The Hurricanes have been an extremely frustrating team to watch this year. There are some nights where they look like a team that can contend for a playoff spot and even when they don't win, they've been able to earn points in games where they've had to dig themselves out of an early hole. Still, the team's play has been uneven as a whole and the Canes now find themselves sitting outside of the playoff picture after dropping their last two games. For fans of the team, the Hurricanes streaky play in general has been tough to watch and the most frustrating part about them has undeniably been their offense, or lack thereof.
Sunday night, I dived into this by looking at which players were shooting the puck the most and which ones were creating the most scoring chances. It was meant to show which players weren't scoring due to bad shooting luck (it happens) and which ones were doing nothing offensively (see most of the bottom-six). My stance was that players like Alex Semin, Eric Staal and a couple others should start to score more as long as they continue to create chances at their current rate while others (Ruutu, Nash, Lindholm) really need to do more. SInce then, the Canes have played one game and they were shut out by the Calgary Flames, getting only 23 total shots on goal. So regression clearly hasn't come around for them yet, but there is plenty of hockey left to be played.
The common criticism of the Hurricanes offense has remained the same even after their five game win streak, though. They take a lot of "bad shots" and are "afraid to go to the front of the net." I'll concede that the Hurricanes seem to take a lot of shots further away from the goal than most and they have trouble getting to the rebounds, but I think the problem stems from them being a mediocre possession team and spending more time chasing pucks down in the offensive zone and trying to set up plays, most of which are unsuccessful and result in a shot that either gets blocked or misses the net.
A player's chances of scoring increase when they take shots closer to the goal, but I kind of hate the mindset that "net front presence" is the answer to team's scoring woes. Mostly because I've seen Hurricanes players pass up a few opportunities to create chances in favor of trying to get closer to the net or passing it to someone who might be in a better position. They also usually have someone driving the net but never score on any of these plays because they either can't get to the rebound in time or it just jumps over the player's stick. People only notice "net front presence" when it works, but ignore the times that it doesn't result in anything. For the Hurricanes, it's mostly been the latter.
Don't get me wrong, there's a few times the Hurricanes have scored by going to the net, it's how Jordan Staal gets most of his goals and that's how his line with Patrick Dwyer & Nathan Gerbe create most of their chances. They haven't exactly scored a lot of goals, though. Ruutu has also struggled to score despite shooting a lot from close range and the same goes for Riley Nash, who rarely shoots the puck at all. The whole "go to the net" strategy sounds easy enough for fans, but it really doesn't mean anything if you're a team that struggles to control play in the offensive zone, which the Hurricanes have for most of the year, it becomes a moot point.
However, if you were to ask Hurricanes fans to map where all of their shots have come from this season, it would probably look something like this. Thus you have a lot of people complaining about how no one on the team goes to the net and that the Hurricanes scoring woes would be fixed if they start to do that. Using Greg Sinclair's Super Shot Search, I looked at the shot maps of every team in the NHL to see how the Hurricanes compare.