13 things to look for with the Canes in 2013
Posted January 18, 2013
Updated January 20, 2013
The lockout lasted 113 days and the season starts in 2013, so I’ll put my triskaidekaphobia aside and take a look at the 13 things Carolina Hurricanes fans should keep an eye on this year:
13 – Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe: This is a big year for both players. Boychuk and Dalpe were selected in the first and second rounds of the 2008 draft. Boychuk has seen time with Eric Staal and Alex Semin in the shortened training camp after being highly productive in the AHL this season, while Dalpe has played right wing on a line with Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner. Their ability to stay on those lines will provide multiple options for head coach Kirk Muller’s roster.
12 – Eric Staal: The Hurricanes captain is in his ninth season and third full season wearing the C, and expectations have never been higher. With the addition of Alex Semin on his wing, the center will be counted on to put up elite numbers. And I’m just putting this out there, Staal’s career year of 45 goals and 55 assists came after the 2004-05 lockout.
11 – Jordan Staal: Yes we know he is Eric’s younger brother, but Jordan has a full resume built on solid play in Pittsburgh where he was called on to be the third line center and shut down the opposition. He has never totaled more than 50 points in a season, but last year with Sidney Crosby out, he showed he could handle the top six work load. The Canes are banking on him being ready to step out of the shadows full time and become a top center in the league.
10 – Jeff Skinner’s production: After suffering a concussion that cost Skinner time and goals last season, people are wondering if his rookie season is the real deal or the frustration of last season is his career trend. Paired with Jordan Staal in camp, the two have developed some chemistry and it is what a lot of Canes fans have called for, Skinner playing on a line with a guy named Staal. The former all-star didn’t sneak up on teams like his rookie season and was a target most nights by Canes opponents which would take him off his game. There shouldn’t be the pressure to repeat a great season, instead the drive to get back to one.
9 – The goalie rotation: With a schedule that has teams playing almost every other night, how will head coach Kirk Muller use Cam Ward and Dan Ellis? Ward has been a workhorse, but how will the lockout impact goalies that didn’t play early on? Ellis played in Charlotte and his play there earned him the understudy job in Carolina, but with 48 games in four months, he will probably see more work than Ward’s back-ups of the past. The hot hand theory could also play a factor. Whichever goalie gets on a roll will more than likely get starts until it ends.
8 – Overtime: The Canes were 4-16 in games that went to OT or a shootout last season, giving away 16 extra points. Carolina would have had 94 points and made the playoffs by going 10-10 in bonus hockey. With no cross conference play this year, giving away the extra point will undoubtedly cost a playoff spot.
7 – Offense from the defense: The Hurricanes scored 39 goals from the blue line last year, Jay Harrison tallied a career high nine and Joe Corvo, who has enjoyed his most successful campaigns in the NHL in Raleigh, has returned. If the D can provide anything close to that kind of scoring punch in a shortened year, it is a weapon that can be the difference on nights when the forwards don’t have it.
6 – Mistakes: They are going to happen from every team, even from world class players. With only a week to get back into game form without exhibitions, it is going to lead to some sloppy play. Turnovers, players out of position, slow passes, metal mistakes and lack of chemistry will be on display early. Limiting the errors in the first quarter of the season can lead to a winning streak, and in the 1994-95 season the teams that started strong finished in the top eight.
5 – Alex Semin putting on a different red sweater: The player who had torched the Canes in his career with Washington is now expected to return the favor. Semin is the offensive force that Carolina has been looking to match up with Staal. Playing on a one-year contract and with just 48 games, he has a lot to play for. If Semin can come close to his typical statistical year, expect Eric Staal and the team’s points to increase.
4 – Special teams: The Canes were 20th on the power play and 22nd on the penalty kill last season. With the additions of Jordan Staal, Semin and Corvo, it is reasonable to think that the power play production will increase. The team also saw a jump under Muller in both categories and with a quasi-training camp for the head coach. If the team can improve to be in the top half of the league in those categories, a few more wins might fall into place.
3 – Chad LaRose/Jussi Jokinen/Jiri Tlusty: This line has come together and would be listed as the “third line," a label that Kirk Muller does not want to use with this group. With the Staals centering the top two lines and drawing the majority of the opposition’s attention, that line could give the Canes an advantage on the score sheet. LaRose has been a ball of energy the entire camp and the veteran could be primed for a big year. Tlusty played in his native Czech Republic during the lockout and starred on a line with Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec. He is healthy and has top six talent. Tlusty could be ready to take a big step forward. Jokinen is a jack-of-all-trades, who has played all over and can excel at center. The ability to roll three lines and limit players' minutes will pay off down the road.
2 – Injuries: It is part of the game even in an 82-game season, but now there is no time to wait for players to recover. How teams manage losing a player for an extended amount of time could be the difference between playoffs or a very short year. The Canes' depth with players in Charlotte like Tim Wallace and Brett Sutter might have to come into play.
1 – The playoff drought to end: Carolina last qualified for the chance to play for the Stanley Cup in 2008-09. This is the most talented offensive team the Canes have had since that run.