SB Nation is revealing our huge NHL Season Preview later this morning, (SB Nation 2014-15 Season Preview) and in conjunction with this, we have three questions to answer which were posed in the Hurricanes preview. I'll do my best to answer them below:
1. Can this team stay relatively healthy all season?
Well that question, which was asked before the Jordan Staal injury, has kind of answered itself already. But even if I did not know about the Staal injury, I would have had to answer "no". Several players of this team have had a tough time staying healthy in recent seasons and there is no reason to expect that to change now.
Cam Ward has been struggling with injuries the past two seasons. Eric Staal has already had surgery over the offseason. Jiri Tlusty has also been fighting various injuries much of his career.
Having said this, all teams face injury problems off and on during the course of an NHL season, so this problem is not for the Hurricanes alone.
The good organizations use their depth to fight their way through them and continue to win, the not so good organizations fall by the wayside. We will see how the Canes adjust to the injuries this season.
2. Will one or more of the youngsters step up and be a consistent scorer?
I will answer "yes" to this question. At least one of them should step up.
Elias Lindholm is primed to be a consistent contributor this season. Not only does he have the skill, but he will also have ample opportunity and will be playing with some top end talent as well. Now with J. Staal out for a long period of time, he will have even more opportunity.
I also look for Ryan Murphy to play more of an important role this year. Coach Peters has already stated that he is looking to take advantage of the defenseman's skill on the powerplay. As the coach said, the blueliner has been successful at all other levels, he should be for the Canes as well.
I look for Murphy to continue to improve and contribute more on the score sheet this season, especially with the man advantage.
3. Will Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin turn out to be a well working tandem and push each other to consistent maximum performance, or do they both need to play the majority of games and will fail to play at their best because of that?
It can be tough when a team has two, "number one" goalies who expect and think that they deserve to play the majority of games. Some goalies need to play several games in a row to keep at their best. They do not play well with spot duty because they never get into a groove.
Looking at past history, Khudobin seems to be a bit more flexible in this area, perhaps because he has experience being a backup goalie. He seems to play about the same, if he plays one game a week, or many games in a row.
Ward on the other hand seems to need more work to play at his best. He complained about such last year, that he never got in enough action to get back into a groove.
In a perfect world for the Hurricanes, Ward would be back on top of his game of old and win the starting job, while Khudobin could fill in as needed, with little to no fall back in net. But so far this early preseason, that has not been the case.
Coach Peters said earlier that he wished to have a "stud" to rely on in goal, someone who could play the majority of games and it seemed he preferred not to want to split the duty evenly.
If Khudobin wins the number one job again this year, will Ward be an effective back up? We will see.
As much as fans would love to see both goalies excel and post .925 save percentages, it's unlikely to happen. I will answer this question "to be determined".