After eight years of playoff misses and a recent tendency to doom the season in October and November, anything short of clearly good is likely to stir up some combination of anxiety, paranoia and bad deja vu in Carolina Hurricanes fans.
The Hurricanes 4-4-2 start is not bad, but it is not so clearly good as to indicate that the 2017-18 season will be a new kind of story. And while it is possible that the current season follows recent history and goes south, there are also reasons to believe that the next leg is up.
Here are reasons to think that 4-4-2 is a foundation from which the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes will ultimately rise higher.
1) Recent history suggests the team will start clicking by early December
In both of the past two seasons, the Hurricanes have figured it out and played an extended stretch of good hockey but not until December and not until a huge hold had already been dug. In that regard, treading water at 4-4-2 or similar for October and maybe even November could be considered a positive. If the team could do that and then follow up by finding a higher gear in December as in recent years, then a playoff push seems likely.
2) The team is still incredibly young and has the potential to grow as the season progresses
The Hurricanes’ lineup is still chock full of young players who theoretically still have room to improve. It is not inconceivable that things suddenly click for Noah Hanifin just like they did for Elias Lindholm at about the midway point of the 2016-17 season. Key players Haydn Fleury, Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho all have two or fewer seasons of NHL experience and could still improve.
3) Things have not clicked and the record is still decent
One could make a case that the Hurricanes are currently playing in the low end of the range possible for the team. Neither special teams unit is clicking yet. The offense has struggled sporadically. And starting goalie Scott Darling is playing below the level he played at during the past two years. I would also say that the team has yet to develop an identity and/or find a repeatable formula for winning. Even modest progress on some of these fronts could boost the Hurricanes to a higher level of play.
4) Francis has a move or two in him if needed
By making key additions without spending a ton of high-end futures, Francis maybe kept some trade collateral in his pocket such that he can make a move or two during the season if that is what it will take to stay in the playoff chase.
5) The schedule gets easier
Through ten games, the Hurricanes have played a tough schedule. Six of ten were on the road, and the slate thus far has included a high number of teams playing well early in 2017-18.
What say you Caniacs?
1) Which of these potential positives could have the biggest impact on the rest of the 2017-18 season?
2) Do you have any other reasons that suggest that 4-4-2 will ultimately serve as a platform from which the rest of the season launches?