2013-14 Season Preview : Carolina Hurricanes

We kick off our preview of the 2013-14 season with the newly formed Metropolitan Division. First up is the Staal family picnic otherwise known as the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Carolina Hurricanes are coming off an injury filled, disappointing 2013 season. Any time you have the same amount of points as the Calgary Flames you can not be happy with how your season went. They finished 3rd in the now defunct Southeast Division, but that was only because the horrible hockey being played in the state of Florida. Their 42 points was the 5th lowest total in the entire NHL and placed them 13th in the final Eastern Conference standings.

The Hurricanes did not lose too much in the offseason. The biggest names on the departed list are Dan Ellis, Jamie McBain and Joe Corvo. They added backup goaltender Anton Khudobin from the Bruins which could take some pressure off of Cam Ward. They also have tried to bolster their blue line by signing Mike Komisarek and acquiring Andrej Sekera from Buffalo.

For a more in depth look at what lies ahead for the Canes, I enlisted the help of Bob Wage who does a great job over at Canes Country.  Here's what Bob had to say:

Have the Hurricanes improved their team enough to make a playoff push in the 2013-14 season?

"The Hurricanes have improved this offseason, but will it be enough? That is the million dollar question. They added experience and size to the blueline with additions Mike Komisarek and Andrej Sekera. 2011 first round pick defenseman Ryan Murphy could also be ready to step up and make the team. He should help to improve last season's 27th best powerplay in the league. The fifth overall pick this summer, Elias Lindholm, is penciled in to make the team as well and should help fill in and improve the third line. Also the addition of backup goalie Anton Khudobin should help to keep Cam Ward from being over-worked. If they can stay healthy, the Hurricanes should be competitive and contend for a playoff spot but it will not be easy in the new Metropolitan Division."

In your opinion, which offseason acquisition was the best move of the summer and who is the player gone from last season the team will miss the most?

The signing of free agent goalie Anton Khudobin could pay off big time for the Canes, especially if Cam Ward falls to injury again this season. I am not sure if Carolina will miss any of the players who have moved on. Joe Corvo was the biggest contributor and led the blueline in scoring last season, but the team has other offensively capable blueliners to replace him.
Andrej Sekera could be the most important addition to help on a day-to-day basis. Last year's defense was young, but with both Jamie McBain and Bobby Sanguinetti moving on, Sekera might be the glue needed to hold the back end together.

Cam Ward has played a ton of hockey over the last 5 years. Can he hold up during a full 82 game season and is he the biggest key to the Canes success this year?

Ward claims right now that he is in the best shape of his career.  He can probably play a good 60-65 games and has done so in the past, but the Hurricanes would love to be able to count on Khudobin to play more than less and that is why they brought the young, talented goalie to town.  Ward is one key, but not the biggest.  The team needs to improve special teams, that is job one this training camp.

The Hurricanes used 12 defensemen during the 2013 season. Has the blue been stabilized at all and who are the keys to the Canes defense?

It looks like the defense has stabilized but again it depends upon injuries and there are still many questions. Joni Pitkanen is the highest paid blueliner and they depend upon him to log big minutes and to contribute on offense. But over his career, the big defenseman has been injured a lot. Is he healthy and will he stay healthy? Can Mike Komisarek play like the blueliner in Montreal and not the one in Toronto? Can Andrej Sekera fit in and play well? Can youngster Justin Faulk continue to improve and impress? Will Tim Gleason play with the physical edge he is capable of? Again, there are more questions than answers here.

Jeff Skinner has been pedestrian since storming onto the NHL scene in 2010. What are the keys to him regaining his Calder Trophy winning form and is that even possible?

It is very possible but Skinner also needs to stay healthy. Over the past two seasons, (and two concussions), he has had ups and downs. But the bottom line is, if he can stay healthy and be concussion free, he should be able to rebound this season and at least approach his rookie year numbers.

Which new Atlantic Division team are you looking forward to starting a new rivalry with? Which old division rival were you sad to see go?

I think the Pens are a natural rival since Jordan Staal used to be with them and Brandon Sutter, Jussi Jokinen, and others used to be in Carolina. I really won't miss any of the old rivals very much. :)

What is one thing Blackhawks fans do not know about Hurricanes fans?

Do Hawks fans know that Hurricanes fans tailgate and party, sometimes for hours before games?

And finally, when will you guy acquire Marc Staal so you have the full set?

Watch out when he becomes a free agent!

Thanks again to Bob for helping me out.  If what you say about tailgating at Canes games is true, I see Raleigh becoming a destination for Hawks fans in the near future. Especially since St Louis and Nashville are trying to keep us out! Best of luck to you guys, except the two times you play the Blackhawks!