For more than a decade, the Carolina Hurricanes seemingly presented an all-or-nothing proposition: they’d either make a deep playoff run or miss the postseason entirely. Consider their remarkable results since losing in the 2002 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings:
2001-02: lost in SCF
2002-03 and 03-04: missed playoffs
2005-06: Won the Stanley Cup
2006-07 and 07-08: missed playoffs
2008-09: lost in ECF
2009-10 through 2013-14: missed playoffs
While there have been changes in the organization, the status quo seemed to hold strong in some ways; through 2013-14, this team continued to go as far as Eric Staal, Cam Ward and a group of highly paid players could take them.
With the noted exception of some possible rising prospects and the undeniably strong Hurricanes debut by goalie Anton Khudobin, it still seems to hinge upon what a debatable core group can accomplish.
Ultimately, it sounds like new GM Ron Francis and new head coach Bill Peters must drive change, then. The question is: how patient will fans be if the team’s struggles continue despite those front office alterations?
Earlier this summer, Francis made it clear he believes the “new cooks, not new ingredients” approach is a sound one.
“I don’t foresee a major makeover,” Francis said in June, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “We’ve got some pretty good pieces in place. I know it’s frustrating we haven’t made the playoffs in five years. We finished just outside (the playoffs) by 10 points, which is one win a month (more) over the course of (the past) season.
“We may do some things but we feel we have a pretty good group here that can compete and win, so there’s no real need at this point to make a major overhaul, in my eyes.”
For understandably impatient Canes fans, those comments can’t be promising, especially since the offseason presented subtle tweaks rather than a leap in either direction. After all, Eric Staal is good but probably not $8.25 million good and Ward is incredibly difficult to trade at his $6.3 million clip.
Then again, maybe that’s the point; the Hurricanes would be making moves from a position of disadvantage if they decided to blow things up now. A player of Staal’s talent and experience could be significantly more appealing and marketable if he enjoys a nice start next season. Ward’s Stanley Cup ring has a better chance to blind a GM if he shows the form we haven’t seen in quite some time.
Ultimately, this isn’t a cheap team, at least not for a squad that’s making golf plans by mid-April most years. With that in mind, it’s difficult to deny the notion that this team is another failed year – or even failed months – away from inspiring ample use of the word “rebuild.”
Related: Under Pressure: Cam Ward