From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you“Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,”PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,”i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.
Who will fill in for Jordan Staal?
We say fill-in because lets face it, no one currently on the Carolina Hurricanes roster is going to altogether replace Staal, who is expected to miss 3-4 months after undergoing surgery on his broken leg.
With the No. 2 center position vacant, the Canes appear to be heading into the 2014-15 season with Riley Nash pencilled in for Staal. Nash, originally a first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers (21st overall in 2007) has 110 career games under his belt predominantly in bottom six role.
“It’s a lot of minutes that just went down with that injury,” Nash recently told the Charlotte Observer. “There’s quite a few guys in here who are looking for that opportunity to fill a void and take on new roles they didn’t necessarily have last year.”
Nash set career highs with 10 goals, 24 points and 73 games played last season while averaging 12:40 in TOI. If he is the solution as Staal’s fill in, he’ll get a significant bump up in ice time. Being the second line center could also see his career highs take another spike in 2014-15 as well as he is likely to play between Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm.
Behind Nash is 21-year-old rookie Victor Rask, who has 86 games of professional experience under his belt all with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. Rask along with free agent signing Jay McClement, who spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, will also see an increased role without Staal.
“It’s going to trickle down through the lineup,” new head coach Bill Peters said.
The schedule makers aren’t doing the Canes any favors either. Carolina opens the season at home Oct. 10 against the Islanders, but six of their first eight games are on the road.
Rookie GM Ron Francis tasked with guiding the franchise in the right direction
Ron Francis may be a hall of famer as a player, but as a general manager, he’s a fresh faced rookie and he’s been handed the daunting task of turning the franchise, which has qualified for the playoffs just once in the past eight seasons in the right direction.
Francis’ welcome moment may have come this summer when he tried, unsuccessfully, to deal goaltender Cam Ward and his summer. Lets call the Ward situation Problem 2 after Staal complicated things at center for Francis.
Francis addressed the notion that the team needed a fresh start after he fired Kirk Muller in the offseason, but a quick look at the team’s projected lines for the upcoming season and the only thing that looks remotely fresh is the team’s fourth line. Zach Boychuk and Chris Terry only played 10 games each with the big club last season while McClemment was with the Leafs.
“I don’t foresee a major makeover,” Francis said in May. “We’ve got some pretty good pieces in place. I know it’s been frustrating that we haven’t made the playoffs in five years. … We believe we have a pretty good group here that can compete and win.”
A team which hasn’t qualified for the playoffs for five years needs to make some changes. Francis will be in charge of doing that.
According to CapGeek, the Hurricanes have over $5 million to work with and that’s before Staal goes on long-term injured reserve, which he will likely do this week.
There’s also the matter of owner Peter Karmanos Jr. listening to offers in an effort to sell the franchise.
It’s alot easier to sell a team when the product on the ice is heading in the right direction.
Peters behind the bench
The only thing fresh about the Hurricanes this season is behind the bench as rookie coach Bill Peters looks to swing the hammer and get the franchise back into the playoffs. Petters vows to use ice time as a motivator to get his team moving in the right direction.
The 49-year-old may be a rookie in the NHL, but he’s had success elsewhere.
He led the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs to the Memorial Cup in 2008. Peters then coached the Rockford IceHogs from 2008-10 and was responsible for as many as eight players joining the Chicago Blackhawks and winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 or 2013.
Peters has spent the past three seasons on Mike Babcock’s staff in Detroit where he was responsible for the team’s defense and penalty killing.
So his answer, when asked about his coaching style, should come as no surprise.
“I want to have the puck. … If you’re not good defensively in the National Hockey League and you don’t know how to play in your own end, you know what end you play in,” he said. “You never get out of your own end. And it’s that ‘here they come again’ feeling. … In order to be a good hockey team, you’ve got to be good in the defensive zone, you’ve got to be efficient, you’ve got to be able to get through the neutral zone, and go have fun in the offensive zone.”
Peters is saying all the right things, but like Francis, Peters is in the first year as the lead man in his position. It’s a lot different when you’re an assistant compared to the head honcho.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Peters can lead the Hurricanes, who finished 22nd in goals for (2.50) and 19th in goals against (2.76) per game last season in the right direction this season.
Carolina finished 13th in the Eastern Conference last season 10 points back of the Detroit Red Wings for the second and final wild card spot.