The holiday season is upon us, and the Carolina Hurricanes have completed 23 games. Their record is 12-6-5 for 29 points and third in the Metropolitan Division.
The reigning division champions are 9 points behind the division leader, New Jersey Devils. Mind you, the Devils recently had a winning streak of 13 games.
In second, the New York Islanders have 30 points, but the Hurricanes have a game in hand and play in New York this month.
Moving forward, what are the realistic expectations for this group?
The Hurricanes had a phenomenal season last year, winning the division and putting up 116 points, which was third-most in the NHL and second-most in the Eastern Conference.
Goaltending leads the way in success, but a lot of players started to take big steps individually which translated to big team production.
So far this season, the puck has not gone in nearly as much for the Hurricanes. Whether this improves or not, it will certainly adjust expectations if the latter comes true.
Other than Martin Necas, Andrei Svechnikov, and Sebastian Aho, the big point producers are just not consistently present. Sure, some depth players have had strong seasons in Jordan Martinook and Stefan Noesen.
Goaltending has remained strong, but it would be asking a lot for the Hurricane’s goalkeepers to match last season’s production.
The organization has been able to confirm that they have the goalie of the future in Pyotr Kochetkov. Kochetkov has had a great opportunity to run with the majority of the recent starts due to some fantastic goaltending.
This team will only go as far as the production level from Necas and Svechnikov takes them.
It is a lot to ask of two young players but if this team is going to compete for the division again, these two players will not only have to continue the scoring but step it up a level.
This is not to say that these two players are not capable of that level, but consistency will be the key.
The off-season acquisition of Max Pacioretty was a strong move by Don Waddell but time will tell if Pacioretty will be able to be the same player after recovering from his injury.
In theory, Pacioretty could be a game-changer for this team.
It is likely that Rod Brind’Amour and staff ease Pacioretty into the mix. In that case he will be arriving in the second half and ramping up to himself by the end of the regular season.
Fair to say that his impact on the regular season could be minimal but the playoffs could be a spot where he would be the difference maker in a series like the one against the New York Rangers last playoffs.
This is undoubtedly a strong team and one that has the capability of making a run for the Stanley Cup.
Brind’Amour’s style of play translates well in playoff hockey, but the scoring depth will need to come alive to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference, not to mention the Western Conference champions.
The cap situation will leave this group as the ones that will go to battle for the remainder of the season.
Getting to the “dance” is all you can ask for as a team and from there, anything can happen.