Although the Carolina Hurricanes’ season ended prematurely, there are several positive takeaways as the team looks to next season.
As the pain from the first-round loss to the Boston Bruins begins to subside, Caniacs have many reasons to look forward to next season with hopeful anticipation. Andrei Svechnikov and Brett Pesce will be healthy and ready to play, along with Joel Edmundson if he is resigned by the team. Plus, back to back years of playoff appearances bode well for the young team.
As I wrote about prior, the Hurricanes certainly have work to do to remain in the chase for the Stanley Cup next season. The top priority, in my opinion, is filling out the front line with depth players that can score. The most glaring weakness from the Boston series was the lack of scoring once Andrei Svechnikov was injured and unable to play.
However, as Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour and General Manager Don Waddell talk about below, the team is young and that is a great asset to have for any NHL team. During the end of season wrap up the conference, Brind’Amour said “I feel like our guys took a big step, especially our younger players. Like I said after, as long as we learn from that, that experience will be valuable moving forward.” With that in mind, let’s talk about some positive playoff takeaways.
First on my list is the continued dominance of the SAT line, consisting of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen. This line accounted for 190 points this season, which is remarkably over 30 % of the team’s total points. I truly believe the best years for these young forwards are to come.
There are numerous players that deserve mentioning that made an impact during the playoffs this year, but Martin Necas is another player that caught my eye consistently during both series. Even though he only came away with four points, I thought he was excellent on the ice and made himself noticeable during each shift.
I also talked about Vincent Trocheck recently because I believe he is on the verge of discovering his game with the Hurricanes. He created several excellent chances during the playoffs with quick hands and great vision, and when he starts scoring I believe he will quickly climb the scoring leaderboard.
Brind’Amour also noted the mental fortitude of his team. “What excites me – and you’ve heard me say this all the time – is their will to get better.” The mental aspect of hockey is such a huge part of achieving success in the league, and I think this desire to improve will find the Hurricanes in the playoffs for the third straight year in a row.
The second positive of the playoffs is a part of the Carolina Hurricanes that many fans once viewed as a weakness: the goaltending. I’ll admit it, I had my doubts at certain points during the season, but I am happy to say that I am confident in the goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer.
While the defining moment for the series in terms of goaltending was Reimer’s incredible stops against the Rangers in game three, Mrazek was solid and composed throughout his time in the net. Although he is known to set up outside of the crease, I was impressed with his composure and decision to play tighter against the net.
James Reimer completed the playoffs with a .934 save percentage, and Petr Mrazek maintained a .929 save percentage. Both goalies honestly kept Carolina in the series against Boston despite low offensive numbers for the Hurricanes. Brind’Amours decision to maintain a rotation between the two netminders certainly turned out to be a great decision for the team.
While the goaltending situation may look different after next year for the Hurricanes, I believe that with the defense firing on all cylinders in front of them, both Mrazek and Reimer will be more than reliable next season and give the team the edge they need to stay at the top of the division.
The last positive takeaway from the playoffs is that I am confident in the roster as a whole. Yes, changes can be important and are necessary for teams to improve as I have alluded to before, but I don’t believe that the Hurricanes need to look at overhauling entire lines or need to make drastic decisions to bring in talent.
General Manager Don Waddell also talks about this in the closeout conference. “We want to be careful. If we can upgrade our team at any position, we’ll certainly look at that, but we’re not out here saying we have to make wholesale changes to our lineup”.
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This is perhaps one of the best aspects of the upcoming season. While there is room for improvement for each player, I believe that the Hurricanes will mostly look the same next season. I think that the organization has the right mindset in pushing their roster to improve instead of making drastic changes that may or may not pay off.
Caniacs, while it is hard to not see our team advance to the next round, I believe this team and am confident that we will see a better organization next year than we did this year. With these positives in mind, I am looking forward to what next season has in store for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Question for CC Readers: What are your expectations for next season?