The Hurricanes haven’t won the Southeast Division since their Stanley Cup-winning 2005-06 campaign and they finished in the division’s basement last season.
Still, after adding Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin, and Joe Corvo over the summer, they can’t be ruled out as a contender for the division title.
Last season they lacked offensive depth beyond Eric Staal, but that was partially due to Jeff Skinner’s concussion-shortened season and the fact that Joni Pitkanen was limited to just 30 games.
This time around, the Hurricanes could realistically enter the season with a top line that features the Staal brothers and Semin. That would set up a second line that will likely include some combination of Skinner, Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu, and Jiri Tlusty. All-in-all, that looks pretty good.
Cam Ward will, of course, be their starting goaltender again and while he didn’t put up ideal numbers last season, he did get significantly better in the second half of 2011-12. He’s certainly capable of leading a strong team to the promised land.
Their defense is a bit more of a question mark, but a healthy Pitkanen would certainly help.
There are other x-factors too, not the least of which is Semin, who could be anything from the team’s scoring leader to a decent secondary scorer. However, they are a deeper team than they were last season and that will certainly help.
It’s also worth noting that they aren’t exactly the only club with potential issues within their division. The Southeast Division is full of teams that have both promise and plenty of unanswered questions entering the 2012-13. That’s why it’s looking like such a wide open race, but if nothing else, the Carolina Hurricanes have put them in a much better position this summer.