With the regular season underway, it's easy to make snap judgments on teams based on pre-season predictions. But in the case of the Carolina Hurricanes taking care of business against Columbus in their home opener, it was certainly an affirmation that the rest of the NHL should once again Take Warning.
Personally, I think the Hurricanes are going to win the Stanley Cup this season. And in speaking with captain Jordan Staal last month, it was clear that internal expectations were on the same wavelength for a franchise helmed by GM Don Waddell and coach Rod Brind'Amour.
"Especially since Roddie and Don took over, we want to set that bar high," Staal said. "And the Stanley Cup is as high as you can get. You want to give yourself an opportunity and we've got a group that we believe can do it. It's just a matter of going out and pulling it off."
Staal of course has already experienced that elation in his career, back when he was a youngster with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. He and buddies Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were all crucial in the Pens' revenge defeat of the Detroit Red Wings, who had bested the club the year prior in the final. Staal was traded to Carolina before Pittsburgh's more recent Cup victories, but now he's wearing the 'C' on an incredibly talented team that had a great summer.
The biggest name to come to Raleigh is defenseman Brent Burns, the charismatic and deadly offensive blueliner with a ton of size and the ability to play major minutes. For a team that already had the best defensive defenseman in the game in Jaccob Slavin, Burns was a major add - especially since the two can play together, as they did in the opener against Columbus. Even the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Staal had a warning for opponents about his team's new dynamic duo.
"I've skated with those two (before the season) and you don't get anywhere," he said. "They are two big boys who are just really good at what they do."
Waddell also bolstered the forward corps over the summer, bringing in versatile veteran Paul Stastny and scoring winger Max Pacioretty. Unfortunately for all involved, Pacioretty will be on the shelf for at least the first half of the campaign due to surgery on a torn Achilles, but if you're a glass half-full kind of person, you can look at him as a sort of trade-deadline acquisition you already have locked in.
Either way, with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen all back and Martin Necas throwing down the gauntlet for growth in Game 1, scoring should not be a problem for Carolina.
In net, veteran Frederik Andersen is out to prove that he can be relied on for the playoffs, but no one would ever question the results he got in the regular season after last year's performance. If he can stay healthy and up his game in the post-season, then Carolina has everything it needs for a championship run.
In the meantime, the Hurricanes have another fun event to look forward to as the team will host an outdoor game in February against Washington at Carter-Finley Stadium, home to the NCAA football N.C. State Wolfpack. Originally, the Canes were supposed to host back in 2021, but that event was postponed due to the pandemic. Needless to say, the team - and the community - is pumped to head outdoors.
"We've made a lot of friends in Raleigh over the years and they're all excited," Staal said. "I think everyone is really going to embrace it."
And if you haven't already embraced the Hurricanes as potential Cup winners, feel free to jump on the bandwagon early. This team looks like the real deal.