The Carolina Hurricanes are celebrating their 25th season in North Carolina and it is shaping up to be a special one. Although a disappointing end, last season saw the team set franchise records in both wins and points in the standings. After an incredibly exciting offseason that saw the Hurricanes acquire both Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty, the expectations for this team are high.
Every season can be hard to predict, and this one is no different. As the team looks to once again challenge for the Stanley Cup, here are five predictions for the 2022-23 iteration of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Brent Burns sets a new record for points by a Hurricanes defenseman
Last season, defenseman Tony DeAngelo set a record for most points in a season by a Canes defenseman in one season (since relocation) with 51 points. He surpassed Justin Faulk’s 49 point campaign in 2014-15. DeAngelo was traded to the Flyers this offseason and now the longtime Shark Brent Burns will be put into the same role as DeAngelo last year.
Last season as a member of the San Jose Sharks, Burns managed to put up 54 points. If he was able to accomplish that number on an offense-starved San Jose team, it’s reasonable to expect the same, if not better, on a contender like Carolina. Burns hasn’t missed a game in eight seasons and assuming that trend continues, 82 games seems like more than enough for him to put up 52+ points.
The Canes have a 40 goal scorer for the first time since 2008-09
The last time any player in a Hurricanes sweater had 40 or more goals was Eric Staal, who had an even 40 in the 2008-09 season. This season, the Hurricanes are in a position where they could potentially have another one. While many expect Andrei Svechnikov to be the first Cane to break the 40-goal threshold, I think it will be Sebastian Aho that gets the job done this season.
Aho came close in the 2019-20 season, with 38 goals through 68 games. It is almost a guarantee he would’ve surpassed 40 goals had the league (and world) not had to shut down in March. Aho came close again inn 2021-22, where he had 37 goals in 79 games.
Although Svechnikov had an impressive 30 goal campaign last season, I think it is more likely that Aho is the first Cane in over a decade to have over 40 goals to their name.
Goaltending takes a step back
These can’t all be positive, can they? Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta form one of the best goaltending tandems in the league, as evidenced by their William Jennings Trophy last season. However, it is not realistic to expect THAT level of goaltending from the duo again.
Andersen’s .922 save percentage was his career best as a starter, and Raanta shattered his career numbers in the playoffs with an outstanding performance as the impromptu starter. Naturally it is very hard for goaltenders not to regress after outstanding seasons like that, especially with how injury prone these two net-minders are.
Frederik Andersen was the Hurricanes most valuable player during the regular season in 2021-22, and while we should expect some regression, it is incredibly likely he still has a strong showing. Both Andersen and Raanta are unrestricted free agents at year’s end and both will want to prove they are still options for the Canes going forward.
Carolina finishes with less points than last season, still win the division
The Hurricanes set a new franchise record for both wins (54) and points (116) last season on their way to a Metropolitan Division title last season. They will look to build on that this year, but the wins will not come as easy in the Eastern Conference.
In the East last season, we saw a weird scenario where the eight playoff teams had separated themselves from the pack pretty early in the season. This year, this won’t be the case. There is reason to believe that most of if not all of Ottawa, New Jersey, Columbus, Detroit, and the Islanders will be at least a little bit better.
Those teams will likely steal more points from the Hurricanes than they have in years past, however, the many points they will end up with this year should still be enough for them to claim their third division title in a row. The only real threat to win the Metropolitan at the moment seems to be the New York Rangers, but assuming everyone stays healthy the Hurricanes should be able to out-pace them over the course of the season.
The Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup
Before the 2005-06 season the Hurricanes front office brought in a lot of veteran support in order to insulate their young talent. Those veterans brought sparked life into a Hurricanes team that finished 23rd the year. That team went on to win the Stanley Cup as a result of these moves, and one can’t help but wonder if Don Waddell copied that blueprint this season.
Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny all fit in the category of veteran players who have not been able to capture a Stanley Cup. Add in the fact that all still very much have the ability to contribute, and this seems like a recipe for success. The Hurricanes finished 3rd in the standings and were one win away from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals after playing the entirety of the postseason without their starting goaltender.
The Hurricanes have been unable to hit the second gear necessary to make it past the second round, but much like the 2018 Capitals and 2022 Avalanche, they certaintly have the ability to. Predicting the Hurricanes to win the Stanley Cup is hardly a hot take at this point, but this seems like the season to do it.
When the postseason comes around they will have a fresh Max Pacioretty, a lineup with a mix of hungry veterans and dynamic youth, as well as (hopefully) a Vezina quality goaltender to back them up. The boldest prediction and the one every Caniac wants to come true the most, the Carolina Hurricanes will end the season as the Stanley Cup Champions.