Hope for the Future: Hot Shot Hurricanes
Welcome to our latest series, wherein we detail why each of the teams who managed to miss the playoffs can hope for better days in the near future. Well, probably, anyway.
The Carolina Hurricanes finished the season on a roll that was the complete opposite of their play prior to Thanksgiving. Which one is the real Hurricane team, and should the league be on a storm warning for the coming season or will this phenomenon dissipate in short order?
Power Play: After a poor start, the 'Canes won on January 21 and initiated a 21-10-3 run to end season. It is probably not the slightest of coincidences that those 34 games also happened to be Eric Staal’s first 34 games as the team's captain (in which he put up an impressive 37 points). They were in the playoff hunt until the very end, thanks also in large part to Jussi Jokinen (35 points on that same home stretch) breaking out for 30+ goals. Chad LaRose (8 goals and 11 assists in 21 games) was a pleasant surprise when he came back from injury, and even 20 year old Zach Boychuk chipped in at the end with eight points in the last 22 games.
Shorthanded: The 'Canes have several older players (Rod Brind'amour is 39, Ray Whitney is 38) who they may not be ready to part with, and as we all know aging does not lend itself to a reduced injury risk. The team isn't old overall, but they aren't incredibly young either, so they'll have to hope that this late season run was all of their talent peaking, not just making a flash in the pan.
Shootout Win: This is the non-playoff team with the best chance of returning next season. There seems to have been a very bright bulb that went off with this team when Staal became captain that picked up not just his game, but that of LaRose and Jokinen as well. If they can keep up their late-season play and pair that with a now fully healthy Cam Ward in net, they might even challenge Washington for the division, let alone a mere playoff seed.