The Carolina Hurricanes are struggling to find answers to their team’s problems. Everyone’s got their opinion, but what is the Canes game plan going forward?
Among Carolina Hurricanes fans, there has been plenty of bickering about what it the biggest problem facing this team. Many, including the writers on this site, advocate a total overhaul of the goaltender position. Others prefer the “we need more goal scorers” argument.
Today, we address the underlying philosophies of both arguments. The “goaltender” argument as I am going to call it centers around the idea that good defense and great goalie play wins championships. The “scorers” argument is about looking at the game of hockey objectively, i.e. scoring more than the opposition. So which is the path to success?
To get a better understanding of Carolina’s needs, let’s briefly recap the rebuild. Since 2014, the Canes have spent the last three (going to be four) drafts acquiring loads of picks. Special emphasis has been put on the blueline, helping the Canes to build the best group of young defensemen in the league. That emphasis has slowed offensive progression though. In net, Carolina has essentially stayed the same as when it started on its rebuilding journey.
More from Cardiac Cane
- 2023 Southeast Rookie Showcase: Takeaways from the Canes’ Strong Showing in Florida
- Week Two Coverage Of College Hockey In NC
- Derek Stepan Ends His On Ice Career As A Hurricane
- The Southeast Rookie Showcase Will Be a Good Look at Carolina’s Future
- Noesen Ready To Provide Depth For Canes
It is very clear that general manager Ron Francis subscribes to the notion that defense wins championships. How could he not? Before he took the job, Chicago and LA were winning Cups with that as their model. As it stands, this is still his path towards the playoffs.
Building From The Back
Having an A1 group of young d-men is awesome, but pointless if there is no one good enough to help them. That’s the main issue facing Carolina’s team defense.
If you have ever watched playoff hockey, you know that goaltending the key to winning the Cup. If you don’t have it, you won’t win. Just ask any Oilers fan about Jussi Markkanen. There is a reason Cam Ward, Tim Thomas, Jonathan Quick, and Matt Murray won the Conn Smythe (Murray should’ve won it).
To put it in laymen’s terms, no team since the 04-05 lockout has won the Cup without world class goaltending. So, when you look at the Hurricanes roster of goalies, you just know this team will never win a championship without a better goalie. Lack and Ward don’t cut it.
Eyes On Isles
Offense Sure Helps
Stanley Cup runs start and end with stellar goaltending. However, that doesn’t do you much good if you can’t even get to the playoffs in the first place. This brings me to the “scorers” pitch. In modern hockey, particularly over the last decade, consistent offensively productive players are invaluable to their teams.
If you need proof, look at the Penguins this season. Their defense was decimated with injuries before the deadline, but Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel have kept their team more than afloat. Star players find ways to win points in the regular season.
The Hurricanes haven’t had a player(s) capable of winning a game by putting the team on their back since the days of the Staal, Semin, Tlusty line, which was in 2013. Even that wasn’t enough to put Carolina into the playoffs. Jeff Skinner was supposed to become someone like this, but for the most part he hasn’t. Maybe Sebastian Aho becomes that, but it is too early to tell.
Obviously it isn’t like these players grow on trees. You have to be lucky in trades, free agency, and with the lottery balls. Carolina hasn’t been in the last decade in terms of finding ‘that guy’. Without a main man (or two, or like five if your the Capitals), getting the playoffs is extremely hard.
Whose Philosophy Wins?
Generally, you need to be able to score goals to make it into the playoffs. Once you get in though, you need to be able to play some defense and make saves. The competition is too good not to. Comparatively, dominant goaltending can sometimes save a bad offense and get them into the postseason. However, eventually that strategy is going to cease to work in late April.
If the goal is to make the playoffs consistently, than the Carolina Hurricanes need to look at both arguments, the “goaltender” and “scorer”, seriously. Simply put, they must upgrade in goal somehow. They also simultaneously need to add more imposing weapons to their offense in hopes they can be a real difference maker.
The fact of the matter is that the best teams have both philosophies working together. The Pens have their stars plus Murray, the Caps are loaded everywhere, and the Minnesota Wild are stacked up and down the roster.
A lot of the opinions surrounding the Hurricanes boils down to something like, ‘if you just fix this one issue, all will be good’. That just isn’t true. Carolina has missed the playoffs so much recently that it feels like this team and its fanbase has forgotten what a great team looks like. You don’t have to look far. Just scroll through the 05-06 roster. There were dominant offensive “scorers” and in the playoffs, we had the league’s best young “goaltender”. You see, its a combination.
Getting back to that point is going to take more time though. This process will still involve more good drafts, smarter scouting, improvements all over the board, lots of ambition, and a bit of luck. Perhaps this rebuild isn’t as far along as everyone likes to think it is.