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'Canes seek quick turnaround with Muller at helm

by Kurt Dusterberg /


C Eric Staal
GOALS: 24 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 70
SOG: 262 | +/-: -20
G Cam Ward
RECORD: 30-23-13
GAA: 2.74 | SVP: 0.915
D Justin Faulk
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 22
SOG: 101 | +/-: -16
Eric Staal
The Hurricanes were 3-10 in overtime and 1-6 in the shootout.
What happened?

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.

Three free agent acquisitions fell short of expectations. Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky and defenseman Tomas Kaberle were both traded by midseason. Forward Anthony Stewart passed through waivers.

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.

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