Now half way through the season, the Carolina Hurricanes are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The moves made this past summer have a lot to do with it.
If you were to ask most Carolina Hurricanes fans at the beginning of the season if they’d take the Canes current position in the standings at the midway point of the season, they’d probably say yes. The Canes go into the second half of the season as a legitimate contender to grab a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Much of the teams success this season has been due to the moves made by general manager Ron Francis in the summertime. The signings and trades made by Francis have for the most part all positively impacted the team. In just 6 months, the Canes roster has been revamped and been positioned to make a run.
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With half of the season left to go, and enough of a sample size, we take a look at each acquisition and their effectiveness for the team. We will only be looking at players acquired through trades and free agency, so no prospects like Sebastian Aho. Let’s see the report card.
The first of two greatly underrated moves of the offseason, Viktor Stalberg has been a perfect fit in Carolina. His speed and grit in the bottom six has be amplified under Bill Peter’s system. The Swede has helped turn Carolina, who was an already fast team, into a dominatingly quick club. How many times this season have we seen Stalberg and the 4th line harass opponents in their own zone, eventually leading to quality chances? His contribution on the penalty can’t be overlooked as well as his ability to attack shorthanded. Finally, his 7 goals at the midway point of the season is a surprising level of production for a 4th liner.
Lee Stempniak: B-
Here is the other underappreciated move of the summer. Lee Stempniak looked like he was shot out of a cannon early in the year. After two weeks of hockey, he was Carolina’s leading scorer. He looked like a great compliment to Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask on the 1st line. However, he has had a dry spell in recent months, producing not nearly as much offense as in October. Despite his slow down, he is still on pace for a close to 40 point season which is about right for his skill and age. Also, Stempniak has shown a surprising amount of defensive awareness. He is tied for having the best plus/minus rating amongst Canes forwards with a +2.
The signing of Matt Tennyson to a two-way contract this offseason has helped the Canes maintain defensive stability. Down in Charlotte, Tennyson was logging heavy minutes and producing well for the Checkers. After injuries and bad form opened up a spot for him, Tennyson hasn’t looked back in making it his own. He is still looking for his first goal in a Canes sweater, but after 25 games, he has done enough to keep his place in Raleigh.
This has been the only bad move made this offseason by the Hurricanes. Klas Dahlbeck never found much chemistry with any of his defensive partners, was a liability defensively many times, and was getting thrown around a bit. If it wasn’t for the occasional quality stretch pass, Dahlbeck would have been sent down a lot sooner. He has had an incredibly forgetful stint in Carolina.
Bryan Bickell: B
So far, Bryan Bickell‘s time in Carolina has been a rollercoaster. After playing only 7 games for the team, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He is working his way back to the ice though. He practiced with the team just this week. When he was playing, Bickell, who failed to score at all last season, scored on opening night. His presence was also felt on the powerplay. The team is still struggling to replace him in front of the net on the man advantage. If Bickell comes back this season, expect much of the same.
When you make a big trade, you expect a big result. So far, Carolina looks to be enjoying the spoils of Teuvo Teravainen. At the moment, Teravainen is on pace to set personal bests in goals and assists. He has exhibited immediate chemistry with fellow Finn Aho, making Canes fan drool at the prospect of seeing the two play together for years to come. Perhaps the biggest positive from Teravainen this season is his new goal scoring touch. In Chicago, he was also thought of as a pass first winger. With Carolina, he has shown off a pretty deadly shot. If the Canes hope to be dancing this April, Teravainen is likely going to be a key part of it.