Carolina Hurricanes 2015-16 preview
COACH: Bill Peters
2014-2015 RECORD: 30-41-11, 71 points (eighth in Metropolitan, missed playoffs)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.2 goals per game (27th); 2.7 goals-against per game (18th); 18.8 power play pct. (15th); 84.7 penalty kill pct. (4th); PDO: 97.4 (28th); Corsi For pct.: 52.9 (4th); Fenwick For pct.: 52.4 (6th); 53.0 face-off pct. (3rd)
NOTABLE ARRIVALS: F Kris Versteeg, D James Wisniewski, F Joakim Nordstrom, G Eddie Lack
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: F Alexander Semin, G Anton Khudobin
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
OUTLOOK: When the 10-year anniversary of Carolina’s only Stanley Cup arrives next spring, will the last two remaining players from that miracle run still be in Raleigh? Team captain Eric Staal and Conn Smythe-winning goaltender Cam Ward appear set to play out the final season of their respective long-term deals before signing extensions, and if the Hurricanes’ campaign goes south early for the second straight year, both veterans will dominate the trade deadline rumor mill. Staal has been a good soldier despite supporting casts that have rarely matched his production or consistency during the past six years, while Ward enjoyed a minor bounceback in 2014–15 after it seemed that injuries, inconsistency and porous defensive support had sabotaged his prime once and for all.
It would be almost impossible to duplicate the injuries and dreadful puck luck that doomed Bill Peters’s first year behind the bench from the outset, and there should be no shortage of playing time for the team’s young talent. The preseason trade that landed Kris Versteeg from Chicago should stabilize the top six, which became a less stressful puzzle for Peters to solve the moment flighty winger Alexander Semin was bought out this summer two years into a five-year, $35 million deal.
The Hurricanes have moved to address their gaping holes on defense (some self-inflicted by deadline yard sales) with consecutive first-round picks in Haydn Fleury and Noah Hanifin, so while the future is bright on the Carolina blue line, there might not be much help for rising star Justin Faulk and Ward—or whoever ends up between the pipes—in the immediate future. Given the stacked quality of the Metro Division, it’s very hard to expect anything more from this team than another season of rebuilding and turning the page on the past.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Elias Lindholm. Of the former top picks who are slated to step into bigger roles this season, Lindholm is the farthest along, followed closely by fellow Swede and likely linemate Victor Rask. Lindholm, a versatile two-way forward, scored 17 goals and 22 assists in his first full NHL season and plays with patience that belies the fact that he doesn’t turn 21 until December.
PREDICTION: 68 points, eighth in Metro