Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Three questions facing Carolina Hurricanes

1. Will their goaltending be good enough?
The Hurricanes envisioned Scott Darling as their No. 1 goalie when they acquired him in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks on April 28, 2017, and signed him to a four-year, $16.6 million contract. But Darling struggled with the heavier workload, going 13-21-7 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in an NHL career-high 43 games last season.
This season, the 29-year-old will compete for playing time with Petr Mrazek, who agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract July 1. Mrazek replaces Cam Ward, who left after 13 seasons in Carolina to sign with Chicago.
Mrazek, 26, also has something to prove after an inconsistent season with the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, when he went 14-13-6 with a 3.03 GAA, a .902 save percentage and four shutouts.
Ideally, either Darling or Mrazek will play well enough to take the starting job. 
2. Is Sebastian Aho a center?
Aho didn't look out of place after being moved from right wing to center near the end of last season, but Rod Brind'Amour, who is entering his first season as an NHL coach, isn't ready to say Aho will stay in that position. The 21-year-old's skill as a finisher (he led Carolina with 29 goals last season after scoring 24 as a rookie in 2016-17) might make him a better fit on the wing.
The problem is the Hurricanes are thin up the middle with veteran Jordan Staal, who had 46 points (19 goals, 27 assists) in 2017-18, as their next best option. If Martin Necas, 19, shows he's ready to play on the top two lines, that would make it easier to play Aho on the wing.
Necas is a talented playmaker the Hurricanes expect to develop into a top-line center, but he might begin the season in a lesser role to give him time to adjust to the NHL.
3. Can a front office by committee work?
Tom Dundon is a hands-on owner who is involved in almost every decision. He's assembled an experienced management team that includes general manager Don Waddell, senior vice president of hockey operations Rick Dudley and vice president of hockey operations Paul Krepelka. Dundon also has given Brind'Amour a say in personnel decisions.
Whatever the group decides, Dundon has final approval. 
The New York Islanders tried a similar collaborative approach in 2006. It lasted less than six weeks before GM Neil Smith was fired and senior adviser Pat LaFontaine resigned.

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