The Carolina Hurricanes 2015-16 season launched in earnest on December 5, 2015 after a dismal run of hockey in the month prior and a AHL-driven roster shake up that saw the team recall Jaccob Slavin, Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe. Unfortunately, we later learned that finding a winning formula already about one-third of the way through the season is just too late.
Ron Francis’ work
With breakdown-ridden hockey and a losing record in October, the 2016-17 season seemed to be on the same track as the 2015-16 season. At this point, Ron Francis reached to Charlotte about a dozen games early, again recalling 3 players – this time Matt Tennyson, Brock McGinn and Derek Ryan. And the move garnered immediate returns. The team is now 3-0 with the new recruits in the lineup. Matt Tennyson has looked good in the #6 defenseman slot that had been a revolving door prior to his arrival and Derek Ryan and especially Brock McGinn have brought energy to a new third line.
Possibly more than anything, I think the shake up sparked the broader roster and helped other players find a higher gear.
Bill Peters’ work
Not to be outdone, Coach Bill Peters has pulled some levers to get the most out of his team on the 5-game home stand that concluded with 4 straight wins and solid 4-1 record overall. He has been pretty good of late making a series of moves both in between and within games to find an extra spark when needed.
First, a revamped Jordan Staal line of Aho/Staal/Teravainen carried the team to victory with a whopping 4 goals combined against the Washington Capitals.
Then he correctly sorted out the dominoes of a Justin Faulk return to the tune of a defensively solid 1-0 win against San Jose. Peters made the decision to leave Slavin/Pesce together (a fairly easy one) and significantly kept them as his primary shutdown pair shifting the returning Justin Faulk and Ron Hainsey to the second pairing to some degree where they played well.
Then against Montreal, Peters shook up the lines in the third period moving Skinner to Staal’s line and Teravainen to Rask’s line. The move paid immediate dividends to the tune of 2 goals that boosted a languishing Hurricanes team that seemed destined for a shutout loss after 2 periods.
Sunday’s win against Winnipeg saw another round of pretty hard line matching from Peters.
Peters has also solidified the third defense pairing by inserting Matt Tennyson into the lineup.
Another challenge lies ahead
Before the home stand started, I wrote a post entitled “Why the next 5 games could decide the Carolina Hurricanes 2016-17 season”.
The upcoming stretch of hockey is the flip side of the run just completed. After 5 straight at home, the Hurricanes will now embark on a stretch that sees 9 of the next 11 games on the road. I actually think the Hurricanes could still use 1 more versatile scoring-capable forward, but with the team playing well the urgency is significantly decreased, and I think Francis will exercise patience.
But the heavy road schedule will present an even bigger challenge for Coach Peters. For a coach, home hockey is about dictating match ups and rules that are to your advantage and then capitalizing on them to the tune of wins. Peters did that with flying colors with the 4-1 home stand. On the road, the challenge is building an air tight roster and combinations that can play win games in which the opposing coach primarily dictates rules and match ups.
It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, Peters makes to his lineup for the road games that await and if he can muster more magic in the win column.