Three seasons and counting. That’s how long the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs. Each of the seasons since the ’08-’09 playoffs have seen a great share of ups and downs, leaving Caniacs asking the question of “what if” several times after each of those seasons. This post-season is no different. Regardless of what changes general manager Jim Rutherford makes in the off-season, whether it’s going after a top of the line free agent winger or defensemen or acquiring a top player via trade, there are still several things that the Canes need to do in order to make the playoffs during the 2012-2013 season.
Here are the top 5 things that need to change in order for them to make the playoffs next season:
- Eric Staal has to have a better start: Staal was a -23 and had 36 points in (11G, 25A) in 51 games before the All-Star break. His minus rating was the worst in the league for several weeks. Since head coach Kirk Muller took over and since the All-Star break, Staal recorded better than a point per game with 34 points (13G, 21A) in just 31 games with a +3 rating.
- The Canes have to improve on special teams: The general belief is your power play percentage and your penalty kill percentage combined should be well over 100%. Carolina finished the year on the power play at 16.7% (good for 20th in the league) and 80.5% on the penalty kill (good for 23rd in the league). Whether it’s adding another penalty kill specialist to the team or having different personnel on the power play, these numbers need to improve.
- October/November is just as important as March/April: This kind of goes back to Eric Staal’s infamous slow start, but it’s not just on the captain. It will be interesting to see how the team reacts under a new coaching staff to see if they are able to get off to a good start at the beginning of the season, so they’re not scrounging for points in late March and April as they have in the past couple of seasons.
- Give Cam Ward a break: Ward faced the second highest number of shots this season with 2,143 (Pekka Rinne faced 10 more shots in 5 more games played). He’s 4th in the league in save percentage among those goalies who have played 68+ games. The number of shots against and goals against have dropped slightly since Kirk Muller took over, but this trend needs to continue. Brian Boucher had an unfortunate injury happen this season, but he will be key next season to give Ward a game off here and there.
- Get points in overtime & shootout: This easily could have been the teams’ achilles heel this season, as the Hurricanes were 1-6 during the shootout for the year and only had 3 wins during overtime. “What ifs” are just that, but if the Canes just won half of their overtime/shootout games, they could very well have crept into the playoffs. Whether it’s a mental or a system thing, the Canes have to play with more determination in the overtime period to ensure that they leave games with 2 points more often than they leave them with just one.
What else do the Canes need in order to make it to the playoffs next season? Do you think they can make it with the team they have now? Let us know in the comments below! Check us out on Facebook at CardiacCane. Also, be sure to follow Cardiac Cane writers on Twitter at: @CardiacCaneFS, @Esbee92, @peacelovepuck, @caniaccaz and @caniac176