The Hurricanes seemed primed to make a splash when they traded for Jordan Staal, and when Jeff Skinner emerged, but then they just sort of sunk into the mist. They haven't been good, they haven't made the playoffs, but they haven't been bad either really. They had 83 points and a minus-23 goal differential last season. Like I said, just sort of also ran status. Well, that wasn't enough for Carolina, because Ron Francis is now running the team, and Bill Peters is their new head coach. They will hope to take a step forward out the world of the forgotten, but have they done enough?
While Jordan Staal hasn't really emerged with greater playing time and greater responsibility after leaving the Penguins, he was solid last year, which was still a step forward, while Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner played well. Having said that, Eric Staal only scored 21 goals, which is far from where he was in his prime. This is probably Skinner's team now offensively, but he seems up to the task. The Hurricanes could still use more depth of scoring, and to figure out where they stand on Cam Ward. Ward was far and away their worst goalie last year. Anton Khudobin and Justin Peters both played well, but Carolina also got 30 games of Ward and his .898 save percentage. That won't fly anywhere, barring the use of a time machine to send Ward to the 80's.
You know, the Staals are only 29 and 25, respectively, so the elder Staal is still in his prime, while the younger is just entering his. The team has good young players, especially if somebody like Elias Lindholm takes a step forward, and Alexander Semin drives possession and shots wherever he goes. The defense isn't great, but it's pretty good. Justin Faulk is quite good, Andrej Sekera was quite good last year too. If the Hurricanes rely on Khudobin over Ward, the goaltending situation might not be an issue.
When I began the process of writing this preview, my assumption was that this team was going to be an also ran again. They were going to be bland and about the same as they were last year. Now, I'm not so sure. Skinner is really good. The Staals have talent. So maybe they could be good, if things break right. Then again, who are they going to pass? The teams ahead of them, by and large, still seem better, and Florida and the Islanders both improved. Oddly enough, the Hurricanes could improve, but end up finishing with a worse record. This is a mystery team to me. I shall be intrigued to see how it all plays out.