2014-15 NHL team previews: Carolina Hurricanes

2014-15 NHL team previews: Carolina Hurricanes
August 30, 2014, 4:15 pm
Share This Post
(USA TODAY Sports)

As part of our summer series previewing the 2014-15 NHL season, CSNwashington.com is analyzing all 30 NHL teams, division by division. Today we continue with the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division.

Today: CAROLINA HURRICANES

2013-14 record: 36-35-11 (83 points)

Where they finished: 7th in the Metropolitan; 13th in the East; 24th in the NHL

Coach: Bill Peters (1st season)

Key additions: LW: Brad Malone, C: Jay McClement, D: Tim Gleason

Key subtractions: G: Justin Peters, C: Manny Malhotra

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin

Jiri Tlusty - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer

Nathan Gerbe - Elias Lindholm - Zach Boychuk

Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Riley Nash

Extras: Jared Staal, Sergey Tolchinsky

Defense

Justin Faulk - Andrej Sekera

Ron Hainsey - Ryan Murphy

John-Michael Liles - Tim Gleason

Extras: Jay Harrison

Goaltenders

Anton Khudobin - Cam Ward

Our take:  The Hurricanes haven't reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009 -- the longest drought in the Eastern Conference -- and are likely to debut next year with much of the same roster that finished in 13th place in the East last season.

The most significant changes the Hurricanes made this offseason came in the form of Ron Francis replacing longtime general manager Jim Rutherford and rookie NHL head coach Bill Peters taking over for fired bench boss Kirk Muller.

Peters spent three years as an assistant coach under Mike Babcock with the Detroit Red Wings; the same apprenticeship that landed Todd McLellan (San Jose Sharks) and Paul MacLean (Ottawa Senators) head coaching jobs of their own.

Peters takes over a Hurricanes club that has a terrific skater and sniper in Jeff Skinner, depth down the middle, a formidable top defensive pairing and not much else.

While Skinner had a career-high 33 goals and 54 points in 71 games last season, captain Eric Staal was held to 21 goals on the season, his lowest total in a non-lockout shortened campaign since his rookie year in 2003-04.

Staal hopes to be 100 percent healthy heading into training camp, after undergoing "core muscle surgery" earlier this summer.

The Hurricanes are also hopeful that Alexander Semin (22 goals and 42 points in 65 games) can rebound after playing much of last season through a wrist injury that required surgery at the end of the season.

Perhaps the injuries contributed, but the Hurricanes will need more production from their top-six forwards, especially on a power play unit than ranked 28th last season [14.6%].

Defensively, the Hurricanes remain thin beyond the formidable top pairing of Andrej Sekera and U.S. Olympian Justin Faulk.

Veterans Ron Hainsey, 33, Tim Gleason, 31, and John-Michael Liles, 33, provide defensive depth along with prospect Ryan Murphy, 21.

There are also concerns in goal, where injuries have limited Cam Ward to 44 games over the past two seasons. The 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner struggled mightily last year, with a 10-12-6 record, 3.06 G.A.A. and .898SV%.

Anton Khudobin (19-4-1, 2.30 G.A.A., .926SV%0 could be given a shot at full-time No. 1 duty, although Ward would be an expensive backup at $6.3M.

Will they make the playoffs in 2014-15? No, the Hurricanes miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year and for the eighth time in nine years overall.

Against the Capitals: Sat. Nov. 8 at Washington; Thu. Dec. 4 at Carolina; Fri. Feb. 27 at Carolina; Tue. Mar. 31 at Washington

[RELATED: Caps AHL affiliate releases 2014-15 schedule]