Carolina Hurricanes scoring 2015-16 versus 2016-17
For the 2015-16 season, the Carolina Hurricanes finished tied for 28th out of 30 teams in goal scoring averaging a meager 2.41 goals per game. Despite losing 2 veteran scorers in Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg at the trade deadline last season and adding only Viktor Stalberg and Lee Stempniak from outside the organization at forward, the Hurricanes have improved modestly. (Yes. I realize that Kris Versteeg and Eric Staal were not exactly tearing it up, but they were still among the team higher-scoring Canes forwards when they were traded.) Right now, the Hurricanes rank 20th out of 30 teams in scoring with a slightly improved 2.60 goals per game. So that the simplest level, that is progress especially when you consider that there was some changeover from proven veterans to youth and also a significant cut in payroll spent on the forwards with the expiration of Eric Staal’s contract.
Increased scoring depth
If one looks at the 2015-16 roster and prorates (noted with *) scoring for players who missed part of the season due to injury or being traded, the Hurricanes had one 50-point scorer (Skinner), four 40-point scorers (JStaal, Rask, EStaal*, Versteeg*) and one 30-point scorer (Nestrasil*) at the forward position. That is 6 players total who were at or above 30 points.
The same look at the 2016-17 season shows modest improvement. Best guess from projecting totals suggests that Skinner will again be the team’s only 50-point scorer, but the ranks of 40-point scorers projects to grow to five players (JStaal, Rask, Aho, Linndholm, Teravainen). And the number of 30-point players grows to two (Stempniak, Ryan*). That makes 8 players with 30 or more points which is up from 6 last season.
The upshot is that the Hurricanes are gradually building a greater pool of NHL-level players capable of at least depth scoring.
But the deficiency is still at the high end
Right now, Jeff Skinner projects to score 55-58 points and lead the team with that total. Below him are players who will likely finish with fewer than 50 points.
Consider other teams who are likely to finish just above the playoff cut line.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs have a chance to finish with 5 forwards above 60 points. Right now, the team has 5 forwards tracking at a higher scoring pace than Canes leader Jeff Skinner.
New York Rangers: Interestingly, the Rangers are a bit more balanced like the Hurricanes, but even still, the blue shirts currently have 4 forwards who can match Jeff Skinner’s scoring total.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers look more like the elite teams in the NHL. Edmonton has Connor McDavid who is tracking to eclipse 90 points and Leon Draisatl who should reach 70 points. Those 2 scoring outliers along make a huge difference bettering the scoring of the Hurricanes top 3 scorers.
Nashville Predators: The Predators boast 3 players with higher scoring totals than the Hurricanes leader Jeff Skinner and still a similar number of 40-point players below that.
Important to note is that these comparisons are to the bottom playoff teams. The comparisons generally become tougher against the elite teams that mostly have 2-3 top-end scorers and still plenty of depth scoring on par with the Hurricanes below that.
How do the Hurricanes improve forward scoring for 2017-18?
Though I like the team’s progress growing its depth scoring, I continue to believe that the team really needs 1 more top-end forward, ideally capable of leading the team in scoring. If such a player had enough of a mix of finishing and playmaking and found chemistry with his line mates, my hope is that such a player would boost scoring in 2 ways. First, he would obviously add another player to the top of the scoring rankings. But second and equally importantly, I think such a player would hopefully boost 2 line mates. I think Sebastian Aho is capable of 70 points in 2017-18, but I think it is much more likely if he gets help in the form of a proven top 6 scoring forward.
I also think there is upside to be had across the entire roster if the young defensemen can continue to develop the offensive part of their games. Jaccob Slavin is surging right now with 10 points in 11 games in March, but I think the young blue line in total is barely scratching the surface in terms of reaching its potential in terms of generating offense. If the young defensemen can begin to even gradually convert their skating ability into attacking hockey off the rush, it will increase scoring chances and therefore scoring for the team’s forwards across the board.
What say you Canes fans?
Is there a path to enough scoring simply from continued growth that sees the volume of 30 and 40-point scorers take another modest step up?
Or is it necessary that the Hurricanes add at least 1 proven top 6 scorer?
What role do you think the continued development of the young defensemen plays in increasing scoring?