Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.
You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.
Key additions: Andrej Sekera, Anton Khudobin, Mike Komisarek, Nathan Gerbe
Key subtractions: Joe Corvo, Dan Ellis, Jaime McBain, Chad LaRose
The Hurricanes are going to be good
Carolina is going to kill it this year. They boast one of the best top-sixes in the league, sprinkled with the right amount of grit and flash. The Staals are absolute beasts to play against, both owning a rare mix of size and skill. Jeff Skinner is a 21-year-old who already has a 30-goal season on his resume, and is primed to blow past that. Alexander Semin is one of the most pure offensive talents in the league (his 40 goal year was okay) – so much so that when he was in Washington people called him “the most talented player on the team.” Y’know, on a team with Ovechkin. And Tuomo Ruutu has averaged 20 goals a year over his past four full seasons. They’ve even got a cupboard full of bright young stars that could step in and surprise (Lindholm, Rask, Dalpe). That’s all in front of one of the best goaltenders in the league in Cam Ward, a former Cup and Conn Smythe winner who’s going to have a chip on his shoulder in an Olympic year. Their D is solid and reliable with guys like Gleason and Sekera, and even sports a bright young star in Justin Faulk (with Ryan Murphy not too far away either). This team is going to be a beast to play.
The Hurricanes are going to be bad
Woof, have you seen that d-corps? No seriously, have you seen them, they’re mostly invisible when the opposition has the puck. Joni Pitkanen, their only reputable d-man is out for the year, so…go Canes? At least they picked up Mike Komisarek to fortify things. And hey, has a group of forwards ever fallen off so drastically after two lines as they do on this team? I mean, their bottom six would barely be useful in the AHL. Dwyer, Welsh, Bowman, Palushaj…oh my. At least Westgarth can knuckle noses, I guess? I mean, what a mess. This team is playing in front of a goalie who was well below league average in his appearances last year, and they’re playing in an eight team division with at least five teams who are better than them (maybe seven). This team is going to be bad.
Flippant barstool prediction
They might be fun to watch, but they ain’t makin’ playoffs.
Here’s some fun stuff from 2013: they allowed the 2nd-most goals-against-per-game (3.31), which comes from allowing the 5th-most shots against (32.2). Their 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio was 26th overall (0.86), and their powerplay was 27th in the league (77.6%).
On the upside, they averaged the third most shots for in the league (3rd). So they got that goin’ for ‘em.
Okay, but seriously:
I like this team. I think Skinner is nasty and will be nasty this season, the Staals are unique, Semin is too…but I wasn’t kidding about the fall off after those top guys. They have to all stay healthy and all have big years to have any hope. They need Faulk to take a big step and they need Cam Ward to be who he can be (which I think is possible). But in that division, with an improved Blue Jackets crew and a better Islanders team…they’re going to have a tough go. Rangers are good, Penguins are good, Flyers aren’t pushovers… I just can’t see playoffs in their future.
Your NHL.com preview: