Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Metropolitan Division: The Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters
This is a series previewing the 2015-16 Metropolitan Division of the NHL. Up first are the Carolina Hurricanes.

With their dismal 2014-15 season (30-41-11, 8th in the division) squarely in the rear-view mirror, the Carolina Hurricanes are hoping for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

They did not make many offseason changes, but their biggest move was buying-out the final three years of forward Alexander Semin's contract. Semin put up woeful numbers last season, going 6-13-19 in 57 games and part of the general ennui surrounding the Hurricanes' offense.

They are now hoping for a bounce-back year from forward Jeff Skinner (18-13-31 in 77 games) and increased production from Eric and Jordan Staal. Elias Lindholm had 17 goals last season and the team is looking for more out of the 5th overall 2013 draft pick.

Carolina's defense could see a major boost this season with the addition of 2015 draft pick Noah Hanifin, selected 5th overall. They're hoping that 2014 7th overall draft pick Haydn Fleury can compete for a spot on the team and contribute. They also have Justin Faulk (2014 U.S. Olympian) shoring up their defense.

They acquired veteran defenseman James Wisniewski from the Anaheim Ducks for goaltender Anton Khudobin, and should see some power-play goals out of the defender.

Carolina Hurricanes 2015 5th overall draft pick Noah Hanifin
meets head coach Bill Peters on the draft floor.

With the departure of Khudobin to the west coast, longtime Hurricanes' goalie Cam Ward will see competition from Eddie Lack, acquired on draft day from the Vancouver Canucks. Ward had a 22-24-5 record with a 2.40 GAA and .910 save percentage in 2014-15. Lack, nicknamed "The Stork", went 18-13-4 for the Canucks last season, with a 2.45 GAA and .921 save percentage.

"They know what I expect out of them, how I operate, how I run the bench and what I expect out of them on a daily basis," head coach Bill Peters told "With the additions and deletions in our program, we're going to get a group that we're proud of every day. They're going to know how we expect to play every day."

In the ever-tougher Metropolitan Division, Carolina hopes to do better than their last place result from one season ago. Will they be able to right the ship enough to return to the playoffs? It's a far-reaching goal, and one that could very well be a few years away.

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