It wasn't really that long ago that this team won it all. Just 2006. Eric Staal and Cam Ward were both on that team, and they are only 30 and 31, respectively. It was a lot more recently than most teams have drunk from the blessed chalice. When you look at this team, though, it seems like so, so long ago. Like a hundred thousand lifetimes. This team is so far away from repeating what they accomplished that it is ridiculous. It's not even like they have been rebuilding for a long time - like Edmonton or Florida. They just seem to be wandering around.
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You know when you are at a party and there is that guy who is too drunk to know what is going on so he just wanders around aimlessly bumping into things and spilling beer until someone sits him down on the couch and gives him a bowl of chips? The Hurricanes are the NHL version of that. Someone needs to sit them down, sober them up, and send them home to get some sleep so they can have a better day tomorrow.
They are trying, I guess. Ron Francis is in the second year as GM, and Bill Peters is entering his second year behind the bench. I'll assume they have a plan, and I hope that we start to see what that plan is and why we should have some faith in it. All I have faith in right now is that this team won't be good.
Carolina Hurricanes Offseason Moves
Perhaps the most significant decision the team made was to rid themselves of Alexander Semin and his shocking underachievement. They had given him a
massive contract and were forced to buy him out this summer. Money well spent - he was not a positive influence here. Beyond that they were not
meaningfully active in free agency. They did make a few trades, though. They shuffled goaltenders. First they sent backup Anton Khudobin to Anaheim in
return for defenseman James Wisniewski. Wisniewski had a career year two years ago with Columbus but was very disappointing as a trade deadline pickup in
Anaheim last year. They filled Khudobin's role by grabbing Eddie Lack from Vancouver for a ridiculously affordable price - just a third- and seventh-round
pick. In early September they benefitted from Chicago's salary cap woes when they got Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom for two prospects. Versteeg and
Wisniewski are every-day players for this team, and Nordstrom will be too if he can build on his play in 38 games last year - he had just three assists
over that stretch. Lack is an upgrade over Khudobin, too. I guess, then, you can give Francis credit for making this team better without spending a lot or
risking the future to do so.
Carolina Hurricanes NHL Outlook
When a team has been as underwhelming as this one has been for a while then they are going to have young talent. Noah Hanifin, this year's pick in the draft, is going to be a stud defenseman. He could easily make the team this year. Haydn Fleury is another elite defender taken last year. Hanifin and Fleury could anchor this team for years if things work out. Center Elias Lindholm, taken fifth overall in 2013, has been solid in his first two NHL seasons, too, and has upside galore. There's talent.
What makes me uneasy, though, is the progress of other young talent - most notably Jeff Skinner. He was the seventh pick in 2010 and won the Calder Trophy as top rookie that year after a brilliant 63-point performance. The future was impossibly bright. His next two years were not nearly at that level, though. He took a step forward two seasons ago but then regressed quite significantly last year. He's still a solid player. He's just not what he should be at this point in his career. He should be crushing the hopes and dreams of opponents. If they haven't developed Skinner as they should then I struggle to get overly excited about the next few top picks - especially defenseman who require extra finesse to develop.
It's not that Skinner is alone in causing frustration, either. Eric Staal is one of the more talented players in the league. He just has not consistently performed like it here in Carolina. It's hard to tell if he is too comfortable, or if he lacks a killer instinct, or what the issue is. He just hasn't been as good as he can be or needs to be. As captain you can't help but wonder if he has been making that attitude seem alright for the team. He's nearing the end of his contract and getting towards the end of his prime in the league. If the team wants to get any value from him on the open market then the time to move him could be this year. He hasn't said he wants that, but it still could be a big distraction for the team - especially if they don't jump out of the gate.
Carolina Hurricanes Schedule
The Hurricanes open with three games against decent opponents - Nashville, Detroit and Florida. That's fine, but then they head out on the road for a brutal seven-game road trip - one of the longest any team will take all year. It has them jetting back and forth across the country, too, and includes two sets of back-to-back games. Just ugly. The last game of the trip is Oct. 29, and then they return home to play the next night. It's very possible, then, that the season could be a write-off by the end of October.
Carolina Hurricanes NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
Oddsmakers don't like the prospects of this team this year any more than I do. At +15000 to win the Stanley Cup they are ahead of only Arizona. They are at +6600 to win the Eastern Conference, which is worst of all teams. They are also picked last in the Metropolitan Division at +2200.
2015-16 Carolina Hurricanes Predictions
This team isn't going to be good. More significantly, the team shouldn't try to be good. They need to put as many young players as they possibly can into the roster and let them learn on the job. Sometimes that can surprise people - like it did in Colorado two years ago or Calgary last year. They also need to trade Staal and Cam Ward if the prices offered make sense and commit fully to being a real team again somewhere down the road. They will not be the worst team in the NHL - Arizona is a stone-cold lock to pull that off - but they are going to be making yet another high draft pick this year.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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