Both the 2014 NHL Draft and the first day of free agency are over. Numerous teams around the league made themselves better in the last week, whether through prospect selections, trades, or free agent signings. As 12pm hit on July 1st and the free agent frenzy went into effect, tons of teams around the NHL immediately jumped at the opportunity to sign new players and fill holes in their respective lineups (although in most cases they highly overpaid).
However, when asked about the plan for the Carolina Hurricanes in the upcoming free agent period, current GM, Ron Francis, said that the team would do nothing beyond signing a depth defenseman, 4th line players, and possibly some players to help the depth in Charlotte. It’s good to know that Ron Francis is honest when speaking of his upcoming plans. As July 1st came and went, the Carolina Hurricanes did very little, as they resigned RFA Jiri Tlusty to a one year deal, signed possible 4th line center Bradley Malone, and signed AHL goaltender Drew MacIntyre. Ron Francis did indicate that the team may make some more minor moves, but also said no big changes would take place.
Something is wrong when Don Waddell, newly named President of Gale Force Sports and Entertainment, is the team’s biggest signing of the day. Throughout the off-season, Ron Francis and Peter Karmanos have continually expressed that they believe the Carolina Hurricanes have a current roster that is able to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and compete-little to no changes needed. When you miss the playoffs for five years in a row, changes are needed. After watching the team’s play last season, I think any fan would tell you that the mold of the team needs to change.
The organization is under a little makeover with Ron Francis as the new GM, but player personnel has to change as well. I really like Bill Peters, but not even Mike Babcock could come in and immediately fix the Hurricanes problems. As of now, here is a pretty good guess at the opening day lineup:
Offense: Lindholm-E. Staal-Skinner, Tlusty-J. Staal, Semin, Gerbe-Nash-Boychuk, Dwyer-Malone-Terry
Defense: Faulk-Sekera, Hainsey-Liles, Murphy-Harrison
Goaltending: Ward, Khudobin
The Hurricanes do have a pretty good amount of offensive talent in the top 6, but beyond that, the lineup is very weak. The talent in the bottom 6 drops off immensely, and the 3rd line has to have a better center than Riley Nash. As for the defensive corps, Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera proved to be a good pairing last season, and Ron Hainsey is a reliable 4/5 defenseman, but beyond that, the defense is also weak. Another top 4 defenseman and some 3rd line centers/wingers are badly needed. Paying your goaltenders over 8.5 million combined is also not acceptable. Competition is fun, but the Hurricanes need to establish a number one goaltender and get rid of some salary.
Possible free agents I think the Hurricanes would be wise to sign include the likes of Steve Ott, Derek Roy, Vernon Fiddler, Dany Heatley, and Devin Setoguchi.
If new head coach, Bill Peters, can make the team play 60 minutes of good hockey and strengthen the power play, the Canes may be in a decent spot at the end of the season to possibly grab one of the last playoff positions. That is a HUGE if. However, anyone who thinks the current Hurricanes roster can compete to win a Stanley Cup is sadly mistaken. After watching this past season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was clear how much bigger, better, and more skilled other teams in the league were. Unfortunately, the Carolina Hurricanes don’t stand a chance against the top 10-12 teams in the NHL, especially in the Western Conference. No one can look at the above lineup and say that the Canes have a team capable of winning a Stanley Cup; it’s not even close.
I sure hope Ron Francis has some trades up his sleeve or decides to spend a little more money this off-season, because as it stands, the Carolina Hurricanes are the exact same team as last season. As Francis plays it safe and stays away from the bigger moves, other teams around the league are getting better. A new head coach isn’t a fix for the team’s problems. Changes are needed. If no one within the organization can figure that out, Hurricanes fans are going to be in for another long, disappointing season.