2014 Carolina Hurricanes Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/29/2014
It's a good thing that I didn't write this preview first. If I had then I would have likely focused quite a bit on Jordan Staal. After a disappointing season last year I was very optimistic about his ability to rebound this year and have a very strong season. He's still only 26, and he had refocused this summer. He was going to be at the core of this team this year in a way that he never had before.
But then, last week, that all changed.
He broke his leg in a preseason game, and after surgery he is expected to be out for three or four months. That is a big hit to the team - especially because his older brother Eric, the captain of the team, is coming off of summer abdominal surgery and is likely to be limited to start the season. That's a big hole for a team to fill, and you can be sure that new head coach Bill Peters isn't excited about the prospect.
Peters, a former Detroit Red Wings assistant who is an excellent choice to replace Kirk Muller, is not the only change in leadership the team is facing. Jim Rutherford, who was the GM of the organization all the way back to 1994 in Hartford, has taken over the reins in Pittsburgh. The change won't be as dramatic as it could be, though - Ron Francis, who played for the Hurricanes for six years under Rutherford and has most recently been his protégé as the director of hockey operations, is the new man in charge.
Carolina Hurricanes Offseason Moves
Unlike some other new GMs and decision-makers this year, Francis had a relatively quiet first summer in charge. Mostly they swapped around some smaller pieces. The biggest impact is likely the addition of center Jay McClement, a guy who could have a big impact on the penalty kill. Adding Tim Gleason on defense is another move that is easy to like.
Last year the team had a real problem in net. Cam Ward had been the face of this franchise forever, but he was just plain lousy last year - the worst season of his career and not by a small margin. He was often hurt and was ineffective when healthy. Anton Khudobin, the logical replacement for Ward, was hurt as well. That meant that Justin Peters was left to start too much, and he wasn't good. Now Peters is gone, and Drew McIntyre was brought in to replace him. The team badly needs the combo of Ward, Khudobin and McIntyre to somehow add up to dramatically better goaltending than they got last year.
The Hurricanes got a great player in the draft this year when they snagged defenseman Haydn Fleury in the first round. He will likely not be a factor this year, though - young defensemen almost always need more time in junior.
Carolina Hurricanes NHL Outlook
This is by no means a great team, but it should be better than it has been lately - they have missed the playoffs for five years. The top line of Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin is eclipsed by few in the league, they have some decent depth, the defense perhaps lacks a leader but is solid, and Cam Ward used to be a truly elite goalie and could perhaps be again. They have struggled to find a coach that works, though, and that drama has been a big factor in their underwhelming play. If Peters can do better than his recent predecessors then this is a team that has a chance to be in the playoff mix - though anything beyond a wild card spot is probably a bit too much to ask unless other teams collapse around them. Their fate likely isn't quite so positive, though.
Carolina Hurricanes Schedule
If nothing else, by the end of the first week of the season the team will know how they stack up against the state of New York. They open with a rare home-and-home against the Islanders and then host Buffalo before travelling to play the Rangers. That last game opens up a five-game road trip - the other four games are to western Canada - to finish out the month of October. It's a bit of an odd schedule, but there are certainly teams facing less-manageable stretches of games to start their seasons.
Carolina Hurricanes NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
Carolina sits at 66/1 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them just one step ahead of the cellar-dwellers in the league. They are tied for the 11th choice to win the Eastern Conference at 33/1 and are tied with the Islanders as the longest shot to win the Metropolitan Division at 12/1.
2014-15 Carolina Hurricanes Predictions
I like this team in principle, but Francis still has some work to do to make them a real contender. They need a second line that isn't so much less than their first, and they need to be sure of where they are going in net. I hope for the best for them, but ultimately they are not destined to be a playoff team.
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