What makes a successful NHL team? The answer to that question differs depending on what city you live in. In self proclaimed “Hockeytown”, Red Wing fans expect deep playoff runs and Stanley Cups. Other big market, high payroll teams such as the Flyers, Penguins and Bruins use the same criteria. For a team like the Hurricanes, just being a consistent playoff team would make me happy. I started following the Canes in 2000, after moving to North Carolina. It is hard to believe that they have made the playoffs a grand total of four times in eleven years. No wonder the playoffs have provided some many great memories for Caniacs. What makes this even more frustrating is that they either push for a playoff spot or are playing for a lottery spot. Injuries, poor trades or signings, and player fall off can impact a season. The stat that seems to have the greatest impact on the success of the Hurricanes is goal differential. In 2007/08 the Canes were a +1 and missed the playoffs with 92 points. The Capitals won the Southeast with 94 points. In 2008/09 Carolina went all the way to the Eastern Conference finals after a +10 regular season and 97 points. The Canes were +1 in 2010/11 before losing to Tampa Bay 6-2 in the last game of the year and missing the playoffs by two points. In 09/10 and 11/12, or as I like to call them the “seasons from hell“, the Hurricanes were a combined – 56. So it looks to me that if Kirk Muller can get this teams plus/minus closer to even, the Canes can at least make March and April games interesting. Believe it or not, I think the Canes have done three things that will improve on this telling stat. Either that or the North Carolina summer is affecting my brain.
Without doubt Jordan Staal will help the Canes offense. As mush as I was heartbroken to here Brandan Sutters name come out of Gary Bettman’s mouth on draft night , Eric’s younger brother is a top of the line talent. When Staal has played a full season, he has averaged 21 goals a game. Only about two goals have come on the power play. Taking into account that he played third line minutes leads me to believe that Staal can and will be a 70 plus point player with top line minutes, power play time and top six line mates. The other two reasons I look for the Canes offense to improve, takes a bigger leap of faith.
As much as he has driven us all crazy over the years, having Joni Pitkanen for a full season (about 70 games based of his history) will help the Canes plus/minus. Of course I don’t expect the Canes to become the Rangers in front of Cam Ward , or their goals against to drop to 200, but having a guy that averages 38 points from the blueline will help close the -30 gap (243 GA). Besides, I missed Joni passing up a point shot and skating the puck around the net. Well maybe I didn’t miss it that much, but I do think having Pitkanen back will help the Canes and their 213 goal offense. Now who Joni will be paired up with is another
story all together.
Finally, to show that I am suffering from some type of heat stroke, I am glad to see Joe Corvo back with the Canes. I know this puts me in the minority but since it looks like the Hurricanes are trying to score more goals than preventing them, this move should help. Although Corvo is not the player he was 5 years ago, the 35 year old has had his best years in Raleigh. In fact his best year point wise was 10/11 when, paired with Tim Gleason, Corvo scored 40 points (11G/29A). Never mind that he was -14, we are taking about offense here. I don’t see Corvo playing Bryan Allen minutes but I don’t think that is why Jim Rutherford brought Joe back.
Now none of these additions take away from the fact that the Canes still need another winger for the top six. That addition seems like it will take place later rather than sooner. But if Jim Rutherford can pull something off without giving up other important pieces, there is no reason that Canes can not get back into the playoffs and become that consistent, successful team that Caniacs want.