Something that was discussed a lot over the course of the season was how hard the Hurricanes centers worked over the off-season to improve their overall performance at the faceoff dot. This was something that needed to be done because the team was just awful at faceoffs during the 2010-11 season (44.6% success rate) and it was one of the reasons why they struggled so much on special teams then. With face-off master Rod Brind'Amour now serving as an assistant coach, the Hurricanes made a considerable effort to improve their ability to win draws this year and it paid off. The Hurricanes went from being the second worst face-off team in the NHL to the 10th best. Just about every player who takes faceoff regularly saw an improvement, as evidenced by the table below.
Staal has struggled with face-offs his whole career but he made a huge leap forward this season and won well over half of his draws. Brandon Sutter also improved significantly after being brutal at the faceoff dot last season and Jussi Jokinen got even better. The only player who didn't improve at faceoffs was Tuomo Ruutu, who went from bad to worse. Perhaps the strangest thing here is that Tim Brent won less than 50% of his draws even though his ability to win faceoffs was one of the reasons that teh Canes signed him in the first place.
There is one big problem with all of this information, which is that faceoff percentage, in general, is misleading and somewhat overrated. No one is denying the importance of winning a faceoff but there is a lot of grey area that can cloud up the accuracy of a player's faceoff percentage. If you were to watch every single faceoff that happens in a game, you will probably notice that not all of them are won cleanly. There are many cases where the wingers have to battle in the trenches to come out with the puck. Sometimes the two centers will battle for the puck for a good couple of seconds and neither come away with posession. Then there are other instances where one team wins the faceoff but fails to come away with possession because the players covering the points can't keep it in or the opposing team forces a turnover.
This shows that, while important, winning faceoffs can be overrated, misleading and not the best way to judge a player's ability. If a team can win a faceoff but not control possession, then winning the draw becomes essentially meaningless. Which is why a player needs to be able to do more than just win faceoffs to have a considerable amount of value. However, wining faceoffs plays a huge role in the success of two main areas; the powerplay and penalty kill.
A faceoff win on the powerplay likely means more zone time and a greater chance at being able to strike with the man advantage, while a faceoff win on the PK usually kills off at least 10-20 seconds of the powerplay, so winning the draw can go a long way on special teams. With that in mind, let's see if the Hurricanes have improved their faceoff numbers in all three areas and who has improved the most compared to last season.