This article might have seemed better timed before Thursday’s loss (I wrote it before the game.), but bigger picture I do not think the team’s trajectory significantly changed based on a single road loss.
With a young team whose core is only getting better and that now has consecutive playoff berths to its credit, the Carolina Hurricanes are moving closer to legitimately competing for and possibly winning the Stanley Cup.
The question is what the team needs to do to officially open that window and/or whether that is already in process or maybe even completed. I wrote a bit about that earlier this week in my article entitled, “Are we approaching peak Hurricanes?” Some think that reaching the level of being a true Stanley Cup contender is a building process that happens stepwise over a number of years. While there is usually a build up, rapid changes in player performance coupled with salary cap strain makes it nearly impossible to sustain meaningful improvement long-term (reference the Chicago Blackhawks rise and fall) and just stepwise build toward having a sure thing winner.
That said, I do think there is a level that is reached that puts a team in range. As wild as the NHL playoffs can be for upsets in early rounds, the list of Stanley Cup winners over the past decade or so features very few real surprises. Immediately after the lockout radically changed the financial structure of the NHL before the 2005-06 season, the Carolina Hurricanes came out of nowhere to win the 2006 Stanley Cup. The Anaheim Ducks won in 2007. But since then, I would argue that each and every team that has won the Stanley Cup would have been among the 4-6 teams favored before the season started. Detroit won in 2008 at the end of a strong era. The next nine years featured three Cup wins each by the Penguins and Blackhawks and two by the Kings. The Bruins who also seemed to be in the mix for many of those years won the other. More recently, the Capitals, Blues and Lightning were all reasonably common picks before the season started. Of the 13 Cup winners only St. Louis would maybe have been considered a bit of a surprise, and even that is debatable. So as much as fans want to believe the ‘anything is possible’ joy of the NHL playoffs, the reality is that Cup winners almost always come from a small group of teams that are recognized as the best in the NHL.
That begs the question – Are the Hurricanes already in the top echelon of 4-6 teams with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations? If not, what does it take to get there?
A quick look at 2021 Stanley Cup champion odds suggests that the betting world thinks that the team is close. Early Stanley Cup odds suggest that the Hurricanes are close if maybe not quite there yet as the ninth-ranked NHL team according to Stanley Cup odds.
But does the Carolina Hurricanes scorching 6-2-0 start including three quality wins over the two 2020 Stanley Cup finalists suggest that those odds are just lagging a bit and that the Hurricanes have entered their Stanley Cup window?
What say you Canes fans?
1) Are the Hurricanes already among the top 4-6 teams in the NHL that seem to have a legitimate chance of hoisting the Cup?
2) If you are optimistic but unsure, what would it take to convince you?
3) If you think the team is still a bit short of the top echelon of the NHL, what do you think is needed to reach it?