By: Ryan Smithers
Every year it’s the same story: the Hurricanes look like a playoff team on paper, but can never deliver in-game. I’ve been fooled by the Carolina Hurricanes for three years in a row saying, “This is the year they finally pull it together.” Well, will they? It seems like they have a 50/50 chance. I’m just tired of them making me feel stupid for hyping them up every season. They inch closer and closer by the year and this time, I feel like the Canes may sneak in there. In my 2018-19 Hurricanes Preview, you’ll see why.
I’ve got to start with their strong suit. The Carolina Hurricanes have one of, if not the best, defense in the entire NHL. Last season, the Hurricanes were just above league average in shots allowed and penalty kill. This upcoming season, I expect even better numbers with the addition of Dougie Hamilton and Calvin De Haan. They’ve already got a top-tier defenseman in Justin Faulk, but building around him with young, fast defenseman will make one juggernaut of a defense. Giving up Noah Hanifin doesn’t help, but I think they’ll realize that they’ve won the trade in the end.
This is where the team’s struggles have been the past few seasons. The Hurricanes have had their fair share of goal scorers over the years with Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. Now that they’re gone, they’ve got some new guys ready to fill the stat sheet. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen led the team in points last season, and I expect a few more guys to join them this season. I’m specifically talking about Victor Rask and the second overall pick, Andrei Svechnikov. The problem with the Hurricanes’ offense isn’t that they can’t get shots off, it’s that they can’t get the puck in the back of the net. The Canes were top ten in shots per game last season but were in the bottom ten of the league in goals per game. These young, speedy skaters who can create offensive chances out of nothing will be the key to the Hurricanes season.
Hurricanes fans got hit with some rough news Tuesday morning when the Canes announced that starting goalie, Scott Darling, will miss “a few weeks” due to an undisclosed injury. Darling, who was 13-21 last season, will be replaced by new pickup Petr Mrazek. Mrazek was 14-13 last season with the Flyers and will be expected to make most of the starts while Darling is out. Darling and Mrazek will make a great goaltending pairing, along with the stellar defense the Hurricanes have built around them. They’re not elite, but they’ll definitely make up for the loss of Cam Ward over the offseason. However, poor goalie play could possibly tarnish the season for the Hurricanes.
All these factors really set the table for the Canes in the upcoming season. The defense will be unbelievably young and skilled, while the offense should be able to create more chances with their speed. Goaltending may be an issue down the stretch, but we’ll see that the relationship with the defense will be crucial to the Hurricanes’ playoff hopes. It’s difficult to predict where the Canes will end up at the end of the season because of their inconsistency. It’s really just a shot in the dark. They could get a spot in Metro, or we could just have the same conversation next season.
The Carolina Hurricanes open up their season at home vs. the New York Islanders on Thursday night.