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Previewing the Metro: Carolina Hurricanes

Can Rod The Bod take them back to the postseason?

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

To quote Staind, it’s been awhile since the Carolina Hurricanes have made the playoffs. Not nearly as long as the last time we saw these bad boys, but 2009 isn’t exactly recent. With Don Waddell as the new general manager, Rod Brind’Amour as the new head coach, Dougie Hamilton added to the blue line, and Jeff Skinner gone, one can’t say the Hurricanes aren’t attempting to shake things up to get back to being a playoff squad. Will their moves this offseason result in additional games in the Spring or just provide more questions about their future?

Additions and subtractions

Carolina Hurricanes 2018 offseason moves

Additions Subtractions
Additions Subtractions
Dougie Hamilton Jeff Skinner
Andrei Svechnikov Noah Hanifin
Calvin de Haan Elias Lindholm
Martin Necas Derek Ryan
Petr Mrazek Cam Ward
Michael Ferland Joakim Nordstrom
Jordan Martinook Lee Stempniak
Dan Renouf Marcus Kruger
Saku Maenalanen Klas Dahlbeck
Michal Cajkovsky Jake Chelios
Adam Fox Jeremy Smith
Cliff Pu Dennis Robertson
Morgan Geekie Philip Samuelsson
Michael Fora Tyler Ganly
Keegan Kanzig

The Hurricanes made several moves this offseason, and at the moment it’s difficult to see how it will all pan out. Up front, the departure of three-time 30-goal scorer Skinner will definitely hurt the offense this season. The losses of Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan aren’t end-of-the-world moves, but that’s three pretty significant regulars taken out of Carolina’s lineup from last season. However, Brind’Amour and Waddell are hoping a handful of young, high-end forwards can improve the team’s overall offensive production. Along with the dynamic Andrei Svechnikov, who was taken second overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Hurricanes are also adding Martin Necas, the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft who registered 17 points in 24 games with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Tipsport Extraliga. Center Lucas Wallmark and winger Valentin Zykov, two players who had over 50 points with the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL last season, have a good chance to make the team out of camp as well.

On the blue line, the Hurricanes dealt Hanifin, a 21-year-old left-handed d-man who recorded 32 points and was one of the better play drivers on the team last season, but were able to replace him with Hamilton. The former Calgary Flame is four years older, but the right-handed shot is one of the best defensemen in the league in terms of puck possession. Carolina also brought in Calvin de Haan to round out a pretty stout defensive group that already had Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, and Brett Pesce.

In net, the loss of Cam Ward is definitely an addition by subtraction, as the former Conn Smythe winner has failed to post a save percentage higher than .910 since the 2011-12 campaign. Petr Mrazek may not be the answer in net, but for one year and a cap hit of $1.5 million he might be worth the gamble.

Strengths and weaknesses
The Hurricanes have had one of the best puck possession teams across the league over the last few seasons and a big part of that is due to their defense. Of the 32 defensive pairs that played in 700 or more 5-on-5 minutes last season, the tandems of Hanifin-Trevor van Riemsdyk and Slavin-Pesce finished second and third in Corsi-for percentage as well as fourth and fifth in expected goals-for percentage. Hanifin’s departure will obviously alter TVR’s numbers, but bringing in Hamilton and de Haan will probably allow Brind’Amour to form another pair to match the play of one of the most underrated defensive pairings in the league.

As for weaknesses, Carolina’s two biggest problems are pretty important to succeed in hockey: scoring goals and making saves. The Hurricanes haven’t finished better than 21st in goals for in all situations since the 2013-14 season and haven’t finished better than 27th (31st last season) in overall save percentage since the 2014-15 season. The loss of Skinner, who scored 13.7 percent of the team’s goals since the start of the 2013-14 season, certainly isn’t going to help this problem. The loss of Ward, however, should help the save percentage situation, but Scott Darling did struggle in his first season with Carolina posting an .888 save percentage in 2017-18. Mrazek has shown promise in the past, but he did also post an .891 save percentage with the Philadelphia Flyers last season.

One big question: How will Brind’Amour do in his first season running the show?
The former Flyer has been an assistant coach with the Canes since 2011, but this will be the first time he’s the head coach for any team in the NHL. Bill Peters, now with the Calgary Flames, spent the last four seasons turning the Hurricanes into a team that was able to drive play and create offensive pressure. However, Peters’ system couldn’t do much about his team’s inability to find the back of the net and keep the opposition from scoring. There will definitely be growing pains, but Brind’Amour has a lot of new players and prospects Peters didn’t have the chance to coach while in Carolina. It’ll be interesting to see how he’ll attempt to squeeze goals out of this lineup, but if Darling and Mrazek rebound from last season he could employ an effective defensive system with some success.

Outlook
I’m not falling into the trap again. Every year, the Hurricanes are the team those who utilize advanced statistics fall in love with and project to be a playoff team. Then, every year, the team finds ways to lose games and always finds themselves on the outside looking in. Yes, they’ve added Hamilton, de Haan, Svechnikov, and Necas, but is that enough to buck the Canes’ trend of having the upperhand in 5-on-5 play not paying off on the scoreboard?

Considering the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are still at the top of the division with the Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets not too far behind, it’s tough to see a path for the Hurricanes to make the postseason.