The 2014-15 season was obviously a disappointment in the standings for the Carolina Hurricanes. And it is not hard to figure out why. Sure there were injuries, and the Jordan Staal injury specifically slowed the team right out of the gate, and it never recovered. And there was also the challenge of a new coach and a new system. But more broadly than that, the Canes veteran forwards, pretty much to a man underperformed what one would have reasonably hoped for them offensively heading into the season.
Jordan Staal scored at a 44-point pace (projected over 82 games). That number actually compared okay to the previous season but was low relative to previous season.
Jeff Skinner plummeted to a checking line forward-like 31 points despite staying healthy and playing in 77 games.
Eric Staal hit a new scoring low since his 2003-04 rookie season as an 18-year old when he scored only 54 points in 2014-15. It was a drop even from his disappointing 61 points in 2013-14 and a new low. He previously had a run of 70-point seasons (including lockout shortened 2012-13 where his prorated pace was way above 70 points).
Alexander Semin had the biggest miss of all with only 19 points in 57 games which were less than half the pace of a disappointing 2013-14 season.
Alexander Semin is obviously gone, but there is significant potential for improvement from the remaining three. I am on record as thinking improvement puck movement and distribution from the back end could play a huge role in boosting goal scoring across the board. And there is surely an element of the players themselves just needing to be better.
But I also think there is an element of Coach Bill Peters in his staff needing to find the right line combinations, motivation, etc. to help these players reach a much higher level. Especially for a team light on high-end scoring at forward, it is crucial that Peters get the most from these players.
Is there a line combination that can help Jeff Skinner get more dangerous scoring chances rather than forcing him to largely rely on creating his own with a ‘fire at will’ approach?
Is a Staal/Staal line the best option, and if so, does it need a right wing with playmaking ability (i.e. Lindholm or another signing)?
With the playoff miss last season, some people are looking for new players to help improve the team, but I think ultimately any significant improvement must from the core players finding a higher gear.