Preppin' For A Hurricane. Is Carolina the Real Deal?
Is Carolina the Real Deal?
If I told you a year ago, "Carolina is going to be a fantastic team very soon," would you have believed me? Of course not. They don't generate the most revenue, they don't bring in a whole lot of fans, and their team is not that good.
That was last year. The winds are changing. We finally see a team that will compete against the already stacked Metropolitan division. If we take a look back at what Carolina did this offseason, you'll see a team that's finally getting out of the rebuild. With a mixture of young talent and veteran forces, the Hurricanes are becoming a team to watch. Let's have a look…
Carolina has good talent up front already. Players like Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen, Elias Lindholm, Sebastian Aho, and many others are very good players. The offense was sparked greatly by Sebastian Aho. Aho put up 24 goals and 49 points. If this wasn't a rookie-filled league, then Aho might've been voted for the Calder as top rookie. He might've even won it! Skinner led the Canes with 63 points and 37 goals. That goal total is for sure going up. Jeff is only getting better and so are his linemates. Jordan Staal is only 28 years old. He was tied for third on the team with 45 points. Those are good point totals. Two players who's production needs to come up are Teravainen and Lindholm. Their point totals were 45 and 42, respectively. Teuvo and Elias are very young players who both have top line potential on this team. Don't forget, Teuvo has a Stanley Cup, so he knows what it is like to win. To help add another scoring and physical touch, Carolina brought in Justin Williams this offseason. Williams won a Cup with Carolina in 2006. He brings a strong veteran presence to a young lineup. Justin is currently on a two-year deal worth $9 million.
The backend is what is truly sets Carolina apart. The Cane's top four is set for years to come. Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. Now that’s a young talented defensive core. No one in the top four is over the age of 26. That’s insane. Faulk has always been the top defenseman for Carolina. And this year was no different for him. Faulk put up 37 points to lead Carolina's defensemen. The others didn't have a bad season at all either. Slavin had 34 points, Hanifin had 29 points and Pesce had 20. Good stats for young d-men. One thing sticks out with two players. Slavin and Pesce were both had a +23 rating. Impressive for a team with no goaltending last year. It's just another reason why they both got signed to long term contracts. This is the future of Carolina. It's looking good.
Finally. Finally, Carolina addressed the goaltending situation. Cam Ward wasn't cutting it like he was in '06. His stats took a dip with a 2.69 GAA and .905 SV%. The Cane's backup, Eddie Lack, wasn't playing well either. Lack had a 2.64 GAA and .902 SV%. Very weak numbers. So with that in mind, General Manager Ron Francis went out and acquired goalie Scott Darling. Darling had a very good season with Chicago, ending with a 2.38 GAA and .924 SV% in 32 games, winning 18 of those games. Scott proved he can become a starter, so the Hurricanes decided it was worth it. They traded for Darling, then signed him to a 4 year - $16.6 million contract. Now Carolina has a starter and can let Ward be the backup. Watch for Darling next year.
So, is Carolina a playoff team next year? Yes, I truly believe so. They have the pieces they need currently to make it to the big dance. But, how far can they go? Hard to say, as they are still very young and have a lot to learn. Be aware of the Hurricanes next year. You can never know when they'll wreak havoc on you.