The Hurricanes are going in the right direction, but unless their youngsters step up and they get better goaltending, the playoffs are out of the question this year.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN’s Prediction: 7th in Metro
Stanley Cup odds: 68-1
Key additions: Lee Stempniak, RW; Teuvo Teravainen, LW; Bryan Bickell, LW; Viktor Stalberg, LW
Key departures: James Wisniewski, D; Riley Nash, C; Nathan Gerbe, LW; Brad Malone, C
-Can the young defense keep it together? The Hurricanes found their form once rookie blueliners Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin took on bigger roles last year, and they’ll need to continue their ascent if Carolina has any shot at the playoffs. Justin Faulk is still the main man on the back end, but all the Hurricanes’ young defensemen have a coach in Bill Peters who believes in them. They already played without a safety net once, so they’re bound to improve. Will there be hiccups along the way? For sure. But the Canes have more work to do up front, so the defense can grow organically without worrying about hurting the result.
-Does Cam Ward have anything left? Although he showed glimpses of his old self in 2015-16, Ward, 32, also got beat up on the scoreboard just as often, if not more. Taking a big pay cut may put his mindset in the right perspective, but there likely won’t be another NHL contract in Carolina for the veteran goaltender once his new two-year pact expires. If anything, he becomes a solid mentor once Alex Nedeljkovic gets a chance to see his first action in an NHL arena.
-Who will step up at center? Jordan Staal and Victor Rask are pencilled in, but the Hurricanes need a youngster to step up, too. Teuvo Teravainen, Elias Lindholm and Sebastian Aho have all played center and wing in their careers, so none can be considered a true NHL pivot just yet. Lindholm must get stronger first, while Aho hasn’t played a shift in the league, so give the inside track to Teravainen. He cut his teeth in Chicago and has the Stanley Cup ring (and scoring heroics) to prove his worth. If none works out, there’s always the 2017 draft class to check out.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
From a statistical perspective, the Carolina Hurricanes are a very interesting team. Last season they finished 11th in score-and-venue adjusted Corsi with a mark of 51.4 percent, and 29th in PDO at 98.3.
Some people are optimistic about Carolina’s chances because of those numbers. The first suggests they do a good job at controlling play, a genuine sign of talent and potential future success, while the second suggests they were a bit unlucky in converting that territorial advantage into results.
While that may be true, it’s likely that the Hurricanes are one of the few exceptions to the rule. One look at their roster and you’ll see why, as this team is pretty low on scoring talent and goaltending ability.
In net is the biggest area of concern as the team inexplicably re-signed Cam Ward, whose .915 save percentabe ranks 49th of 52 goalies who have played 2,500 or more minutes over the last three seasons. That’s not good, and one of the biggest reasons the team has consistently low PDO.
Up front isn’t much better. Over the last three seasons, Carolina has been below seven percent shooting in each season. Their last three seasons rank 77th, 88th and 81st overall respectively. Other than Jeff Skinner, there really isn’t a pure goal scorer on this team and while shot volume is great, the puck needs to go in once in a while.
Only six players on the team have an above average shooting percentage relative to their position. Two of them, Lee Stempniak and Bryan Bickell, are new additions interestingly enough.
There’s some reason for optimism though. The aforementioned Skinner is still young, as are Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, and Sebastian Aho, three kids with offensive potential ready to blossom. Newly acquired Teuvo Teravainen should greatly help the cause too.
The D is stock full of potential too with fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin as well as last season’s breakout defensive stalwart Jaccob Slavin. With the underrated Justin Faulk as the No. 1, and the young guys ready to step up, the D-corps should be very strong for years to come.
It’ll take time for this team to become one of the East’s best, but they’re on the right path. This year looks to be another difficult one unless the goaltending situation gets figured out, or the team solves it’s scoring woes. They’ve got a solid process down, it’s time to turn it into results.
Up next: Minnesota Wild
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