Season after season, the Hurricanes have had difficulty matching up against the more physical teams. In terms of pure physicality, the Hurricanes have not been a team that inspires fear and awe. With Muller's arrival as head coach, the culture is changing. He seems to be spearheading a movement to add more size and physicality to the Hurricanes' culture. It's easier said than done. As a demographic, there are not enough big, fast, skilled, physical, high character forwards and defenseman to meet the demand. They are rare. Their development is often lengthy and uncertain. There are usually far more flops than successes as a result.
High budget teams can afford to pay top price for these players or can trade away assets to get them; and then solve the holes the trades created by adding players via free agency. For the Hurricanes, the solution is far-reaching. It is going to require some rethinking on the part of the Hurricanes organization. They have to be committed to the concept of drafting not necessarily the "best player available;" but instead have to give more weight to the idea of drafting longer term projects who could well fail. One could equally argue, however, that the small, skilled forwards are also easy to misjudge. The example of Zach Boychuk comes to mind. Although I believe Boychuk will be a very good NHL player, obviously Jim Rutherford felt Boychuk was not yet ready for the NHL on the Hurricanes roster.
As a model, the Hurricanes need to consider adding an approach somewhat similar to the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins. They have a very clear idea of their identity as a team. They draft players who fit their identity. It means they pass up some very good players; but those players are not likely to fit their style of play. An advantage the Hurricanes organization possesses is the emphasis on character and team play. The Hurricanes also have an advantage in that the hockey community at Carolina is also welcoming. Players can live their own lives in a normal fashion and aren't constantly being bombarded with intrusive reporters or angry fans. The Hurricanes team also offers the chance for some impact players to make an immediate impact. With Eric, Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alex Semin, Justin Faulk, Tuomo Ruutu, and Joni Pitkanen, the Hurricanes have highly skilled core players. Players such as Gleason , Jokinen, Dwyer, Tlusty, and Bowman are solid players who compliment the team's top players. The Hurricanes both at the NHL level and in the system have more than ample depth players who can help the Hurricanes win. It should be obvious to other players in the NHL and their agents that with the addition of two or three more highly skilled players, the Hurricanes can be a good team for a long, long time.
What I don't see in reviewing each of the other twenty-nine teams NHL and AHL-affiliate rosters, are likely candidates for trade. The Hurricanes don't need a one year wonder. They need to add players who are here for the long haul. This season is not the season to rent a Doug Weight for example; even though he was essential to the Hurricanes Stanley Cup. It's time to think short-term and long term.
The Hurricanes have to look for players who are better than they are playing and who are in their coaches' and GM's doghouse. Brian Boyle is one example of being in the always popular Tortorello doghouse. Every year two or three players find themselves the object of Tortorello's negative attention. Brian Boyle is there at the moment. Columbus is an organizational mess. Ryan Johansen was just sent down to the AHL. He's a star in the making; and he is among the best young centers in the league. Few NHL General Managers have the luxury of too many solid, fast, skilled, physical forwards and defensemen. Jim Rutherford has a hard task ahead in finding the right players; and it's likely to be a job for the scouts and perhaps one or two UFA signings at the end of this season.