The Carolina Hurricanes have not qualified for the playoffs since the 2008-09 season but hope to change that this year. As Chip Alexander of The News & Observer reports, the team’s chances of breaking their seven year playoff drought will rely heavily on a talented, albeit young, group of players. Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Teuvo Teravainen, Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, Noah Hanifin and Ryan Murphy are set to see a lot of ice for the Canes and none are over the age of 24.
One of the squad’s few experienced players, Lee Stempniak, a veteran of 11 NHL seasons, says he has never been part of a team with so many youngsters expected to fill important roles:
“Not really, not with young guys playing this prominent of a role, especially the defensemen. It’s young. I think it’s a team with a lot of potential. I think a lot of the success for our team is going to be harnessing our potential. Guys need to take the next step individually and the new guys coming in need to fit in and complement the players who are here and find a role.”
If anyone would know, it would be Stempniak, who has suited up for 10 different clubs during his career, including four over the last two campaigns. He hopes his stay in Carolina is a bit longer after singing a two-year deal worth $5MM this summer.
Of course young teams are inherently inexperienced and some might feel that factor could derail Carolina’s chances of a successful campaign. Not so, says another of the team’s elders, defenseman Ron Hainsey, who at 35 will is 11 years the senior of the second oldest regular blue liner, Justin Faulk:
“This is a young man’s league. I don’t think it’s a danger. Speed, skill is the name of the game.”
Despite the talent and skill, Carolina’s path to a playoff berth will not be an easy one. The Metro Division fielded five postseason qualifiers in 2015-16 while the Hurricanes finished 10 points behind the eighth-seeded Philadelphia Flyers.
Another factor which may work against the Canes is their goaltending. Carolina ranked 29th among 30 teams in save percentage but did nothing this offseason to upgrade the position. In fact, the team elected to re-sign longtime netminder Cam Ward to a new, two-year contract; a deal many pundits thought was curious.
Elsewhere in the NHL:
- Positive news in San Jose where Tomas Hertl skated today at the Sharks first training camp workout and showed no lingering ill effects from the MCL injury he suffered during the Stanley Cup Finals, reports Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News. Hertl finished fifth on the club in scoring with 46 points during the regular season and contributed another 11 in the postseason. According to Pashelka, Hertl is preparing to play either center or wing though today he skated as the pivot between Joel Ward and Nikolay Goldobin. Hertl skipped the World Cup, electing not to represent the Czech Republic in the tournament in order to further rehab his knee injury. It appears the extra rest may have helped as Hertl looks to be on track to open the season at 100%.
- Tomas Fleischmann, who was set to appear at camp with the Minnesota Wild, has apparently failed his physical, according to Mike Russo via Twitter. Russo is unsure if that would be the end of Fleischmann’s brief time with Minnesota or not. Fleischmann was again attempting to catch on with a club after being forced to accept a PTO offer rather than a guaranteed contract. Last year he earned a one-year deal with Montreal in training camp and would record 10 goals and 20 points in 57 games with the Canadiens. He was dealt to Chicago at the trade deadline with Dale Weise and would tally another four goals and five points for the Blackhawks.
- The Ottawa Senators announced via their team Twitter account that they have signed forward Gabriel Gagne to an ELC. Gagne was the Sens second-round pick in 2015, going 36th overall. He split last season between Victoria and Shawinigan of the QMJHL and combined to register 36 points in 42 regular season contests. Gagne was even better in the postseason, tallying 22 points in 21 games.