Sometimes stats in sports can be deceiving. The shots on goal totals can look fantastic, the puck possession time might be very good, and the individual player's CORSI numbers could be outstanding. But what if the team is still losing?
To the naked eye it seems like the Carolina Hurricanes are playing better hockey than they did last year. The powerplay has improved as well as the penalty kill. Some other stats have improved as well. But results are all that matters and the Canes are in last place in the Eastern Conference and tied for last in the entire league.
The Hurricanes have lost a lot of one goal games and this has some thinking that they are very close to breaking through and being a winning team. But are close games an illusion for false hope?
Many games won in the NHL are one goal games and several of the two goal games are the result of an empty-netter near the end. So just because a team lost by one goal does not necessarily mean that they were a lucky break away from winning.
For instance, the Devils jumped out to a 2-1 lead late in the second period and only took a single shot on goal the entire third period. They were perfectly content to win the game by one goal. While that case is an extreme example, (it is the Devils after all), it does show how some teams will go into more of a defensive mode when they are winning so it is difficult to tell just how badly they could beat a team if they really wanted to.
The Canes are having trouble scoring goals. Is it because of skill, effort, or having the physical ability needed, (being physically big enough to get to the front of the net and stay there)? It is probably a combination of those things.
The question I am posing today is, do you think the Hurricanes are close to being a good team? Are they a good player or two, (or healed player), from being winners? Are they improving and moving in the right direction?
Let's take a quick look at the roster and see where there is likely to be improvement.
Newcomers Jay McClement and Brad Malone have not contributed much on the scoreboard. (McClement scored his first goal recently and Malone has yet to light the lamp.) Malone was a surprise signing, considering he was given a two-year, one-way contract after only playing 54 career NHL games with Colorado over a three year period.
Zach Boychuk and Chris Terry, two players from the system, have done pretty much as expected. Rookie, Victor Rask has been a pleasant surprise, especially considering his all around game.
Riley Nash started out very well but his game has tapered off a bit as of late. You know what you are going to get with Nathan Gerbe. Elias Lindholm has had ups and downs so far, but nothing surprising considering his age and experience.
Jiri Tlusty leads the team with 10 goals and is on a 30 goal pace, so you cannot really complain about his production. Jeff Skinner missed a few games because of an injury and has also had ups and downs. He has six goals in 23 games so far, (on pace for 21) so there is room for improvement there. Skinner has the ability to get hot and light things up in a hurry.
Eric Staal seems to have played much of this season at less than 100%. He has six goals in 22 games, (on pace for 22), so if he can get healthier he should also improve.
Finally, Alexander Semin has been the biggest disappointment with just a single goal this season. No matter the reason for his lack of efficiency on offense, (mental or physical), the team needs more from him as well.
On the defensive side, Justin Faulk leads the team with 16 points and after a slow start, has played well. Andrej Sekera's scoring is down from last year's career best and his numbers now are closer to what he has done over his career.
There is no reason to expect more scoring from the rest of the defense.
Jordan Staal has started skating and will return fairly soon, (perhaps a month or less but the time frame is unknown.) Will his return be enough to turn this season around or should Ron Francis look to blow this team up?
What do you think? (please explain in comments)