Hurricanes: Carolina’s Changing Winds Still Blow in Uncertain Directions

Here’s something obvious: the Carolina Hurricanes have had a busy summer.

It started with the anointing of Rod Brind’Amour as new head coach. He took over after Bill Peters went to the Calgary Flames.

And then Don Waddell became general manager, filling the gap left behind by Ron Francis when he was removed from the position in March.

Since then, the Hurricanes continue to shuffle the deck. Jeff Skinner was sent to Buffalo. Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin went to Calgary.

UFA Calvin de Haan signed a four-year contract in July. Defenceman Dougie Hamilton, forward Michael Ferland and goalie Petr Mrazek were among those attained by the ‘Canes.

So, what does all this mean?

In goal, it means a more dependable tandem. Probably.

Starter Scott Darling fought through large parts of last season, finishing with a 13-21-7 record under the heavy load. This happened despite the Hurricanes allowing the fewest shots on goal in the league.

Darling will look for a bounce-back campaign in 2018-2019, but Mrazek’s one-year contract will have a lot to do with how much playing time he gets. Mrazek struggled last season with Detroit and Philadelphia, finishing with a 3.03 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

Up the middle, it means the Hurricanes have decisions to make.

This is, after all, a team that is weak at centre. Brind’Amour will have to make the call on Sebastian Aho, who was moved to centre last season. The 21-year-old looks better on the wing, but there are issues to iron out. Jordan Staal is the top pivot if Aho switches back to wing, which puts the spotlight on Victor Rask.

Nove Mesto na Morave’s Martin Necas is a possibility, but the ‘Canes are hoping develop him a little more. The 2017 first-rounder is strong and offensively-minded, so he’s the future for Carolina.

The Hurricanes are a young team and they can score goals, plus their defence is solid enough with Hamilton, Justin Faulk, de Haan, and Jaccob Slavin putting together an impressive core group.

And they’ve got a knowledgeable management group under owner Tom Dundon, who has Rick Dudley as his senior vice president of hockey operations and Paul Krepelka as his vice president of hockey operations. This may be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen – I’m looking at you, 2006 New York Islanders – but for this group it may pan out.

However things go, this is a new era for the club. It’s hard to say this is a playoff team, but these guys could surprise a few people and make a late charge if they get good goaltending. Or it could all bottom out and Brind’Amour and Co. will hit the line next summer. Either way, stay tuned.

Published by Dr. Pucksworth

Doctor of Puckanomics.

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