For the first time since I can remember, several hockey outlets as well as gambling sites have listed the Carolina Hurricanes among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season.
And why not?
The Canes earned the second highest point total during the previous regular season, (113) trailing only Boston.
They accomplished this while a couple of their key players had “off” seasons and their best pure shooter and goal scorer, Andrei Svechnikov was limited to just 64 games because of an injury.
The Hurricane defense was arguably the best in the league as they allowed a league low 26 shots per game. They also chipped in with 59 goals scored, which was 23% of the team’s total of 262 goals scored for the season.
On paper, the blueline should be even better this season. While losing only Shayne Gostisbehere and Calvin DeHaan, they added Dmitry Orlov and Tony DeAngelo.
Orlov was the highest rated defensive free agent signing over the summer. He is solid in almost all facets of the position and will also bring some needed physicality. He averages 135 hits per season which leads the Canes.
While no one would describe DeAngelo as a defensive specialist, he should help bring some stability to the inconsistent powerplay and chip in with even strength points as well.
The hardest trick here would be to find the best pairings and to keep all of the blueline happy with enough playing time. Good luck coach Brind’Amour!
Offensively, the Hurricanes should also be improved.
Newcomer, Michael Bunting has scored 23 goals for Toronto in each of the last two seasons.
Joining Aho and Jarvis on Carolina’s first line, the group has looked good in the preseason.
Right now, the second line of Teuvo Teravainen, Martin Necas, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi performed well but look for Svechnikov to fill in here when he is completely ready to go.
Jordan Staal, Jordan Martinook, and Jesper Fast remain on the shut-down third line and they are very capable of cycling and eating up possession time which helps their cause of stopping the other teams’ top lines.
Finally, Jack Drury, Stefan Noesen, and Brendan Lemieux will do their thing on the fourth line.
In goal they have the familiar pair of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. While both goalies are capable of performing very well, both have been prone to injury in the past. It would not be surprising to see the recall at some point of Pyotr Kochetkov who was recently assigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.
Again, on paper the Hurricanes have improved but also once again, an injury to a key forward could derail the season. While there is depth on the blueline, there does not seem to be any reliable, quality depth up front.
The Canes also did not seem to address some of the primary criticisms against them from the playoffs last season. Do they have a superstar player to rely on when the going gets tough? Do they wear out at the end of the season because of Brind’Amour’s system of “balls to the wall” all out puck chasing every game? Do they have an elite goaltender that can steal a game or two for them when needed? Will they get bullied and frustrated in the playoffs?
This should be a very, very good season but will it be a great one? Time will tell.
ECUPirate07 made some interesting predictions at this link if you have not seen it.