offence for the team if he can stay healthy.
The Hurricanes then went out and acquired Eddie Lack from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for two draft picks (2015 3rd & 7th ‘round picks). Lack was given the opportunity to take over for the injured Ryan Miller down the stretch but stumbled in the post season before giving way to Miller. Lack will get a fresh start in Carolina and will compete with Cam Ward for the starting job, but unless Ward completely implodes during training camp or early on in the season, his job should be safe.
Offseason Game Plan
The top priority for Francis is to add some scoring. Unless Carey Price is your goalie, you need scoring to help win games. Outside of captain Eric Staal, no player on the team had more than 50 points (Justin Faulk was the next closest with 49). Jeff Skinner was expected to have a big season after scoring 33 goals the year before but managed to score only 18 goals in 77 games. He’s battled concussion injuries the last few seasons, but if he can stay healthy, look for him to have a bounce back season this year. At 24-years-old, the future is still bring for the Markham, ON native.
A player who won’t be having a bounce back season with the team is Alexander Semin. The 13th overall pick in 2002 was bough out by the Hurricanes over the off season after totaling 19 points in 57 games. The talented winger has the ability to score 30-plus goals but has been criticized for being a “lazy” player who just doesn’t seem to care. After scoring 187 goals in six seasons with the Capitals, the Russian winger was unable to find his game in Carolina, scoring 28 goals over two seasons (six last season). For a team in desperate need of scoring, it’s a huge disappointment that the Semin experiment didn’t work out.
The Hurricanes aren’t as bad a team as their record suggests, but it’s going to be another long year if they can’t find a way to score goals. With free agency basically over, the Hurricanes didn’t do anything to address their offensive struggles in the offseason. A player that could help their team score more goals is Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, but I don’t see a deal happening between the two teams. With the asking price for Sharp being a first round pick and a top prospect, the Hurricanes may want to wait until next year to add a dynamic forward and hope for bounce-back seasons from Skinner and Jordan Staal. If that’s the case, the Hurricanes will once again have trouble scoring goals, but if they can continue to be a good defensive team and get some good goaltending from Ward, they won’t lose 40 games again next season. They aren’t a playoff team just yet, but they aren’t as far away as many believe.