Carolina Hurricanes: What does this team need to make a deep playoff run?

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 19: Cam Ward #30 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Edmonton Oilers in game seven of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 19, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.
RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 19: Cam Ward #30 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Edmonton Oilers in game seven of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 19, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. /

It has been some time since fans of the Carolina Hurricanes witnessed playoff hockey. As the team battles hard in every game for their post-season future, we look at what the team needs in order to make a deep playoff run.

When it comes to building a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup, there is no guaranteed formula. Recent dynasties like the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins had a mix of stellar goaltending, star-led defense, and a bevvy of elite scorers doing the heavy lifting supported by a solid mix of veterans. What do the Carolina Hurricanes have? We have good goaltending, an all-round great defense, and three elite scorers supported by a solid mix of veterans.

It could easily be argued that this Canes team already has the elements it needs to make a run at a second Stanley Cup – but what does this team need in order to make a deep playoff run?

Well-rested goalies

Teams who ride their number one goalies through the regular season suddenly start resting those star netminders as the regular season winds down, if they can afford to do so. The Carolina Hurricanes are unlikely to be able to afford such a luxury, but perhaps the Canes should consider calling up youngster Alex Nedeljkovic for a handful of games towards the end of the season, if their playoff spot is more secure?

One note of caution: Curtis McElhinney has only ever seen the ice in two playoff games, losing both for a GAA of 3.70 and a save percentage of .848%. Is it expecting too much for him to share the burden of playoff goaltending? Petr Mrazek, on the other hand, has a stellar playoff resume: 10 starts, 4 wins, 1.98 GAA and .927% save percentage.

If this team makes the playoffs, it’s not unreasonable to expect Mrazek to be the 1A to McElhinney’s 1B.

Star players taking responsibility

This isn’t something that the Carolina Hurricanes need to worry about. 2019 NHL All-Star Sebastian Aho leads the team in goals, assists and points; Teuvo Teravainen is on the verge of a career year, and Nino Niederreiter is a point-per-game player since his arrival from the Minnesota Wild.

Add in captain Justin Williams in some of his best form for years, Micheal Ferland chipping in offensively and the defense sharing their offensive burden amongst them, there’s no issue with key players not stepping up. Every player on this team knows his role and what’s expected of him, and playoff hockey won’t change that.

This team would be dialled in from the first puck drop in Game 1, if we can make it to the post-season.


This is another area where the Carolina Hurricanes will come out well if they make the playoffs. When your season is on the line, it’s often the team that takes a risk that comes out on top. Under Rod Brind’Amour, the Carolina Hurricanes play some mesmerizing hockey – and with defensemen like Justin Faulk and Dougie Hamilton, their efforts in the neutral and offensive zones may be the difference between winning a playoff series, and playing it safe and being sent home meekly.

Any team with the likes of Aho, Teravainen and Niederreiter needn’t worry about taking risks – these guys see the ice like few others, and will make plays that few others will have the vision to spot. If you’re looking for a team to take risks and go guts-for-glory, this Carolina Hurricanes team is one to look out for.

Depth in reserve

One of the most under-rated elements of any successful team’s playoff run is having strength in depth. While many players will play through serious injuries and put their bodies on the line for the cause, the quality of the players stepping in at short notice can make a huge difference to a team’s ability to make a deep run in the playoffs.

This is another area where the Carolina Hurricanes will be absolutely fine. One look at the AHL-leading Charlotte Checkers will show a roster full of players who could step up and contribute. Any of Martin Necas, Janne Kuokkanen, Andrew Poturalski, Aleski Saarela, Nicolas Roy, Clark Bishop, Jake Bean, Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown and Alex Nedeljkovic would all be more than capable of playing solid minutes if the Canes made the playoffs and lost a man to injury or suspension.

There is no need for Don Waddell to add depth for depth’s sake at the trade deadline – this team already has the depth it needs.

Playoff beards

This is a very serious concern. The Carolina Hurricanes have so many young superstars – but have Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele or Andrei Svechnikov ever grown a proper beard?

NHL playoff hockey is renowned for two things: anything goes refereeing decisions, where the regular season rulebook gets thrown out of the window, and beards. Can you imagine our greybeard captain Justin Williams skating with Aho and Nino Niederreiter, both trying unsuccessfully to grow a face full or hair?

Perhaps rookie coach Rod Brind’Amour will throw a curveball and allow players to manage their own facial hair. Can you imagine how old-timer hockey analysts might react to such behavior?

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The Carolina Hurricanes have an excellent roster. They have a good balance of skill and grit, of speed and control, of youth and experience. In Rod Brind’Amour they have a coach who inspires them, gets the best out of them, and who has been there and done it all as a player. If the Canes can secure a playoff spot, they will be a dark horse in the Eastern Conference.