Hi everyone, I’d just like to begin this post by saying thank you. If you’ve stuck through this rough start, thank you. This team has made it hard on us, but we’ve persisted. There’s lots of reasons for optimism, but our most recent losses have made those reasons pretty insignificant. After what many considered to be a successful off-season, the Hurricanes have started the season below .500, and many fans are concerned about the team. This start is especially disappointing considering the amount of hype surrounding the Hurricanes this season. The team made good moves, focusing on areas of weakness. The fan base was excited for the season, and rightfully so. After their most recent seven game stretch in which they have only won once, the fans have gone into a bit of a frenzy. Canes fans have taken their frustrations to twitter or the Canes’ Facebook comments section, and it has been a bit of a cesspool. Takes such as “fire Bill Peters,” “fire Ron Francis,” and my personal favorite, “trade Jeff Skinner,” have emerged. So why the long introduction? (That’s right, this article has become self-aware.) My job here is to tell you all that it is going to be alright, and to hopefully enlighten you on some things that have gone wrong. Some are easy fixes, while others are going to take some work. But you can’t have a successful team without fixing problems.
What’s Gone Wrong?
Most fans that watch the canes on a regular basis know how bad the power play has been in recent years. Aside from Faulk’s goal scoring stretch a few seasons ago, most Hurricanes power plays have seemed more like even strength. The team struggles to get the puck in the zone, dumps it in, turns it over, chases the puck, and repeats the process until the power play comes to an end. When the Canes get the puck into the zone, it’s a different story. The players pass the puck around until a shooting lane at the point “opens,” and then the point man, usually Faulk, shoots. It seems as if teams have caught on to the Hurricanes power play strategy, and the Hurricanes have failed to adapt. The Hurricanes made a minor adjustment to the power play in practice on Monday, switching Hanifin and Faulk. Now whether this will allow for more production remains to be seen, but it does seem like a very small step in the right direction. The Canes might also try changing up the units on the fly. Maybe some forwards could step in on different units throughout the game in order to add a little unpredictability.
The power play isn’t the biggest issue, especially since some of our power play issues are directly related to a lack of scoring talent on the roster. That is arguably the team’s biggest issue right now. Jeff Skinner has been great this season, but he’s also been the only consistent performer. The team has had contributions from Teuvo Teravainen, but even he has been sporadic. Jordan Staal’s production has increased this season, which is fantastic to see, but he’s not going to be that go-to guy for scoring goals. The Hurricanes don’t have another guy on their roster that can score more than 25-30 goals in a season, and that is starting to become a problem. One could argue that Sebastian Aho has that potential, but he has yet to find the back of the net this season. The Hurricanes have been missing Lee Stempniak due to injury this season, and he has yet to play a game. Stempniak hasn’t scored more than 19 goals in a season since the 2006-2007 season, but he managed to rack up 40 points for the Canes last season. This obviously doesn’t help the goal scoring issue, but it might add a little bit of jump to the lineup in general. Skinner will likely be reunited with Stempniak, whose primary duty will be to get Skinner the puck. Stempniak returning will be huge, but it’s not a long-term solution.
The Hurricanes improved on a lot of areas this off season. They added Justin Williams to be a veteran presence that could fit into the top six, not the fourth line. He’s done extremely well this season, with eight assists and nine points in twelve games. The third defensive pairing was a major issue on the road last season, and the Canes worked on fixing that, too. Trevor van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury have been a solid pairing so far, and most fans have been surprised with Fleury. Outside of a few rookie mistakes, Fleury has been impressive. He’s made smart passes, been responsible defensively, and blocked shots. Fleury is also one of the only physical presences on this team, which is something that the Hurricanes have lacked for quite some time. The Canes would get worn out against teams like the Ducks or the Blues last season due to the fact that they’d hit us and win every single board battle. Fleury is good for one or two hits a game, which is encouraging to see. The Canes also brought in Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris to help out the fourth line. The Canes’ fourth line has been a void of offense in the past, but this year, they’re actually creating chances. Sadly, this line has looked like the Canes’ best line on more than one occasion. Scott Darling was brought in to be the starter, and he’s done a fine job so far. Darling has won us a couple games that we shouldn’t have due to timely saves, and he’s also allowed for us to salvage a point in games we had no business earning a point in. So please stop talking about a “goalie controversy.” Cam Ward couldn’t even make saves against the Avalanche. Stop using your bad takes to get clicks.
One thing the Canes might have neglected to do this off season was acquire a legitimate third line center. The Hurricanes didn’t trade for a 1C at the NHL Draft, and fans were in a tizzy about it. Instead, GMRF selected Martin Necas, who managed to get an extended look in camp and make his NHL debut this season. He’s a promising prospect that has really surprised fans, including myself. Necas may still be a year or two away from the NHL, but he’s looking like he could be a solid second line center in the near future. Unfortunately, the Canes didn’t have many options at center. They already had Victor Rask and Jordan Staal, two very capable NHL centers. Fans figured that GM Ron Francis would fill the fourth line center role with his annual July 1st Depth Signing™, so that wasn’t much of a concern. What about the third line? Derek Ryan was a free agent still, but he had only 73 games of NHL experience to his name. If the Hurricanes were going to go to free agency, they would have to compete with quite a few teams for Nick Bonino, who the Predators eventually signed. The team took a gamble on Derek Ryan to be the 3C after putting up 29 points in 67 games next to one of the league’s hottest scorers for most of the season. The Derek Ryan experiment has not been fruitful this season, and Ryan was even demoted to the fourth line against the Coyotes. When you have to play Marcus Kruger as your 3C, that might say something about your depth. Ryan has four points in twelve games, and he was playing next to Jeff Skinner for eleven of those games. Skinner has managed to score seven goals so far this season. Should the Canes make a trade? It’s too early to tell. Trading for a third line center wouldn’t cost too much, but there may not be any available at the moment. It’s too early in the season to tell who might be tanking. Hell, even Detroit is doing alright for themselves. The answer may lie in the system, but will the organization count on someone with little to no NHL experience?
Lucas Wallmark is continuing to impress the Canes management after a hot start to his second pro season. Wallmark has 13 points in 11 games this season as Charlotte’s top center. As a rookie, he scored 24 goals and had 46 points in 67 games with the Charlotte Checkers last season. This was good enough to earn him a call up at the end of last season, when the Canes were trying to see where each player was at in terms of development. Wallmark played in eight games with the Checkers, mostly on the fourth line, registering two assists. Wallmark has proven that he can play top minutes in the AHL and produce, so perhaps the Canes could give him a shot on the third line? Ron Francis may not be too keen on giving a prospect with so little experience a third line spot, but if Wallmark keeps playing at this pace, he might force Francis’ hand. Bringing up Wallmark would mean that the Hurricanes would have to make a move, so this could be another reason why Wallmark isn’t getting a shot.
As a fanbase, we need to realize that it may not be the coach. Peters has done well with the team that he’s been given, and he hasn’t been given much scoring help. The Canes don’t have a guy to go to the net, and they don’t have many consistent scorers. This is all I will say about this topic. Peters shouldn’t be fired. Coaches make questionable decisions all the time, and Peters is no different. I mean the Rangers and Flames continuously played Tanner Glass over literally any other player on their roster. Let that sink in for a second.
So everyone take a deep breath. We have 70 games to go, which is more than enough time to push for the playoffs. The team will improve, they’ll get more consistent, and we’ll all go back to being a happy little dysfunctional family. If you’re having issues with happiness because of this team, maybe take a step back from twitter for a while! I’ve started to do that, and it’s helped a lot. I’m not surrounded by negativity, and it’s fantastic. The only account you should keep track of is Calm Before the Storm’s, because you know we’re all about that sweet, sweet positive attitude. So I’ll end this article with a few positive notes about the team’s pipeline, just for a little more positivity.
- Stelio Mattheos has 24 points in 17 games. He’s cooled off as of late, but he’s really shown that he can be more than just a two way forward
- Hudson Elynuik is over a point per game pace in the WHL this season, and he’s missing Kailer Yamamoto on his wing.
- Jeremy Helvig allowed one goal against the Sarnia Sting, the hottest team in Canada. He’s 8-3-2 on the season with a .921 save percentage on an inconsistent team.
- Eetu Luostarinen has 4 points in 21 games for one of the worst teams in the Finnish leagues. Don’t worry though, he’s a really fun player to watch. His production has increased, and he’s a strong player in all three zones.