Carolina Hurricanes: 2014-2015 Risers and Fallers

By Luke Rachar
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Aug 12th, 2014
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Carolina Hurricanes: 2014-2015 Risers and Fallers

#27 Justin Faulk skates with the puck up the ice, generating a scoring chance.

Year after year, we see change happen before our eyes. Some of it is good, and some of it is bad. Whether good or bad, we must adapt to these changes in order to not just survive, but to thrive so we can live our lives to the fullest. How an individual deals with change varies, but mostly, we all rely on our what we know, our instincts. The more we know about something, the less risk there is, and the better we can make calculated decisions. And in this case, calculated predictions.

With that in mind, in the coming weeks I’ll be taking a look at each NHL team featuring 10 of its players. Are they destined to rise or destined to fall? Your questions will be answered below.

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C – Eric Staal (rising): Carolina’s undisputed first-line centre had a down year, posting 61 points over 79 games played. 61 points marks Staal’s lowest totals since 05-06 when he totaled 100 points, and since then hasn’t got any lower than 70. Only 30-years-old, he’s not about to break down now.  Staal’s line-mate Alexander Semin was playing with a broken wrist for most of last year, so if he can make a full recovery it will help too. Expect anywhere from 70-80 points for the former 2nd overall pick in 2003.

 

C – Jordan Staal (rising): In Pittsburgh, he was often referred to as the 2nd line centre that is playing 3rd line because he had Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in his way. Last year, not only were his numbers underwhelming, but nonetheless, more representing of a 3rd line centre output, scoring 15 goals, and 25 assists over 82 games played. But there’s reason to be optimistic of last year. League-wide, Staal finished 11th in set-up passes with 545, and his line-mates only shot 6.5% while he was on the ice. What does this mean? He could very well have been victim to bad luck. In 2014-2015, look for a bounce-back season (~50 points) from the second-oldest brother, Jordan.

 

C/LW – Elias Lindholm (rising): After opting to take a player from the OHL when they’ve had a pick in the first round the last 3 years (Jeff Skinner in 2010, and Ryan Murphy in 2011), they decided to look overseas in 2013, taking Swede Elias Lindholm. Lindholm’s strengths include his shot, skating, but mostly his hockey IQ. His weaknesses include needing to get stronger, like it is for many young players. This past season he impressed, playing in 58 games for the big club, scoring 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists), and 1.5 points per 60 minutes, placing him 5th amongst his 2013 draft class. New Head Coach Bill Peters has already debated on the idea of running 4 forwards on their first power play unit, and even mentioned that Lindholm would be on it. From a season’s experience alone, look for an improvement from last year’s numbers (~30-35 points). If he secures a spot on the #1 power play, look for a bigger improvement (~40 points).

 

RW – Jeff Skinner (rising): Not since his rookie season has Skinner seen a full season or a career-year. Over 4 NHL seasons, Skinner has dealt with concussions in 3 of them, which is an understandable reason why the coaches have been patient with, aside from being an undeniable talent. Skinner’s nose for the net (31 goals last year) and his skating ability (he thanks his mom everyday for making him take figure-skating as a kid), he’s a threat on every shift. After playing 71 games last season, it seems as though his concussion issues haven’t bothered him for a while. If he can remain healthy, Skinner gets at least 60 points. If he doesn’t, it could be anywhere under that.

 

RW – Alexander Semin (rising): Injuries suck, and few know that as well as Semin (Cam Ward disagrees), considering the fact he played with an injured wrist all season long. Over 62 games, he totaled 42 points, good for 4th in team scoring, and tying his lowest total since 2007-2008 season. Assuming his wrist is back to health for the new season, look for a bounce-back year (~60 points) from the Russian sniper.

 

D – Andrej Sekera (neutral): It’s well known how a change of scenery can do wonders for someone, and this Slovak is a living example of that. Last season, he obliterated his career totals to say the least, scoring 11 goals, and adding 33 assists for a total of 44 points over 74 games. With a brief glimpse of his career totals, last year’s totals stick out like a sore thumb. In 2010-2011 he scored 29 points, and didn’t breaking 20 points in any of his other 5 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. Regardless of that, the chances he’s around where he was last year, are higher than not. Why? He has no competition to take his spot on the top power play unit, one that features players like Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, and Alexander Semin. That’s one heck of a power play if you ask me.

 

D – Justin Faulk (rising): You know when you’re good at everything and it sucks because you have to do everything? Me neither, but Justin Faulk does. In 2013-2014, the South St. Paul native, had his best NHL season to date, notching a career-high in points (32), and leading all Carolina blue-liners in penalty-time.  He also skated in the 2014 Sochi Olympics for the U.S. Olympic team. At a tender age of 23 years old, a sure lot is expected of him. But like Uncle Ben said to Spider-man, “With great power comes great responsibility”. With that in mind, expect Faulk to carry that in stride, for new career-highs in 2014-2015.

 

D – Ryan Murphy (rising): Although he hasn’t had much experience in the NHL yet, he’ll be on his way there soon, in as little time as next year. The Markham, Ontario native split time in both the NHL, and AHL last year. What’s exciting is that  he excelled in his first AHL season, totaling 22 points (3 goals and 19 assists) over 22 games, but also, simply the fact he skated in 48 NHL games last year. For someone whose defensive game sorely lacked in Junior, it goes to show just how much it has improved. It will take a bit of time for his defensive game to flourish, but once it does, so will his ice time and point totals. With keeping in mind it will take time, expect only a small uptick for the 2014-2015 season.

 

G – Cam Ward (falling): There are a few certainties in life. Death, taxes, and that Cam Ward gets injured.  Over the past 2 seasons, Ward has played 47 games, less than any season he’s played healthy, and not to mention sub-par goaltending from a dude that’s supposedly the #1 in Carolina. Ward is going into his FA year next season, and for any chance of him getting resigned, he will have to dress to impress. And considering the rise of Anton Khudobin, it won’t make it any easier. Look for a 1A-1B goaltending system to start the season, but the rest of the season to decide who’s sits where.

 

G – Anton Khudobin (rising): Last year Khudobin had his best season to date, posting a 19-14-1 record, with a 2.30 GAA, .926SV% and 1 Shutout over 36 games, and forcing GM Jim Rutherford’s hand to sign him to a 2-year, $5.5 million extension. Carrying a $2.25 mil AAV, it suggests they don’t consider him just a back up, but potentially their long-term starter. It’s been a while I have been saying Khudobin could be a solid NHL starting goaltender, and this is his chance to shine. Look for Khudobin to play on his head next year.

 

Luke Rachar (43 Posts)


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