In this comprehensive season preview, we dive deep into the Carolina Hurricanes' quest for Stanley Cup glory in the 2023-24 NHL season.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Preseason Presidents' Trophy Favorites
As the 2023-24 NHL season kicks off, one team stands out as the preseason favorite to win the Presidents' Trophy—the Carolina Hurricanes. The journey to this point has been a testament to their meticulous approach to building a championship-caliber team. While they may not boast a roster filled with superstars, the Hurricanes have excelled in making the right trades, signing strategic contracts, and maximizing every transaction to create the deepest team in the league.
Sustained Success: A Defining Trait
The Hurricanes have been a model of consistency, playing above a 110-point pace in each of the last three seasons. They are also the only team to advance past the first round in each of those seasons. But their sights are set higher than regular-season success. The Stanley Cup has eluded them in recent years, and 2023-24 may just be the year that changes their fortunes.
Analyzing the Projections
Carolina's path to glory is well-paved, but the competition in the Eastern Conference is fierce. While the odds favor the Hurricanes, they face a dogfight in the East. Their unique strength lies in their depth rather than star power. This season, the Hurricanes' young forwards have the potential for improvement, making them one of the most well-rounded teams in the cap era.
The key to success lies in optimal talent deployment. Vegas proved that a deep team, even with less star power, can win it all. Carolina excels in this department, boasting the league's best roster on paper to start the season.
Strengths That Define the Hurricanes
The Hurricanes have established clear strengths that set them apart. Their relentless offensive zone presence is a hallmark of their style. Their forecheck, retrieval, cycle, and shot-generation approach has consistently placed them at the top of the shot-attempt list. In the 2022-23 season, they led the league with nearly 70 shot attempts per 60 minutes of five-on-five play. It's an identity that starts with coach Rod Brind'Amour and extends to the entire forward group.
Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov are pivotal play-driving forwards in the top six. Aho, in particular, has evolved into a complete player, excelling in both offensive and defensive aspects. Svechnikov, with his rare blend of skill, size, and skating ability, remains a potential breakout candidate. Seth Jarvis, a young and dynamic forward, adds depth to the Hurricanes' roster.
Michael Bunting, the offseason addition, brings forechecking ability and a scoring touch. While his Offensive Rating may have been influenced by playing alongside elite talents, he's expected to make a positive impact.
Coach Brind'Amour's influence extends to the bottom six, where players like Jordan Staal, Jordan Martinook, and Jesper Fast excel in limiting the opponent's zone time. Stefan Noesen and Jack Drury have also earned their spots with impressive expected goals percentages.
Carolina's defense is another standout feature. Their efficient puck retrievals and aggressive blue-line defense set them apart. Jaccob Slavin, a franchise defenseman, anchors the blue line with his exceptional defensive skills. Brent Burns, a seasoned player, complements the defensive core with his offensive prowess.
GM Don Waddell's addition of Dmitry Orlov and Tony DeAngelo adds further depth and flexibility to the blue line, ensuring a well-rounded defensive unit.
Despite their strengths, the Hurricanes face clear challenges. Their struggle to finish is a significant concern. In the 2022-23 season, they ranked 31st in shooting percentage at five-on-five. Aho and Svechnikov, while excellent at generating chances, need to improve their goal-scoring abilities.
The lack of scoring depth beyond the top forwards is also a potential issue. Players like Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Martin Necas need to contribute more offensively to support the top lines. Frederik Andersen, their projected starter in goal, must step up to perform at an above-average level.
The Teuvo Teravainen Question
A significant wildcard for the Hurricanes is Teuvo Teravainen's performance. While once considered part of a dynamic duo with Aho, Teravainen's offensive output has waned recently. His role in the top six may be challenged by the emergence of younger talents like Seth Jarvis and Martin Necas.
Teravainen's ability to adapt his game and regain his playmaking skills will determine his role in the lineup. A championship-contending team like the Hurricanes requires consistent offensive production from its supporting cast.
The Best-Case Scenario
Carolina's success in the 2023-24 season hinges on the breakout performances of Svechnikov, Necas, and Jarvis. Their depth and defensive structure, combined with years of meticulous building, could culminate in a Stanley Cup victory.
The Worst-Case Scenario
Despite another strong regular season, the Hurricanes could face an early playoff exit if their lack of goal-scoring depth and finishing ability become glaring issues.
The Bottom Line
The Carolina Hurricanes have meticulously built a team designed for success. Their system and depth allow them to adapt to changing situations. Now, they must deliver on their potential and aim for a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, with anything less being considered a disappointment.
This comprehensive season preview highlights the Carolina Hurricanes' strengths, weaknesses, and the potential factors that could shape their 2023-24 NHL season. As they embark on their quest for the Stanley Cup, the Hurricanes' depth, defensive prowess, and young talent will be key factors to watch.