Carolina Hurricanes Season Feels Different This Year

Feb 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters (C) looks on from behind the bench against the Boston Bruins at PNC Arena. The Boston Bruins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters (C) looks on from behind the bench against the Boston Bruins at PNC Arena. The Boston Bruins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

For most of the last decade the Carolina Hurricanes and their fans have ended the season in much the same mood. Mad.

It really didn’t matter how they finished the season either. The fans always seemed to end up angry and frustrated.

If the Carolina Hurricanes were out of the playoff race in March, the hue and cry would start for radical changes and a new start. There was very little positivity from any fans, and their hopes and prayers for a better “next-season” would begin.

For those other seasons, where the Canes entered March and were within a few points of a playoff spot, the feelings were even sharper. Every game was do or die, and the team would play just well enough to be in the hunt with a few games to play. The anger and negativity were almost palpable when they fell a game short.

One consistent refrain was heard during, and after, each of these frustrating seasons. Complaints of the players being lazy and not doing their jobs spread like wildfire. “How can you get paid $5 million and not hit the net” or “I can’t believe he let in that soft goal” were constant comments.

Many times over the past decade, those complaints were justified, as many players seemed to be just going through the motions with no passion or commitment. At other times, the Hurricanes were just beaten by better teams, but nothing was done differently in the next game to create a better result.

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This year, though, there’s a different feel to the end of the season. I’m feeling it, and I’m hearing it from almost everyone I talk to nowadays. There’s a positive feeling, even when the Canes are losing. When they’ve won, there’s no “yeah, but…” comment from fans. They are genuinely excited about watching them play these days even though the playoffs are a long shot. Here’s what I think the difference is.

Coach Bill Peters and General Manager Ron Francis:

Ron Francis has put a team on the ice that we all like watching and rooting for. The teenagers that are getting their shots and taking great advantage of them and the two time All Star defenseman who is having a career season. The system that Coach Peters has successfully implemented this season is a fast-moving, run and gun, no fear system that he doesn’t apologize for, and in fact encourages his players to stick to.

“We’re gonna try and win every game we play. Doesn’t change. Gonna play fast too. Gotta get playing quicker again.We gotta get the D that are up now, a lot of young guys now…let’s get playing quicker.” Coach Peter’s on the remainder of the games.

The game is fun to watch when Francis’ players and Peters system is at full tilt. Defensemen pinching in, wingers catching passes at full speed, and a cycle down low that other teams can’t seem to handle on most nights. For everyone watching, diehard hockey fans or not, it’s the game everyone wants to see. High energy, high speed and high excitement.

Peters hasn’t even winked as the trade deadline and injuries have taken away key pieces to this system. James WisniewskiJustin Faulk, Andrej Nestrasil, Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles were all represented key pieces in Coach Peter’s system, and all except Wiesniewski were key in the way the team was playing recently. In previous years, the team would’ve folded and simply played out the season with what the could put on the ice. Not Coach Peters. He wants to use the final weeks of the season to see who can play in his system and who can’t.

He doesn’t want to wait until the summer to try and figure out who can keep up and who can’t. He’s going to use the pieces that Francis has put together to see what they have before the season ends, the draft talk starts, and players become available from other teams. He wants this team, whomever is on the ice, to play like it’s their last game, and if they can’t cut it they’ll be on the naughty list for next year. It’s going to be an exciting end to the season to watch.

The Players:

Season after season, conversations about the Hurricanes always started with a discussion about how badly they played the game before. Lazy players, weak defenders, and bad goaltending were constant topics. Even when the Canes won a game, the phrase “well, yeah they won, but…” seemed to always pop up.

This season, even now when all hope seems lost for postseason play, there is a positive vibe after every game. Fans and observers remark that the team is really playing hard and the players seem more motivated, whether it’s to win or just impress their coach.

"“It’s a game of mistakes. We just keep putting people out there. If you make mistakes, and you’re going hard, and you’re going right back out. On the other side of it, though, if there’s a bunch of mistakes through non-effort or non-commitment, now that’s an issue so I don’t think we’ll have any issues going forward.” Coach Peters on playing fast and making mistakes."

They are skating faster, moving the puck better, checking tighter, blocking more shots and making the games look exciting. Even on the days that they come out flat and don’t have their A-games, the speed and effort is still there. The games that earn any criticism by fans are seriously out-numbered this season by the games where they are excited about how the Canes looked. It’s a clear and definitive change from the last ten seasons.

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The Carolina Hurricanes are not going to make the playoffs this season. Yes, I said it. If they pull off a miracle I will gladly admit to being 100% wrong. If they are able to create that miracle it will be because of the General Manager’s collection of pieces, the Head Coach’s system of speed and movement, and the players improved attitude toward the game and the team.

Regardless of the final ponits total or the finishing place in the standings, Francis, Peters and the players are going to give the Caniacs a great product to watch for the final 17 games of the 2015-2016 season. I, for one, can’t wait to see the games, and watch this team become even better and more exciting over the summer.