Hurricanes already adjusting from preseason expectations

GM, coaches hit and miss with thoughts heading into regular season

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Washington Capitals right wing Justin Williams misses a shootout attempt on Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward in the preseason. Ward is off to another slow start in 2016-17

RALEIGH— The Carolina Hurricanes are five games into their season-starting six-game road trip and stand 1-2-2, recovering from two overtime losses and one in regulation to get their first win Thursday in Calgary before falling in Philadelphia Saturday.Heading in to the 2016-17 campaign, the Hurricanes seemed pointed in a new direction. Offseason additions Lee Stempniak and Teuvo Teravainen, along with rookie Sebastian Aho, will be counted on to add offense, while coach Bill Peters and GM Ron Francis expect their young D to take another step forward.After four games in Canada and one back in the U.S., here’s a look at some quotes from the offseason and preseason, and how much reality has come from those expectations with five games gone in the season.Ron Francis, June 29The quote: “I know both [Cam Ward and Eddie Lack] struggled the first two months, as our team did. But from the middle of December to the end of the year, I thought both guys played extremely well, and hopefully that’s the way they start this year and we go there.”Early results: Through five games, the team allowed 20 goals. Ward, outside of the third period in Edmonton, has struggled mightily, while Lack — despite being the victim of the second blown three-goal lead in Vancouver — was solid until Saturday in Philadelphia when he allowed six. This is obviously the biggest issue facing the Hurricanes right now, as many predicted it would be.Francis, July 1The quote: “[Stempniak] is a guy that we felt fit into the style we’re playing and what we’re looking to; some veteran leadership. All reports are a real good guy. He’s played for a lot of teams but everybody speaks extremely high of this guy.”Early results: The addition of Stempniak has paid massive early dividends. Through the first five games, Stempniak has four goals and two assists and he found instant chemistry on a line with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask. The trio all have six points each in the first five games and are the top three scorers on the team.Francis, July 1The quote: “When we look back at last year, we felt that in a lot of the close games we fell just short. And where we fell short was on the power play, whether it was not having two units that were hot at the same time, whether it was in the 3-on-3 where we felt like we couldn’t get over the hump maybe with our skill set. Or in the shootout, which cost us some points. We feel now we’ve added that skill to the mix.”Early results: Through four games, the power play has been great (28.6 percent, fourth in the NHL through Sunday’s games). The team, however, has still struggled in one-goal games, dropping the first three by a goal, including 3-on-3 overtime losses in Winnipeg and Vancouver after holding three-goal leads.Assistant coach Steve Smith, Sept. 23The quote: “You don’t make the playoffs in the first week of the season, but you can certainly can put yourself out of the playoff race in the first week of the season.”Early results: Smith’s words really hit home. Carolina looked like it was doomed to another poor start with the implosions in the first two games and lackluster effort in Edmonton. But the team’s solid performance in Calgary and the fact they managed a point in each of the first two games meant Carolina left Canada with four points in four games. After losing in Philadelphia, a win Tuesday in Detroit would give Carolina half of the possible points on their trip — not a great result, but one the team could stomach given they started the season with six road games.Bill Peters, Oct. 7The quote: “The thing we can do with that line, with Jordan Staal, Nordy and Nesty, is put them together at any time and know exactly what we have.”Early results: Peters broke the line up after Game 2, benching Andrej Nestrasil in favor Phil Di Giuseppe in Edmonton and then Calgary. The original trio, as the team’s shutdown line, was on the ice for an allowed goal during each of Carolina’s two three-goal collapses in the first two games. Staal scored in the opener, but didn’t register a point in the next three, while Joakim Nordstrom has registered an assist, but each got a point on Staal’s goal in Philadelphia playing with Aho. Nestrasil — coming off a broken vertebra suffered last season that his doctors said was reminiscent of an injury suffered in a car accident — did not register a point in his two games.