The posthumous cover after the elimination of Hurricanes Carolina at the hands of Tampa Bay Lightning about 10 and a half months ago was harsh and barren. Hurricanes have been tested and found insufficient on several fronts. Their shortcomings were too obvious, the gap between them and the NHL elite too obvious.
There were even cases during the first round series against the Nashville Predators when the Hurricanes looked as if they were on the verge of extinction. Jacob Slavin’s injury – not that he could ever be replaced – revealed an almost fatal lack of depth of defense. Fans greeted Alex Nedelkovich at the goal, but players and coaches sometimes gritted their teeth, especially the absolutely unacceptable winning game in the 1st game of the Tampa series, as a result of which the Hurricanes played behind.
Over the next three months, Hurricanes underwent significant and sometimes unpopular changes that left favorites such as Nedelkovich, Peter Mrazek, Brock McGinn and Warren Vogel, leaving Doug Hamilton to leave and a general coup in almost every corner register.
After 82 games and the best season in the history of the franchise, it is safe to say that the plan worked. This is a different team than it was at this point a year ago: deeper, more confident, not without flaws, but with extraordinary resilience and explosiveness – its strengths are strengthened, and its weaknesses are largely eliminated.
“Where we really excelled, in my opinion, was its depth,” said Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour. “When we had injuries, when we had to fill in the holes, we didn’t miss a single hit.”
All the changes that Hurricanes made last summer have been designed to bring them to this point: not only in the playoffs, but also much better prepared to cope with the difficult difficulties and challenges ahead, on almost all fronts.
Goalkeeper? Frederick Andersen and Anti Raant not only made significant improvements over their predecessors, but also won the Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed on the team, for the first time in the franchise’s history. And even with the fact that Andersen’s status in the first round is in doubt, there is complete confidence that Raanta will cope with the load, and the phenomenon of last season’s newcomer Peter Kochetkov has already passed combat tests and is waiting in his wings.
“I was probably the most unpopular guy in society when we got rid of our goalkeepers,” Hurricanes general manager Don Wadell said. “We’ve obviously talked about it. We knew there were four or five guys available in a free agency and a couple more through deals. Our goalkeepers two years ago, not last year, two years ago were good, but when we got to the playoffs, we just felt we needed to be the best. That’s why we threw the dice. “
Depth of defense? Hurricanes don’t have to rely on dumb Jake Gardiner or the guy who made his NHL debut in the heat of the playoff series like Max LaJee last season. Tony DeAngelo and Ethan the Bear may have attracted more attention at the time, but the addition of Brendan Smith and Ian Cole gave the Hurricanes a pair of warhorse veterans who saw it all and wouldn’t be surprised by the circumstances. And even if there is some tidal wave of injuries on the blue line, the unknown Jalen Chatfield came from Chicago (AHL) and earned the respect of his teammates in 16 working games.
And for the young team in particular, which is rapidly gaining post-season experience, the addition of experienced players such as Derek Stepan, Smith and Cole can only be a stabilizing force in the room, which depends heavily on Jordan Stall and Jordan Martinuk as energy and consultation in the last playoffs works – probably the next best thing in another Justin Williams comeback. And he may be young, but no one on the list has gone deeper than the playoffs than Hespery Catcaniemi, who advanced to the Stanley Cup final with the Montreal Canadiens last year.
If the Hurricanes didn’t do much in time to trade, again – adding only depth ahead to Max Domi amid tough salary limits – it’s partly because they did their job not in March but in July and August. The team’s success this winter and its promise this spring was born last summer, the result of introspection on a wave of frustration, an honest assessment of who needs to go and what needs to be improved to not only get back to that point but beyond.
And then they came out and did it.
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This story was originally published April 30, 2022 09:14.
The Hurricanes plan is drawn up after leaving the NHL playoffs
Source link The Hurricanes plan is drawn up after leaving the NHL playoffs