New-look Carolina hopes change brings end to playoff drought
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By JOEDY McCREARY
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Hurricanes have a new owner, general manager, coach and captain.
They hope it all adds up to one more important change: The Hurricanes want to become a playoff team again.
This shapes up as a critical season for a franchise that in the past decade has had more coaches (three) and general managers (three) than playoff appearances (one).
Carolina has made the postseason just once since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, and this season marks 10 years since that lone playoff appearance. Another year of missing out would make it 10 seasons in a row - matching the NHL record for the longest playoff drought. That dubious mark was set by Florida from 2000-12 and equaled by Edmonton from 2007-16.
"I want to help this team win. Losing sucks," new defenseman Calvin de Haan said. "No matter if it's in Monopoly or Go Fish, it sucks. ... A lot of things are starting to turn in the right direction here, and it's going to be a fun place to play."
New owner Tom Dundon added general manager to team president Don Waddell's responsibilities and promoted assistant Rod Brind'Amour - the captain of that Cup championship team - to head coach, hoping his famed work habits, passion for the organization and no-nonsense approach rub off on a retooled group that's centered around what's overall a promising, but young, group.
"What we need to create is a stable foundation, top to bottom, and Tom and Roddy and all the other management involved have been trying to instill that," new captain Justin Williams said. "This is the way we do things, this is the way we're going to do things and what better way to start than the guy who's the consummate pro and who's going to work his butt off playing hockey. He's going to work his butt off off the ice as well, and I'm excited to work with the team."
Some other things to know about the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes:
For the first time since Eric Staal was traded in 2016, the Hurricanes have a single captain, and it's Williams. The former teammate of Brind'Amour's on that '06 team has developed a reputation for coming up big in Game 7s during a career that took him to Los Angeles and Washington. Williams was brought back last year to provide leadership - but was not awarded a letter, with defenseman Justin Faulk and forward Jordan Staal sharing the captaincy in a poorly received experiment. Carolina went the entire 2016-17 season without a captain, instead using several alternates.
After letting former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward leave during free agency after 13 seasons, Carolina needs Scott Darling to show significant improvement. Darling - entering the second year of a four-year, $16.6 million contract he signed for former GM Ron Francis - had the NHL's worst save percentage last season at .888. That number has to be better for the Hurricanes to have any kind of success. They also brought in free agent Petr Mrazek on a one-year deal.
CAN THE KIDS PLAY?
Carolina is counting on a pair of teenagers taken in recent first rounds to pick up the scoring slack after a couple of notable offseason trades, sending Jeff Skinner to Buffalo and Elias Lindholm to Calgary. Martin Necas, their first pick in 2017, and Andrei Svechnikov, the No. 2 overall selection this year, will play key roles, and so will 21-year-old Sebastian Aho, who could move to center from the wing after a breakout 2017-18 season in which he had team bests of 29 goals and 65 points.
Lost in the shuffle a bit, the Hurricanes might have one of the best defensive groups in the Eastern Conference after Dougie Hamilton came aboard in the five-player deal with Calgary and de Haan left the New York Islanders as a free agent. That crew was already solid with Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce locked in with long-term contracts, and Faulk looking to bounce back following a disappointing season for the former All-Star.
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Updated September 25, 2018