If there were any positives that the Hurricanes could have dug out of last season, it was that they were a better team than their record indicated. For the first time in years, they were consistently outshooting teams and winning the possession battle at even strength, which usually results in more wins in the long-run. That obviously doesn't mean much in a 48-game season with a condensed schedule, but it did give the Canes something they could build on and install some faith in Kirk Muller as a coach. They weren't winning, but they were at least playing well enough to stay competitive in games and control most of the territorial play. With a stronger defense and goaltending, they could have had some better results and that was the mindset this summer.
The Hurricanes adjusted accordingly and had a bit of a defensive overhaul this off-season, bringing in three new blue-liners and adding two more from within (Bellemore & Murphy). On paper, the Hurricanes looked like an improved team and one that could content for a playoff spot in the East if they continued to stay strong at even strength. The only problem is that their five-on-five play has taken a complete tail-spin this year. Carolina has only outshot their opponent at five-on-five in eight out of 27 games this year and have won the possession battle in only seven of them, two of those coming against the Philadelphia Flyers. To make things worse, they rank 25th in the NHL in Fenwick percentage and 27th in this category during close games. That is alarmingly bad, especially when you compare it to where they were last year, which was in the top half of the NHL
I had a lot of confidence in this team coming into the year because of their strong underlying numbers last season and the fact that most of their core stayed in-tact. Unfortunately, that has not carried over and they have been "chasing the game" way too much this season. It's hard to figure out what exactly happened to this team over the summer because, as I said earlier, most of their core pieces are still in place. Are they underperforming or are the new additions dragging the team's five-on-five play down? After the jump, we will look at that and other possible explanations.no comments