This 31-part series chronicles why each team is going to be competitive in the 2018-2019 NHL season. Progressing alphabetically, three teams will be featured weekly during the off-season. A compendium 31-part series will be published by Hockey Troll (@HockeyTrollin) on www.BeerLeagueTalk.com on why your team is trash in the 2018-2019 NHL season.
2017-2018 Regular Season: 84 Points (10th in East)
Since their inaugural season (as Carolina) in 1997, the Hurricanes have been a mixed bag of success and disappointment. They have only advanced to the playoffs five times in franchise history, twice to the Finals, managing to lose one Stanley Cup to the Red Wings (2001-02) and win a Stanley Cup against the Oilers (2005-06). In recent history, the Hurricanes are currently riding a 9-year playoff drought and this so happens to be the year that their fortunes turn around.
There is a massive elephant in the room: Goaltending. Of all NHL goaltenders that started at least 25 games, did you know that future Vezina winner Scott Darling was dead last in SV% (.888) and in the bottom-7 in GAA (3.18)? Fortunately, the Hurricanes have recognized this as a major deficiency and finally remedied this gaping hole by signing… Petr Mrazek. Mrazek has been a bit of a wild card and he definitely did not live up to expectations in Philly when they acquired him mid-season, where he posted a .891 SV% and 3.22 GAA. So why is Carolina buying low on budget goaltenders again?
The bottom line is that Carolina isn’t going to be remotely competitive if they can’t stop the puck. The good news is that it is possible that either Darling or Mrazek experienced outlier seasons this past year. While in Chicago, Darling consistently averaged between 2.20-2.58 GAA and .915-.936 SV%. Mrazek has not been nearly as consistent throughout his career, but much of his lacklustre performance in Detroit was blamed on the defensemen in front of him. However, his advanced metrics from 2014-2017 are quite intriguing, ranking 7th in adjusted SV% and top-9 in SV% when facing mid and high-danger shots. Best/worst case scenario for the Hurricanes is that Mrazek upstages Darling by putting the team on his back and then either (a) leaves in the off-season or (b) gets paid like a starter. There is also the possibility that both are just as terrible as last year and they sign Robin Lehner next year to be their saviour.
I think I got it this time.
Defensively, it is going to be really disappointing if the Hurricanes don’t protect their goaltenders better this year. Their defensive options are quite optimal: Hamilton, Slavin, Faulk, De Haan, Pesce, van Riemsdyk and Fleury. With five defensemen making 4 million or more (all under the age of 27), they have an obvious glut at the position. It is always possible that they trade Faulk before his contract expires in 2020. Offensively, the Canes have drafted, developed and/or traded for some extremely talented young wingers with high ceilings, such as Skinner, Teravainen and Aho. Also take into consideration some of their depth wingers, such as Williams and Ferland, and this team has the makings of a real contender.
To add insult to injury, they basically won the draft lottery in 2018 when they moved up from the 11th spot to the 2nd, and landed a straight stud in Svechnikov. The real question mark is the centre position, which features Jordan Staal and Victor Rask. Ouch. My suggestion: flip Faulk for a top-6 centre before the season begins. It’s a calculated risk, but they would get a better return on investment now then if they waited until next year, when he only had one season remaining on his contract. Haula and a pick for Faulk. Done. If not, Rod Brind’Amour could always suit up again.
Do you even lift bro?
The real source of optimism in 2018-2019 is the firing of that bum Bill Peters and hiring the hero of the franchise – Rod Brind’Amour – as their new head coach. Brind’Amour ranks 48th all-time in NHL points (1184) and captained the Hurricanes from 2005 until his retirement in 2010. All the fake news pundits have unfairly criticized the decision to hire Brind’Amour because he has never been a head coach at any level of the sport. Since when did that matter? NHL coaching is pretty much on-the-job training anyway, there’s not many valuable skills that you wouldn’t get as a player or a gym rat. I will be patiently waiting for my call to be the GM, analyst or bean counter for the Hurricanes since I have successfully won the Stanley Cup multiple times in EA Sports NHL 18.
With a plethora of talent on the backend, and a bounce back year from their goaltenders, this looks to finally be the year that the Hurricanes get back into the playoffs.
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