Albeit a preseason exhibition contest, the Carolina Hurricanes will take part in their first game since falling to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Finals when they hit the ice on Tuesday.
With 45 healthy players remaining in training camp, the youth will likely see the bulk of the action, with veterans slowly working their way into the lineup as we inch towards opening night in October.
As hockey is on the horizon, questions surround a potential Stanley cup favorite in Raleigh. Diving into this week’s mailbag, we will look at three questions among the Hurricanes’ fanbase.
Q: What are things the Canes can improve to further their chances of making/winning the Stanley Cup?
For this answer, I am going to stick strictly to on the ice and focus on the “what” and not the “if.” The Carolina front office could absolutely answer a few questions by potential in-season signings or trades, but there is no guarantee.
The No. 1 thing the Hurricanes can do to elevate their chances of coming out of the Eastern Conference is improve the power play.
In the regular season, Carolina ranked 20th on the power play in the NHL, finding the back of the net on just 19.76% of their opportunities. This number was the second lowest among playoff teams, besting only the Seattle Kraken (19.75%).
The woes continued in the postseason, as the Canes converted just 17.65% of their chances on the man advantage. Naturally, all four conference finals teams ranked in the top four in power play opportunities, but Carolina scored just nine power play goals in 15 games.
Adding in Tony DeAngelo, who appeared on the first power play unit on the opening day of training camp, can certainly help with the struggles. During the 2021-2022 campaign, Carolina was successful on 21.98% of their chances with DeAngelo on the power play.
This is certainly not a guaranteed recipe for success, but a potential answer to an improved power play.
Q: What adjustments do the Canes need to make to improve their power play to one of the top 10 in the league?
Last season, the Florida Panthers sat 10th in power play success rate at 22.83%. Under Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina has reached that mark just once, but they have finished in the top 10 on two occasions.
Ranking in the top 10 on the man advantage may not require a success rate that high, but it is a fair barometer to use without evaluating every roster change.
There are two ways I think the Hurricanes can improve their power play: a healthy Andrei Svechnikov and more high-danger shot attempts.
From opening night until Andrei Svechnikov tore his ACL on March 11, Carolina found success on 21.7% of their power play opportunities. This would have put the Hurricanes at 14th in the NHL, and while not in the top 10, it would have also ranked third in the Metropolitan.
Svechnikov finished with five power play goals and 11 assists on the man advantage, still finishing third on the roster in power play points (16).
Second, Carolina can ensure they take more “high-percentage” shots. While on the power play, Carolina had the 5th highest low-danger shot attempts, while sitting in 10th for high-danger shot attempts.
Just 10.5% of their power play shots were of the high-danger variety, which gives them the highest opportunity to score. Further explaining their power play struggles is their low-danger shot percentage, which sat at 71.5%.
All shots are either given a 1, 2, or 3, all based on the location of the shot attempt.
A shot off a rebound adds one point to that number, while a blocked shot takes away one point from that value. Any shot attempt with a score of 3 or higher is considered a high-danger shot attempt.
For reference, Ottawa, who ranked third for the most high-danger shots on the power play in the regular season at 80, had 12.3% of their shot attempts chart as high-danger. Despite not making the postseason and leading the NHL with 306 chances on the man advantage, the Senators still finished with just 61% of their power play shots being of the low-danger variety.
Edmonton, who led the NHL on the man advantage, had just 56.3% of their shot attempts rank as low-danger and 15.3% attempts as high-danger. They recorded just four more shots on 22 more power play chances and tallied 27 more high-danger looks than Carolina.
There is no one way to fix the power play, but working on quality over quantity for shot attempts would be a start for the Hurricanes.
Q: Is it Stanley Cup or bust for the Hurricanes?
It’s no secret that Carolina is one of the favorites, if not the favorite, to hoist the Stanley Cup heading into the season. They have arguably the best blue line in the NHL and they strengthened their roster through free agency.
After a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, expectations are sky high in Raleigh. However, with a plethora of young talent locked up for years to come, the window for winning is a lot longer than the 2023-2024 campaign.
For many fans, anything short of a championship will be considered a failure. Another Eastern Conference Finals appearance or a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals should be a success for Carolina.
Yes, they would fall short of the ultimate goal, but it takes a lot more than talent to win it all.
No matter how much it gets downplayed, luck is absolutely a factor in winning the Stanley Cup.
Whether it be injuries, unlucky bounces, or the improvement of conference foes, a few things are out of the Hurricanes’ control.
Injuries, particularly the one to Svechnikov, kept them from reaching their full potential in the postseason, and was just one reason they were sent packing by the Panthers.
Carolina certainly has the talent and the depth to finish the season on top, but there is no way to call anything other than a championship a failure, particularly when there is no way of knowing how injuries will impact a season.