Thursday, February 23, 2012
That is the headline that the Hurricanes from Carolina should be reading right now and feeling good about themselves. Going into the final 22 games, they have 57 points. In 8th right now, are the Toronto Maple Leafs at 65 points. I am guessing that the 8th place team will finish with 92 points in the East. So this isn't a post about getting on a hot streak and sliding into the playoffs, but one of those posts stating that even though we aren't going to make the playoffs, we are starting to see the team playing up to their potential.
The Canes are 6-2-2 over their last 10 games. The two regulation losses? To the flippin' Islanders! They got hosed in one of the OT losses to Anaheim. But the 6 wins are over teams such as Boston, San Jose, and Los Angeles. The next 5 games are at home and in order just to stay in the playoff race, the Hurricanes need to obtain 8 points. It is possible. We can beat Anaheim. Against Florida, Nashville, NY Rangers, and Tampa Bay, we have 1 win against the lot of them. But most of those games were when Paul Maurice was coaching the team. Kirk Mueller has turned this team around. I realized that in the last game, a 5-0 blowout over the underachieving Capitals. Carolina is back to playing a speed game. And they are actually not backing down from physical challenges.
The thing that has caused the Hurricanes to become a halfway decent team is the resurgence of Eric Staal. For some reason, the first 20 to 25 games, Staal looked like he not interested in the game. Maybe it was playing under Paul Maurice, maybe it was the concussion symptoms that his brother was displaying from a hit that Eric put on him. Maybe it was because the moon was full and he had a silver bullet nick him in the ear. Who knows. But what I do know is that he has shown the league that he is back to his old self for the past month. And with him back to playing like we know that he can, the team has started to come around to what the fans thought they could be.
Another reason for optimism is the extensions for the first time in Jim Rutherford's tenure as GM in midseason. Now he needs to bring in a top line player to solidify this roster. That is probably the hardest thing for him to do. Rutherford has done some good things here over the past couple of months, but he still should be promoted and allow the assistant GM to take over the GM role. If there isn't a way to bring in a Top Line Winger before the trade deadline, then during this offseason coming up, the #1 priority should be obtaining a pure scorer, period. I am tired of cobbling together wingers to play with our solid lineup of Centers. We need at least one winger that is a natural at scoring. We have young defensemen coming up in the next couple of years that will help solidify the backend. But the gifted scoring option isn't looking like it can be found in Charlotte. So it is time to go out on the free market or trade for a 1st line winger. Pair that person up with Skinner and Staal and on paper it would look like a great line to put up points.
The Hurricanes probably won't make the playoffs this year, but the future is looking brighter. Justin Peters is starting to look like he can become a nice backup to Cam Ward. We no longer have Paul Maurice as Head Coach. And the owner has hinted that he might be willing to increase the payroll even more if the right player is available. There are storm clouds on the horizon for the teams of the NHL and they are coming from Carolina.