A common misconception in the Hurricanes community is that the 2015-16 was sunk by the results of the long State Fair road trip in mid-October.
In reality, the 2015-16 collapse occurred during the home-heavy November schedule that saw the Hurricanes fail to capitalize on the home schedule. Instead, the team skidded into December with a run of losing hockey.
Carolina Hurricanes recent history
In 2015-16, the Hurricanes emerged from the road trip at 4-6-0. The team actually went 4-3-0 on the 7-game road trip but started 0-3 with 2 of those games at home before departing. The Hurricanes won its October finale at home to push to a treading water 5-6-0 record entering November. In November, the Canes played 9 of 13 games at home and finished with an abysmal 3-6-4 record. It was after the loss in the first game in December that the Hurricanes made a series of moves to call up AHL players, found the magic of the Nordstrom/Staal/Nestrasil line and started to push up the standings. Unfortunately, it was already too late.
The 2014-15 season did see the Hurricanes struggle on the road trip early in the season coming out of the road trip with a 0-6-2 record. The team managed to get the train back on the tracks temporarily going 5-0-1 in the first half of November but then imploded to the tune of a 2-7-0 mark to close out November and enter December more or less out of the playoff hunt.
The importance of October and November
It has been said that you cannot play your way into the playoffs in October/November, but you can play your way out of them. That describes the Hurricanes 2015-16 season to a T. The 2015-16 season illustrated very clearly that it is nearly impossible to climb back into the playoff chase even if playing well if too big of a whole is dug in October and November.
With the Hurricanes already in a small hole for 2016-17 from their 1-3-2 start, the next leg of the season is critical. As I wrote in my daily post yesterday, any playoff hopes hang in the balance with how long it takes Bill Peters to fix what is significantly broken right now in terms of style and quality of play. If he gets it right but not until early December, the 2015-16 season suggests that that is likely too late.
Changes with the transition to home ice
Today on Twitter, Mike Sundheim, who is the Vice President of Communications for the Hurricanes, tweeted that going into Thursday’s game road teams were a combined 29-49-19. That prorates to 4.76 points for the 6 games that the Hurricanes have played. So the Hurricanes are short relative to the average with only 4 points but maybe not as short as it feels after a bumpy road trip.
But that only helps if the Hurricanes can capitalize on the advantages that home ice brings.
There is hope from improvement from the team just cleaning up its game, and/or the goalies playing better. There is hope that home cooking boosts play. But most significantly, I will be watching anxiously to see if having the last change on home ice enables Bill Peters to reconfigure the lineup for the home ice rules and use match ups to coax better play out of his team.
During the long 82-game NHL season, even playoff-bound teams will hit rough patches. Surviving them requires some combination of scratching and clawing for points even when things are not going well and fairly quickly finding a way out of the rough patch. Here is hoping that home ice advantage against 2 Metropolitan Division opponents this weekend can help the Hurricanes make progress on both fronts.