The Carolina Hurricanes will open up its 20th season in North Carolina tomorrow night at PNC Arena in Raleigh as they take on the Minnesota Wild, and on the eve of the season opener, here are some of the storylines to watch for in the 2017-18 season for the Carolina Hurricanes.
1. GETTING BACK TO THE PLAYOFFS IS PRIORITY ONE: The Carolina Hurricanes have missed the playoffs for the last few seasons now, and for head coach Bill Peters, he hopes that this year’s team can play hard and get the much needed wins they want to get if they want to be a playoff team in 2017-18. The ‘Canes were in the thick of it last season, but their luck ran out in the tail end of the 2016-17 season. We should look for Carolina to play hard night in and night out, and have every single player contribute to what coach Peters wants from his team and if they find the right ingredients, they can get back to being a playoff-caliber team in no time.
2. CO-CAPTAINS STAAL AND FAULK READY TO GIVE IT ALL: Yesterday afternoon, the Hurricanes decided not to have one captain, but two captains this season, and Jordan Staal, along with Justin Faulk, are ready to give what they got by wearing the coveted “C” on the sweaters this season. Both players earned the right to be co-captains this season, with Jeff Skinner being the full-time alternate captain, and they are both ready to lead a Hurricanes team that should be ready to play some exceptional hockey.
3. WILL THE CANES BE SOLD THIS SEASON?: The third storyline that Hurricanes fans should keep an eye on this season is of course, the possibility of the franchise being sold, with the intentions that the team will remain in Raleigh for the long run. Peter Karmanos Jr. has owned the team since 1994, back when the franchise played in Hartford, Connecticut, and after Connecticut officials decided not to find a way to keep the then-Hartford Whalers in their state, he relocated the franchise to North Carolina in 1997. Now there is some talk that the Hurricanes could be sold this season, and there is of course a lot of talk about former Texas Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg expressing his interest in buying the team and keeping them in Raleigh instead of relocating, and with attendance struggling at PNC Arena, many “Caniacs” are hoping that a new owner for the Hurricanes could possibly signal a new chapter in the 20-year history of the team.
4. WHAT WILL SCOTT DARLING BRING TO THE GOALTENDER GAME IN CAROLINA: When you think of the solid goaltenders that the Hurricanes have had since arriving in North Carolina 20 years ago, you think of Sean Burke, Kevin Weekes, Arturs Irbe, and current goaltender Cam Ward, and during this past offseason, the Canes went out and got Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks. Darling has some good experience in both, regular-season and postseason play, and when Ron Francis decided to sign Darling after last season’s backup, Eddie Lack signed with the Calgary Flames, he knew that having Darling to go with a good goalie in Ward could be the best 1-2 goalie combo in the NHL season, but we will see what he’ll bring to the table as a backup, while Ward will of course more than likely get the nod in net for the season opener tomorrow night.
5. ARE THE CANES GOOD ENOUGH TO COMPETE IN THEIR OWN DIVISION?: The Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference is somewhat stacked this season, with of course, the reigning, defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins leading the way, along with the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, and Columbus Blue Jackets also looking to make a lot of noise in the division, but for the Carolina Hurricanes, they can be good enough to make a statement in their own division by getting some good quality wins against their division rivals, which is something that this Hurricanes team needs to do if they want to be in a good position to compete in the Metropolitan Division, and to keep moving forward and playing better hockey in their own division during the 2017-18 campaign.