Looking for surprising playoff entrants check out the Hurricanes
September 12, 2017 3:07 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
In our second week of predicting which non-playoff club from last season will springboard forward to play more than 82 games by advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we turn to the toughest of the four divisions to select from, the Metropolitan.
What makes this division so difficult is its depth, featuring four established sides showing no signs of faltering any time soon.
Pittsburgh is the two-time champion, Washington is the reigning President’s Cup winner (No. 1 overall in the regular season), while Columbus and the N.Y. Rangers are both on a rise in the standings.
Thus, among the remaining four clubs, although a playoff shot will be difficult, a fifth team could emerge and grab the second wild card slot, especially if Atlantic Division clubs take yet another step backward.
Our choice to make a leap to challenge is – not surprisingly since everyone else seems to be selecting them, too – the Carolina Hurricanes.
Although finishing seventh among the eight teams in the Metro, Canes general manager Ron Francis made several bold, off-season moves to at least rally past the N.Y. Islanders and Philadelphia. The most interesting involved a trade with “my” (present tense) Vegas Golden Knights.
In the expansion draft, Vegas acquired center Marcus Kruger and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk from the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t take long before Kruger was sent packing to Raleigh.
Then the Canes added goalie Scott Darling (also from the Hawks) and forward Justin Williams, a veteran of two Cups with “my” (past tense) Los Angeles Kings.
Carolina may not possess a true No. 1 center, but first-round draft pick (No. 12 overall) Martin Necas of the Czech Republic could be “the man” in a couple of years.
Still, Canes majority owner and CEO Peter Karmanos is optimistic, stating the club has “four No. 2 centers” to offset the lack of a Sidney Crosby type or other top-flight performer.
When asked about the new talent, head coach Bill Peters just sat there and smiled, knowing Carolina could earn its first playoff berth in a decade (2007-08), and second since capturing the Cup. (Did that really happen? It’s hard to recall going back to 2005-06, the year following the lockout.)
NHL.com and many other media outlets also believe in a Carolina playoff parade, I do not, yet they still own the best shot among the Metro’s bottom quartet to join the top four.
If all this does pull together for Francis & Peters and the club avoids their historic injury woes suffered throughout most of this decade, then fans of the Hurricanes should have a “whale” of a time. Always like to get in a Hartford Whalers mention – the team that became the Hurricanes 20 years ago.
Note: Did you know the Hurricanes played the first two years in Greensboro before moving to their current home in Raleigh in 1999? Also, Hall of Famers Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe played the inaugural 1979-80 season for Hartford before retiring. They made the playoffs that year, losing to Montreal.
On the Air: The Golden Knights radio broadcasts can be heard on their flagship stations KRLV-FM 98.9 and AM 1340.
The first regular season broadcast will be on Friday, Oct. 6 against the Dallas Stars. More information on the Vegas Golden Knights and a complete radio broadcast schedule can be found online at vegasgoldenknights.com.