Dec 29, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Mike Komisarek (5) with the puck as he is pursued by Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (21) behind the net at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Hurricanes 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Hurricanes Only Need Minor Improvements In Lineup To Succeed

Jan 10, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers center Brian Boyle (22) controls the puck in front of Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (6) during the first period of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s all but official that the Carolina Hurricanes will miss the postseason for the fifth straight year this season and while it’s of course a disappointment to fans to watch the team fail yet again, only minor improvements will be needed in the lineup to contend for a playoff spot next year.

The reason I bring this up are based on rumors from Darren Dreger, who says GM Jim Rutherford could shop Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Cam Ward this offseason.

Dreger also hints at Rutherford’s future with the team, which another, longer discussion for later.

First of all, trading Jeff Skinner would be an awful decision after the season he is currently on. Last year, it would have made some sense, but not now.

Eric Staal could be a viable trade option considering how much he makes and his decline in offensive numbers, although they are still high.

However, the Canes just need to make minor improvements at some areas of the lineup to produce a playoff team.

Bottom Six

This is the most obvious one and a holdover from last season. Finding a third-line center remains a prerogative ever since Brandon Sutter was traded for Jordan Staal to improve the second-line center spot.

Brian Boyle would be the best option in free agency, but trades are also an option.

From there, Nathan Gerbe should be re-signed to create a third line of Gerbe – Third line center (Boyle) – Patrick Dwyer. The fourth line could be revamped also, but Manny Malhotra is a consistent option at center.

Finding veterans for the fourth-line wings would not be bad idea.

Veteran Bottom-Pairing Defenseman

If the Hurricanes re-sign Ron Hainsey and Brett Bellemore, which they should, that will leave a defense corps of Faulk, Sekera, Hainsey, Bellemore, Liles, Murphy and Harrison. Not a great group, but they have shown promise in the past.

Murphy and Bellemore figure to improve with a year under their belts, along with Faulk, who will enter the season as a 22-year-old.

But if the Hurricanes can find a cheap seventh option, someone besides Jay Harrison, the team would be in a better spot.

Some options could be Mike Weaver, who plays an under-appreciated game, Anton Stralman or some pricier options include Chris Butler and Matt Greene.

Either way, getting a d-man that can handle minutes better than Harrison or Komisarek is a must this offseason.

 

Anton Khudobin answers any problems in net, while uncertainties follow Cam Ward. Finding a backup, if necessary, won’t be difficult.

In the top six, Jiri Tlusty has been somewhat of a problem this season, but has shown chemistry with Jordan Staal and can always be re-signed. Finding a better option would obviously be a bigger move for the team.

But right now, the improvements that need to be made in the lineup are minor. As for the coaching and general management, that may require some bigger moves.

Tags: Cam Ward Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal Jiri Tlusty

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