The Carolina Hurricanes are as close as they ever been in the last seven years to making the NHL Playoffs. If they want to get there this season, here are 3 keys to getting back there.
From now until the end of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes are going to hopefully be pushing hard to secure their first playoff berth since the spring of 2009. Considering this franchise has been in the cellar for much of the last decade, reaching the postseason would be huge in turning the fortunes of the team around. Also, given the likelihood the Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs this year, an 8th straight season with no playoff hockey would give the Canes the dubious title of NHL with the longest playoff drought.
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A playoff appearance would likely reinvigorate the fan base and give the club hope for the future. Attention would rightfully be put on Carolina’s impressive young pieces and both local and national press would be alerted to the growth of the team. For all of these reasons, making the playoffs in 2017 would be huge.
The Hurricanes hope to catch up to the Philadelphia Flyers and overtake them in the standings. Here are 3 keys to making sure they do that.
A tale of two halves. For the first half of the year, there was no stopping Victor Rask. The third year Swedish player looked to have really found his stride in the NHL in the back half of 2016. He was outplaying Jordan Staal and others, positioning himself as the Canes best center iceman. Rask was even pushing Skinner for Carolina’s highest scoring forward at one point.
Those days were fun. In 2017, he has looked pretty awful. Minus a couple good games in early January, Rask has been one of the least effective forwards on the Hurricanes roster. On January 13th, he registered his last goal and point. Rask has been stuck on 32 points since. He has gone almost an entire month without getting on the score sheet.
The rise of Sebastian Aho as a serious difference maker has somewhat negated the drop off of center Victor Rask lately, but that just isn’t sustainable. If Carolina stands a chance of really challenging the teams above them, they need to be able to run multiple lines. Currently, the line of Aho, Staal, and Lindholm is playing well, but the rest of roster is hodgepodge. Should Rask find his footing again, Carolina would be able to run 2 major scoring lines, making them a lot more dangerous.
One of the major constants this season has been the Hurricanes great record on home ice. Coming into their bye week, the Canes will have posted a 17-6-1 record in PNC Arena. That winning percentage (71.7%) is good enough for top 5 in the NHL. Even if the Canes miss the playoffs, that should be commended.
The problem is that the Hurricanes road record is terrible, like third worst in the league terrible. Unfortunately, any progress made on home ice has been neutralized by poor road results. On home ice, Carolina is in the same company as Cup contenders like Minnesota and Chicago. However, on the road, the Hurricanes are actually worse than the lowly Colorado Avalanche.
Luckily for Carolina, they close out the season with a home heavy schedule. A total of 17 of the remaining 30 will be played in Raleigh. Assuming the Canes continue their home winning percentage, they’d collect a little over 12 wins, which equates to somewhere <24 points. Those points are extremely vital. It is very possible that won’t be enough. With such a poor away record, winning as many home games as possible is the only way Carolina gets back to the playoffs.
The trade deadline is sneaking up on everyone. NHL teams are allowed to make moves up until March 1st at 3 pm. That gives Carolina a little less than a month to make proper alterations to their roster. Over the course of this month, the Canes play is going to be heavily indicative of what moves the team will make at the deadline.
General manager Ron Francis would likely be checking the trade market to add an extra forward or two. Too often this season, Carolina has been subjugated to inconsistent forward play from just about everyone. The addition of any steadying forward, whether its a big ticket guy or role player, would likely make a positive impact for Carolina.
We have covered some options for the Canes a little bit ago and there hasn’t been that much chatter regarding the Hurricanes since then. The name Matt Duchene was been thrown around a lot, but direct rumors regarding him and the Hurricanes have quieted down a bit. As the gem of the trade market, a Hurricanes acquisition of Duchene would be huge. More than likely, Francis will elect to forgo the big fish and try and get another Lee Stempniak-esque player to help out. Other moves involving cap strapped teams have also been popular with Francis in the past. No matter what happens, the injection of new blood into the Hurricanes forward corps would be welcomed.