Peters and the Hurricanes are closer to contending than you might think
This is part of Hurricanes day at PHT …
The headlines haven’t been so great for the Carolina Hurricanes as of late.
Look a little closer, however, and you’ll realize that head coach Bill Peters is brewing something special in Carolina.
Peters prompts promising possession
When you look at various possession metrics, you tend to see the “usual suspects” among the NHL’s best. For one example: Los Angeles ranks as the perennial leader in Corsi Close while 2016 Stanley Cup Finalists Pittsburgh and San Jose finished in the top five this season.
You might be surprised to see the Carolina Hurricanes ranking in or around the top 10 in those stats, but it’s no accident.
TSN’s Travis Yost notes that Carolina has been winning the shot differential battle more and more under Peters:
So, yes, the signs are very encouraging for this Carolina group – a true ‘outsider’ from our usual playoff discussions, but one that could certainly become a problem for contenders within the next season or two. The underlying numbers have grown increasingly encouraging to the point where one would be foolish to consider them as an ‘also ran’.
There are reasons to believe that this group can climb the ladder in 2016-17 and beyond. Peters ranks as one of the big reasons why, as the ‘Canes noted after wisely re-signing him.
“We think we’re right there,” GM Ron Francis said in late July. “We want to get in the playoffs, and we want to have success around here.”
Green on the blueline
The Hurricanes’ young, talented defense corps ranks as their most obvious strength.
Noah Hanifin already has a season under his belt at just 19, and he could be Carolina’s answer to Aaron Ekblad. Justin Faulk, 24, flies under the radar as one of the league’s better scoring defensemen.
Ryan Murphy (23), Jacob Slavin (22) and Brett Pesce (21) have been getting some NHL seasoning lately, yet they’ll need to watch their backs for highly promising prospects Haydn Fleury (19) and Roland McKeown (20).
At 35, Ron Hainsey is the guy who can take these kids under his wing ... and maybe tell them about the days of rotary phones and 56K modems.
Scoring by committee
Jeff Skinner led the Hurricanes in 2015-16 with an unremarkable 51 points. On paper, this bunch still seems unlikely to blow out many opponents.
That said, it’s plausible that the ‘Canes may succeed in leveraging the depth they’re building.
GM Ron Francis bolstered their veteran ranks by signing journeyman Lee Stempniak and solid depth guy Viktor Stalberg. Teuvo Teravainen will have every chance to blossom, while Bryan Bickell could rebuild his career.
Much like on D, youth is the biggest reason to be excited about their forwards.
Teravainen is just 21. Victor Rask seems like a core piece at 23 after signing an extension. Elias Lindholm (21) is in that mode where he could make a quantum leap, too. Somehow, eternally boyish winger Jeff Skinner is just 24.
(Jordan Staal isn’t exactly ancient at 27, either.)
Work in progress
Look, this is not to say that the Hurricanes will be sipping champagne from the Stanley Cup in June 2017.
They made the baffling decision to re-sign Cam Ward, walking back some of the feelings of a fresh start. And, yes, it’s true that they lack an elite scorer.
Still, it’s been ages since the Hurricanes even made the playoffs, and they’re closer to that goal than you might think.