The Carolina Hurricanes 2013 season did not go well, but there’s only a few things that the team needs to work on inside the system to get back into the playoffs in 2014.
Special Teams: This was a huge problem last season. The penalty kill was weak and the power-play was not scoring. The penalty kill finished 28th, while the man-advantage ended in 27th. When one team scores on the power-play and the other cannot, you know you have a problem. The power-play began to perform better towards the end of the season because point-shots were hitting the net. The Hurricanes could try using winger Jeff Skinner at the point next season. Skinner has the best wrist shot on the team and would add more offense on the power-play.
The penalty kill had more problems than the power-play. One thing that can help turn it around is more blocked shots. The New York Rangers made this their prerogative for the last two seasons and it has taken the team a long way. The Canes could also use bottom-six forwards that specialize in defense so they can give the Staal brothers more of a rest on the penalty kill.
Gritty Bottom Six: The Hurricanes bottom six needs an identity. Right now they are skilled guys like Patrick Dwyer and Tim Brent thrown in with a tough guy like Kevin Westgarth. Instead of just throwing players together, the Hurricanes should try for a defensive third line and an energy fourth line, which most teams use. That may mean Dwyer, who is signed through 2015, and Drayson Bowman may not fit into the Canes’ system, but it would be better for the team.
Last year’s Stanley Cup winners, the Los Angeles Kings, used Jarret Stoll as the third line center and surrounded him with tough energy players like Dwight King and Jordan Nolan or a defensive winger like Simon Gagne. This is how most teams set up their offense and GM Jim Rutherford needs to put the players in place to make this happen for Carolina.
Defensive Defensemen: Its been a problem for the Hurricanes these past couple of seasons. Defenseman that can help the transition game and the offense, but lack defensemen that help clear the net and play strong defense. Of the Hurricanes five defensemen that are signed through next season, three would be considered puck-movers (Joni Pitkanen, Justin Faulk and Jaime McBain), while only Tim Gleason and Jay Harrison are true defensive defensemen.
At least one more defensive defensemen needs to be brought in for next season. Pending-UFA Bobby Sanguinetti is not the answer, but Rutherford can fill that void in free agency through a player like Douglas Murray or Rob Scuderi. Another option could be Brett Bellemore, who played three games for the Hurricanes this season.