The Carolina Hurricanes had another disappointing campaign last season as they finished out of the playoffs for the fourth straight time. After a decent start, the team faced season-ending injuries to Cam Ward and Joni Pitkanen which helped to derail their chances. They also lost the services of Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, and Justin Faulk for periods of time during the year.
They will be starting out this season healthy and will be hoping to stay that way.
The Hurricanes realized that their defense needed improving and have a few new faces on the blueline. Gone are Joe Corvo, Bobby Sanguinetti, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Jamie McBain. They acquired Andrej Sekera from the Sabres via trade and Mike Komisarek via free agency. Look for the defensive pairings to be Joni Pitkanen – Justin Faulk, Tim Gleason – Sekera, Jay Harrison – Komisarek. 2010 first round pick Ryan Murphy could make the team and help out on the powerplay.
Carolina did not re-sign Chad LaRose and the winger is unsigned and is still looking for a home. They signed Aaron Palushaj and Nathan Gerbe to two-way deals. The rest of the forwards will not be unfamiliar to Hurricanes fans..
The top six is set with Eric Staal centering Alex Semin and Jiri Tlusty. Jordan Staal centers the second line with Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu. The competition for playing time in the next two lines is wide open.
Joining Palushaj and Gerbe in the mix is the fifth overall pick this past summer, Elias Lindholm, who is penciled in to make the team. Patrick Dwyer had a good season last year and should also fit somewhere. Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Victor Rask, Jeremy Welsh, Brett Sutter and several others will be fighting for the remaining spots. Kevin Westgarth is the muscle and should also make the team but will not necessarily play every game.
Cam Ward is reportedly in as good shape as he has been in his entire career, so he will spend the majority of time between the pipes. The team signed Anton Khudobin to be his backup, replacing Dan Elllis, who signed with the Stars. If these two can remain healthy, the goalie situation should be fine.
Overall, the Hurricanes should be improved from last season and just the fact that all their players are healthy, should make them better. But injuries always happen and this team’s depth has been very weak in the past. It will be interesting to see if Komisarek can rebound from his disappointing stint in Toronto and if Sekera will fit in the mix. But the blueline should be better.
The top six forwards are solid but after that, they have limited NHL scoring experience and a lot of questions. The Hurricanes should be competitive and should be in the mix for a playoff spot come April, but it will not be easy in the new Metropolitan Division.