The Carolina Hurricanes head into 2022/23 determined to prove their status as a genuine Stanley Cup contender and find a way past the second round in the playoffs where they have stumbled in each of the past two seasons.
Carolina won the Metropolitan Division last season (54-20-8) and narrowly edged past the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the post-season.
However, with expectations much higher they were toppled at the second hurdle by the New York Rangers in seven games.
|What:||NHL Season 2022/23|
|Where:||USA and Canada|
|When:||7th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch:||Premier Sports & bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds:||COL Avalanche 17/4, TOR Maple Leafs 8/1, FLA Panthers 9/1, TB Lightning 10/1, CAR Hurricanes 11/1|
The Hurricanes will have quite a different look when they meet Columbus Blue Jackets to open the new season on 12th October.
Defenceman Tony DeAngelo and forwards Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter are the most high-profile departures, with the trio combining for 146 points last season.
They have been replaced by Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, all veteran players seeking an elusive Stanley Cup Championship.
Veteran defenceman Burns registered 54 points last season (10 goals, 44 assists) and will replace the offensive punch of DeAngelo on Carolina’s back end.
Despite missing more than half of last season with a broken foot and a hand injury, 33-year-old Pacioretty had 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 39 games for the Vegas Golden Knights and Stastny, 36, tallied 45 points (21 goals, 24 assists) in 71 games with the Winnipeg Jets.
Also incoming are forwards Ondrej Kase and Ryan Dzingel and defenceman Dylan Coghlan who will take the roster spots of Max Domi, Ian Cole, Steven Lorentz and Brendan Smith who have all left.
The Hurricanes scored 3.38 goals per-game in the recent regular season which ranked ninth in the NHL, but that slipped to 2.64 in the playoffs, where they blew a 3-1 lead to the Rangers and scored just nine goals in the final five games of the series.
Pacioretty has 49 points (25 goals, 24 assists) in 74 career playoff games, Stastny 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists) in 103 post-season appearances and Burns 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) in 94 playoff games.
The trio’s experience and history of delivering when it matters most will certainly help Carolina’s post-season scoring woes.
In a blow to the Hurricanes, they will have to wait for Pacioretty’s introduction into the line-up after the unlucky winger tore his Achilles tendon which required surgery.
Once fit he will complement a core group of forwards that includes Sebastian Aho (81 points; 37 goals, 44 assists in 79 games), Teuvo Teravainen (65 points; 22 goals, 43 assists in 77 games) and Andrei Svechnikov (69 points; 30 goals, 39 assists in 78 games) - who should provide enough offence for the Hurricanes to secure a playoff position in his absence.
The Hurricanes enjoyed a 22% conversion rate on their powerplay in the regular season, but their success dropped to 13% in the playoffs. This became particularly troublesome on the road as Carolina went 1-for-24 (4.2%) and became the first team in history to lose its first six away games in a playoff campaign.
Carolina will hope the addition of Burns will help with the right-shooting Canadian scoring 25 points, eight of which were goals in his 94 career playoff games.
One thing the Hurricanes don't need to change is their stingy defensive identity. They allowed the fewest goals in the NHL last season (202, 2.46 average per-game) and had the best penalty-kill (88.0%).
No team allowed fewer five-on-five shot attempts per 60 minutes, and Carolina surrendered the third-fewest shots on goal and fourth-fewest scoring chances.
Netminder Frederik Andersen played a crucial role in the Hurricanes' exceptional defensive record, winning 35 of his 51 starts with a .922 save-percentage and 2.17 goals-against-average (which both ranked second in the NHL).
Unfortunately for the 32-year-old Dane he tore his MCL in mid-April and was forced to miss the entirety of Carolina's post-season campaign.
Without Andersen, Antti Raanta stepped up to be Carolina's goalie in the playoffs, but in Game 7 against the Rangers, he too suffered a lower-body injury with his team trailing 2-0 in the second period.
The Hurricanes then had to turn to third choice Pyotr Kochetkov, who gave up three goals on 12 shots.
Goaltending wasn't the reason for Carolina's early exit with Raanta performing admirably, posting a .922 save-percentage and 2.26 goals-against-average in 13 games.
However, they weren't able to show themselves at full strength and will hope for better luck next time round as they aim to finally breakthrough and make a considerable push for the cup.