What’s that? The Carolina Hurricanes have a struggling offense? Surprise surprise. Every year, the Canes are haunted by bad goaltending and offensive struggles. It seems as if the Canes have solved their problem between the pipes, as Scott Darling has been decent as the starter and Cam Ward has been an excellent backup in his first two games. But the offense is still an issue.
October 7th: 5-4 SO W vs Minnesota
October 10th: 2-1 OTL vs Columbus
October 14th: 2-1 L @ Winnipeg
October 17th: 5-3 W @ Edmonton
October 19th: 2-1 W @ Calgary
October 21st: 4-3 L @ Dallas
October 24th: 5-1 L vs Tampa Bay
October 26th: 6-3 W @ Toronto
October 27th: 2-1 L vs St. Louis
According to NHL.com, the Canes currently sit 24th in the NHL with 2.67 goals per game. That’s just not good enough. The team clearly has shown glimpses of good offensive production with three games with 5 or more goals (including the shootout win vs Minnesota), but what’s more noticeable is the inability to consistently produce offense. The Canes have already been a part of four 2-1 games, three of which they lost. The Canes have also only scored one goal in four games already. Could it be worse? Absolutely, just look at Montreal. But if the Canes really want to be serious about a playoff push, they need to do something to help increase goal scoring.
The Canes also sit in the bottom half of the league in powerplay percentage, scoring on just 15.6% of their man advantages. Most of the time the Canes powerplay just looks lost, and any potential move to improve the offense would be a nice addition to the long lost Canes powerplay.
Here are some potential solutions to the offensive struggles:
Simple Roster Moves and Lineup Changes
It’s possible that something as simple as an AHL call-up or some lineup shuffling would do the trick. Lucas Wallmark is currently the AHL’s leading scorer, and he’s pushing hard for a call-up. He’s earned it. Wallmark has 3 goals and 8 assists for an AHL leading 11 points in just seven games. He is tearing up the AHL. Maybe Wallmark is the playmaker Jeff Skinner needs playing beside him? Although Skinner seems to be doing just fine right now. Could a potential line of Skinner-Wallmark-Williams be good? I think so. And why not call him up and give him another shot in the NHL?
One thing is for certain. Some current Canes forwards are not getting the job done. Derek Ryan has been abysmal for the most part despite having a very strong preseason. He probably shouldn’t be in the lineup right now. Victor Rask has two goals and four points so far, but he just hasn’t quite looked right. Although I will add that Rask has become a very good player in his own end. Sebastian Aho and Justin Faulk are both still scoreless, and they both need a goal. Aho went a very long time in his rookie year without scoring, but once he got going he didn’t look back. Aho needs a goal, and he needs one quick. He’s looked good for the most part, but we need that to start showing up on the score sheet. Faulk scores most of his goals on the powerplay, but as I mentioned earlier, the Canes powerplay isn’t good.
Justin Williams has been solid in the top nine, as has Teuvo Teravainen. Other than Skinner, those two are arguably the most consistent players up front. Depending on the severity of Teravainen’s injury he suffered against St. Louis, the Canes could be in even more trouble. Bill Peters said Janne Kuokkanen would get back into the lineup on Sunday if Teravainen is unable to go.
Something needs to give. Scratch somebody. Scratch the players that aren’t showing you they deserve to keep playing. Peters has shown in the past that he’s not afraid to put an underperforming player in the press box, so it may be time to send a message or two. Either way, there are a couple moves that could be made, and they wouldn’t require sending someone to another team.
Buy low on Alex Galchenyuk or Vadim Shipachyov
Alex Galchenyuk and Vadim Shipachyov are sitting together on an island of mismanagement. Galchenyuk just hasn’t had it right in Montreal the last two seasons, and he is currently on their fourth forward line. That’s right. Alex Galchenyuk is a fourth line forward on the 2nd worst team Montreal Canadiens. He only has two goals so far on the season. I haven’t watched any Montreal games, so I can’t sit here and tell you how good he has looked. But to put one of your best offensive players on the fourth line is just setting the player and the team up for failure.
I’d be surprised if Galchenyuk hasn’t asked for a trade by now. The Montreal media does not treat him well, but I’m not going to get into that at all. In many ways, the Montreal city and organization has mistreated Alex Galchenyuk, and he needs a fresh start somewhere else. If I were Ron Francis, I would offer up Derek Ryan and a draft pick. Could a Ryan + a 2nd round pick get Galchenyuk to Raleigh?
Vadim Shipachyov scored 76 points in 50 KHL games in Russia last year, and he signed a 2 year deal with a $4.5 million AAV this summer with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Expected to be their top line center, he is instead in the AHL. He’s only played in three games with Vegas, scoring one goal. Could it be possible that Shipachyov just isn’t suited for the NHL? Absolutely. But is it really possible to make that assumption after three games and just over 31 minutes of ice time? Not even close. The Golden Knights have reportedly given Shipachyov permission to seek a trade, and I think it’s likely they find one. The main question is whether or not Vegas views Shipachyov as a valuable asset, or if they just want to move on from him and his contract.
The Canes can easily take on his contract, and Ron Francis would be crazy not to look into it. Try to get Shipachyov for Ryan and a mid-round pick. If Francis could pull that off, it would be amazing. Even if it turns out that Shipachyov just isn’t suited for the NHL, it’s hard to imagine he’d be any worse than what we currently have centering our third line. Is this risky? Of course. But is it worth the risk? Absolutely.
Find a new coach for the PP
Let’s get this out here first: I love Rod Brind’Amour. But the PP is not working and it hasn’t been for a long time. The Canes have enough talent to at least have a better PP than what they currently do. The PP just looks terrible and can’t seem to get going. While the easy argument would be to say it is a personnel problem, I think in this case it’s fair to look at the coaching staff. The Canes have given Brindy more talent on the PP this year and it just hasn’t gotten any better. Yes, the season is nine games young and it’s too early to panic. But I know that I’m not the only person who has at least floated around the idea that the Canes may need to find someone else to run the PP. Is this a move that is likely to happen mid-season, or even at all? Not really. But it’s a possibility that I think needs to be looked at if things don’t start to improve.
Could the PP problem be personnel? Yes. Could the problem be Brindy and the coaching staff? Yes. But I think it is both. I think the team has enough talent to have a solid PP, but something isn’t working. No matter where the true problem lies, it is frustrating to see, for the most part, the same exact personnel on the ice on the PP and seemingly the same strategies as well. Ever heard of the saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?” Well, it’s broken. So fix it.
The Hurricanes have only played nine games, so it’s too early to panic. But the offense has been very inconsistent so far and if it continues it will haunt us. Hopefully the Teravainen injury is not too serious. There are plenty of ways for the Canes to improve the offense, and it’s time to at least start experimenting. Again, we’re nine games in and the Canes have scored 5+ goals in three games already (including the shootout win vs Minnesota). That doesn’t scream struggling offense. But a big part of the offensive inconsistencies lies in the powerplay. If they can find something that works when they have the man advantage, that could be the simple fix this team needs to solidify their spot as a contender in the Eastern Conference.
REMINDER: The Canes are off to one of their best October starts in years and they have had a very tough schedule to start. The season is still very young and it is way too soon to start writing anybody off. Except for Arizona. At least we aren’t Arizona. There are plenty of positives to look at right now. Just give it some time and don’t panic just yet.
NOTE: This was written BEFORE the Anaheim game on Sunday.