Aug 24, 2013, 7:45 PM EST
Life wasn’t always that easy for the Carolina Hurricanes in the relatively cushy (and defunct) Southeast Division, so what will happen now that they’re in what could be a blistering Metropolitan Division?
If you judge the situation based on the past alone, it doesn’t look great for Carolina.
That being said, one shouldn’t dismiss the Hurricanes’ talent. Plenty of teams would be glad to boast a core that includes Eric and Jordan Staal, Cam Ward, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner and so on. Much went wrong for Carolina last season, yet if a few things turn, the Canes could be a far more formidable team.
Still, the situation seems foreboding on paper. Consider their division mates:
Columbus – Maybe the most mysterious team in the division, if not the NHL. Still, it’s tough to deny the optimism surrounding a team that is adding star power and employs the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky.
New Jersey – No doubt about it, losing Ilya Kovalchuk hurts. Still, this team quietly put up great puck possession numbers last season but had bad luck scoring goals and preventing them in 2013. The Devils could be dangerous if they can replace Kovalchuk by free agent committee and if more bounces go their way in 2013-14.
NY Islanders – Sure, they mainly stood in place this offseason, but the Isles seem like they’re on the upswing lately. GM Garth Snow has quietly developed into one of the league’s most underrated executives.
NY Rangers – There’s some turmoil (contract years, coaching changes) in the Big Apple, although that pressure could actually yield some fantastic results. At worst, they should be a playoff contender.
Philadelphia – There’s no denying the Flyers’ flaws, yet Philly could very well top Carolina in its strongest area (offensive creativity) while being comparable in their shared area of greatest weakness (playing defense).
Pittsburgh – It’s easy to lose sight of the Penguins’ regular season dominance amid fairly steady drama, but most will probably peg them as the favorites.
Washington – While Carolina couldn’t exploit the Southeast, the Caps must be a little forlorn to see it go. Washington seems primed to be in the mix, especially if Mikhail Grabovski is as much of a steal as “fancy stat” lovers believe.
Looking at Carolina’s neighbors, how many of those situations look worse than the Hurricanes’ predicament? Maybe one or two?
For the Hurricanes to return to playoff contention, they’ll need to prove they can stick with some tough competition. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if a few of those teams fall on their faces, too …
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