CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 04: Jeff Skinner #53 of the Carolina Hurricanes scores a goal in the 3rd period over Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on March 4, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Hurricanes 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Carolina Hurricanes couldn't have gotten much closer to making it to the playoffs last season. They missed out by a single game. The general consensus out there is that the team was weaker on defense than offense, and the stats pretty much support that prognosis.
The Canes allowed more goals, (239), than they scored, (236), and as we have discussed here on the blog before, they allowed more shots on goal than any other team in the league. Their 239 goals allowed were the 10th most in the East while their 236 goals scored were good for 6th in the East, so the emphasis this training camp will most likely be on improving defense.
Although, there is still room for improvement at both ends of the rink.
Today's question? Where will the goals come from this coming season and can the Hurricanes match or surpass last season's total?
Last year's scoring, by line: (The lines were mixed a lot last season, but we will use the lines at year end.)
- Staal 33 Cole 26 Stillman/Samsonov 15 Total - 74
- Ruutu 19 Skinner 31 Jokinen 19 Total - 69
- Sutter 14 LaRose 16 Tlusty 6 Total 36
- Dwyer 8 Bodie 1 Kostopoulos 1 Carter 0 Samson 0 Matsumoto 2 O'Sullivan 1 Total 13
- (Young Guns) - Boychuk 4 Dalpe 3 Bowman 0 Total 7
- Defense: Corvo 11 Pitkanen 5 McBain 7 Harrison 3 Gleason 2 Allen 0 Babchuk 3 Joslin 1 White 0 Total 34
The most notable thing to me from above is the extreme lack of scoring from the fourth line. Dwyer scored most of his goals while filling in on the third line earlier in the season, so under normal circumstances, the fourth line didn't do much of anything offensively.
Now let's try to do the impossible, estimate what the scoring might look like next season after plugging in the newcomers. We will make our assumptions based upon average scoring over the past couple of years, not necessarily what a player just did last season.
- Staal (30) Ponikarovsky (15) Boychuk/Dalpe/player x (15) Total 60
- Ruutu (20) Jokinen (24) Skinner (31) Total 75
- Sutter (17) LaRose (17) Stewart (15) Total 49
- Brent (8) Dwyer (8) Bowman/Samson/Tlusty (5) Total 21
- Defense: Pitkanen (6) Kaberle (5) McBain (8) Gleason (4) Allen (2) Joslin (4) Harrison (3) Total 32
The total of those projections is 237. Is that realistic?
The biggest question for next year most likely is, who will be on the top line with Eric Staal? The second line of Ruutu, Jokinen, and Skinner was so dominant from last season that it would be a shame to break them up, but the Canes might need to do exactly that if none of the other players can perform up to first line standards.
Much has to do if Alexei Ponikarovsky can return to form and if one of the young guns can grab the other spot. If not, the second line will be broken up accordingly.
The biggest opportunity for improvement in scoring would be on the third and fourth lines. Last season, the third line only was able to generate about 36 goals. With the influx of new talent, that total should be at least 10 goals higher this coming season.
The fourth line's scoring should also improve. The addition of Tim Brent will help there and Patrick Dwyer should continue to contribute. The other fourth liner will need to step up production, or he will be replaced with another candidate.
At first glance, it seems like the team will indeed be able to replace Erik Cole's and Joe Corvo's scoring production.
What do you think?