If you were away on vacation last week and want to catch up on what you missed, I suggest a couple key articles. First is notes/comments from a pretty meaty end of season press conference with Bill Peters and Ron Francis (part 2 with link to part 1) that offered some insight into the summer ahead. Second is an update on the Canes prospects who are tearing it up in the Canadian juniors playoffs. Finally, if you missed it, please take a minute to read our thank you that includes brief comments on what to expect at Canes and Coffee during the offseason.
In starting to think about what I think the Carolina Hurricanes roster needs to become between now and early October of 2017, I am noticing that the situation is very similar to this time last year. Important to note is that the team has become both better and deeper in the past year with the emergence of Sebastian Aho and generally positive step-wise progress by numerous young players. But the team is again entering the summer minus 8-10 points from a playoff spot, with need for improvement and with a pretty similar set of needed upgrades.
Just for fun, I am taking a shot at detailing much of what the Hurricanes need to do using only articles from the 2016 offseason.
No time for too much patience
Even before the 2015-16 season ended, on March 28, 2016, I wrote an article entitled, “This summer is NO time for too much patience from Ron Francis.” Francis actually was fairly patient last summer. He did make a move to add Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell via trade and also added Lee Stempniak and Viktor Stalberg via free agency, but he steered clear of making a big deal that put a bunch of chips into the pot for the 2016-17 season. Now another season removed from the team’s last playoff appearance in 2009, I think the same urgency article applies X2 entering the 2017 offseason.
Carolina Hurricanes’ relocation rumblings… part ?
Also, before the paint even dried on the 2015-16 season, I addressed the intermittent relocation rumblings in an article from March 28, 2016 entitled, “Thoughts on Carolina Hurricanes relocation rumblings.” The article also includes a link to an article to the long history of the Hurricanes being for sale in 1 form or another. The key word is long. Nearly every time the for sale/relocation thing comes up, the article is written with a tone that suggests this is breaking news when in fact the situation dates back roughly a decade. I have notes to write an update on the whole ownership situation, but many of the basics from this time last year still apply. Might as well read the refresher before we start the usual summer schedule of a couple flurries of activity out of Quebec in the front part of the summer followed by the N&O’s annual article on this topic in August or September. Fun times. Fun times are coming.
Ron Francis’ top priorities
After a short break at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, the second article that I wrote upon returning and the first that looked forward to the 2016-17 season entitled, “Ron Francis’ 2 priorities that could drive the fate of the 2016-17 season” went up on April 20, 2016. A few of the details in terms of personnel and contract situations have changed, but I think the Hurricanes enter the current offseason with exactly the same top 2 needs as last summer.
The Hurricanes goalie thing – AGAIN!
The goalie situation is front and center again. I wrote about this a ton at this time last year. Contractually, the situation has changed a bit. Last summer, the Hurricanes had an open slot with Cam Ward coming off contract (before of course re-signing him). This summer, both goalies are under contract through the 2017-18 season, making a change would require a trade or buy out. I started early on May 20, 2016 asking, “Cam Ward/goalie situation: Is it just time for the next chapter in Hurricanes history?” Ward’s 2016-17 season was a mixed bag, and I do not want to try to sort that out right now, but I in retrospect, I still think that was a relevant question. After Francis re-signed Ward, I posted my thoughts in this June 16, 2016 article entitled, “Carolina Hurricanes re-sign Cam Ward: Thoughts from multiple angles (part 1).” With Ward very likely in tow for the 2017-18 season, I think a number of the sections of that article are still right on including the section on “faulty math” as a potential trap again this summer, the question of if better options “cost too much” and the potential of the expansion draft, now much closer, offering relief.
Hurricanes’ free agent and trade options
As far as the other top priority, I got to naming job requirements and options for a difference-maker at center on May 25, 2016 in an article entitled, “Handicapping the Carolina Hurricanes free agent options at forward (part 2 – naming names).” Interestingly, 1 of the top names figured prominently in trade chatter during the season and another could be available this summer. So though many of the players are in different situations now, a couple of the headliners could be relevant again this summer.
Deeper into the summer on July 4, 2016, I wrote an article entitled, “Shopping the NHL free agency clearance rack for a #7 defenseman.” A couple of the options that I identified had solid 2016-17 seasons on inexpensive contracts and might have made a difference in solidifying the Hurricanes third defense pairing that struggled with a revolving door next to Noah Hanifin for three-fourths of the 2016-17 season. Though the other 2 priorities are more significant, I think what Francis does and how the blue line unfolds for the 2017-18 season could again be significant. People like to tout the tremendous play of our young defensemen and all of “potential” for even more players to step into the mix soon, but the fact of the matter is that both the second and third defense pairings were not good enough in 2016-17 in total and played a significant role in the Canes mid-season struggles especially on the road.
Keys to improving next season
As the summer wore on, and the season approached, I started to look more at the 2016-17 season. On September 7, 2016, I wrote an article entitled, “Formula for a better Carolina Hurricanes start.” The specifics might change a bit, but you can bet that will be addressed again before the start of the 2017-18 season. Finally, on the brink of opening night on October 12, 2016, I wrote an article entitled, “2016-17 Carolina Hurricanes Season Preview-Part 2: Keys to improving upon 2015-16 season.” Though the start of the 2017-18 season is still 6 months away, I can assure that 1-3 at least will be part of a similar article next fall.
With that nice use of recycling completed, I will be taking the rest of the summer off. Just kidding. 🙂