Throughout the summer, I have yammered on end about the need for more playmakers/puck distributors to boost the Canes offense. Most people who cover the Hurricanes are looking for a boost for the Canes 27th ranked offense from 2014-15 are focused on individual players who need to step up. While I agree that offensive leader like Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner need to produce more goals and that other depth scorers also need to step up, my path to how is a bit different than most of what I have read. Whereas most articles seem to focus on the individual scorers themselves, I actually think that it is not so much a matter of forwards finishing more but someone helping them get more chances to finish.
In this regard, Ron Francis has quietly transformed the lineup more drastically than it appears on the surface. The addition of 1 scoring forward (Kris Versteeg) does not sound like much, but he has already shown what his playmaking can do for the offense. The less obvious part of the transformation is not at forward at all. It is a fairly drastic revamping of the blue line. If you compare opening day rosters from last season and this one, out are Jay Harrison, Tim Gleason and Brett Bellemore. All are good players, but none of the three would rate higher than about 2 out of 10 in terms of being the type of defenseman who helps create offense and scoring chances. They are replaced by James Wisniewski, Noah Hanifin, more Ryan Murphy and Michal Jordan. The entire group leans much more offense than the group that they replaced. The group has the ability to score a few more goals itself but maybe more significantly to increase scoring across the board at the forward position.
Is it possible that improving the Canes scoring will come not from adding more scorers but instead from adding more players who can help the entire roster score more?
I think the answer to this question could determine the fate of the Hurricanes season. While it is possible for a number of forwards to “just play better,” it would take a large number of players suddenly finding a significantly higher level.
We will not know for sure how much of a boost the combined changes will make until we see some regular season hockey, but I think the blue line lifting scoring chances and therefore scoring across the board is what Ron Francis and his staff are counting on. I also think it is possible.
Hopefully starting mid-day Monday, I will roll out a short series of season preview blogs, so please check in regularly this week.