It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.
Team: Carolina Hurricanes
How they did last season: 35-31-16 (86 points), 6th in the Metropolitan, 10th in the Eastern Conference. Did not make the playoffs.
Notable acquisitions: LW Viktor Stalberg, RW Lee Stempniak, LW Teuvo Teravainen, LW Bryan Bickell
Notable departures: LW Nathan Gerbe
When they will play the Caps: Nov. 12 in Carolina; Dec. 16 in Carolina; Jan. 23 in Washington; Feb. 7 in Washington
Analysis: The Carolina Hurricanes will try to take the next step in their rebuild this season by breaking into the playoffs, but they have some tough questions they have to answer first.
Despite having plenty of talent on defense with players like Noah Hanifin and Justin Faulk, the biggest concern for Carolina is in net where the Hurricanes return the Cam Ward and Eddie Lack combo that struggled so much last season. Ward managed only a .909 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average (GAA). Lack was actually worse with a .901 save percentage and 2.81 GAA. Despite the tough season, Carolina elected to re-sign Ward to a two-year deal, most likely due to a misguided sense of loyalty. Sure, he was the MVP in their Stanley Cup season, but those days are long behind him.
The goaltending has to be better or the Hurricanes are going nowhere.
Carolina also needs to start getting the puck in the net. The Hurricanes were 27th in the NHL in scoring in each of the past two seasons. Carolina lacks a superstar forward like a Connor McDavid or an Alex Ovechkin, but there is still plenty of talent capable of taking the next step. Jeff Skinner led the team with 51 points last season and is only 24. Victor Rask also looks poised for a good season after scoring 48 points. The Hurricanes added Teuvo Teravainen and Lee Stempniak in addition over the offseason to further boost the offense.
And everything is tied together by head coach Bill Peters who appears to be a real steal as head coach.
When Team Canada announced their coaching staff for the World Cup of Hockey, one coach seemingly stood out from the others. Joining Mike Babcock’s staff of Joel Quenneville, Claude Julien and Barry Trotz was Peters. At the time, I thought Peters’ addition was curious considering the others on the staff, but he certainly has proved himself during his time in Carolina.
Considering the roster the Hurricanes took into the 2015-16 season and the scoring and goaltending struggles they had, the fact that Carolina was in the mix for the playoffs fat all speaks to the strength of Peters as a coach.
The Hurricanes are in good hands with Peters at the helm.
Season prediction: Considering what Carolina was able to do last season with obvious flaws and a young team, the playoffs are not entirely out of the question for this season.
It may be tempting fate to say this, but the goaltending can’t possibly be any worse and if it is, that will force the team into making some kind of move to bring in another goalie.
Another year for the young core on offense should do wonders and I like the additions the team made in the offseason. Peters has established himself as a good coach and he has the Hurricanes moving in the right direction. The only problem is the division.
Carolina finished behind Washington, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and Philadelphia in the division. How many of those teams can Carolina jump in the standings this season? I see one, maybe two teams, but that’s about it (you’ll have to wait until later in the week for previews on the rest of those teams to see who we think will take a step back).
Still, a wild card spot is not out of the question and it would come probably a year before anyone really anticipated this team had a shot at reaching the postseason.
MORE HOCKEY: DIPAULI LIKED THE 'FIT' IN PITTSBURGH BETTER
2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS
— Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
— New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
— New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming soon)