|C Eric Staal
GOALS: 24 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 70
SOG: 262 | +/-: -20
|G Cam Ward
GAA: 2.74 | SVP: 0.915
|D Justin Faulk
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 22
SOG: 101 | +/-: -16
|The Hurricanes were 3-10 in overtime and 1-6 in the shootout.|
Captain Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward both got off to difficult starts. Through 24 games, Staal had four goals and 10 points with a minus-17 rating. Ward's goals-against average climbed as high as 3.37 in early December. Their slow starts played a huge role in Carolina's coaching change, as Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice on Nov. 29.
How to fix it?
The Hurricanes spent the 2011-12 season on the lookout for a top-six forward, but never landed one. Realistically, they probably need to acquire two established scoring forwards.
The leadership group in Carolina is a quiet bunch. The Hurricanes might want bring in a veteran player who adds a respected voice in the locker room. The blue line may undergo a couple of changes, too.
Three reasons for hope:
1. The core of the team is young. Forward Jeff Skinner won the Calder Trophy in 2011, and defenseman Justin Faulk led all rookie defensemen in ice time in 2011-12. Both are 19 years old and should mature into high-end players.
2. Muller pushed the right buttons to make the team more consistent on a nightly basis. With his pedigree as a player, plus five seasons as an assistant in Montreal, Muller is widely regarded as a rising star in the coaching ranks.
3. General manager Jim Rutherford has indicated the Hurricanes will pursue a high-end free agent in the offseason, which would be a departure for the budget-conscious team.