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Five pressing questions for the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2018-19 season:
1. Will the goaltending hold up?
This is the biggest question on the board. If the answer is no, the Canes will miss the playoffs for a 10th straight year. That’s simple.
A slimmer, seemingly more confident Scott Darling looked sharp in preseason, then tweaked a hamstring Sunday. He says it’s a minor injury, but time will tell. The addition of goalie Curtis McElhinney, a good waiver-wire pickup, should help in the short term teaming with Petr Mrazek but it’s the long term that has Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour more concerned.
2. Will the Canes score enough?
Seems like this question pops up … what, every year? No one on the team scored more than Sebastian Aho’s 29 goals last season, and only Aho, Jeff Skinner (24) and Teuvo Teravainen (23) scored 20 or more. Now, Skinner is gone, traded away.
The Canes badly need more offense from the D corps and Dougie Hamilton, who scored 17 goals last season in Calgary, will help. And it would help if Aho didn’t go the the first 15 games without scoring, as the Finnish center did last season.
3. Are the rookies ready for the NHL?
Brind’Amour can speak from experience about being a young rookie in the NHL and he has five rookie forwards on his roster in his first year as a head coach — Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Valentin Zykov, Warren Foegele and Lucas Wallmark. Try sleeping on that.
“You’re going to expect some hiccups,” Brind’Amour said. “At the same time when you throw in some youth and the energy that should be provided by those guys, it should be great.”
4. Can the Canes get off to a better start?
Judging by the records the past few years, it’s not encouraging. The Canes were 6-5-4 in their first 15 games last season, after going 5-6-4 in 2016-17 and 6-9-0 (2015-16). Before that: 5-7-3 (2014-15) and 5-7-3 (2013-14). The best 15-game start over the past nine years was 8-6-1 in 2012-13, the lockout year, when the season didn’t begin until January.
5. Can Brind’Amour get it done?
Of all the changes made in the franchise, starting at the top with team owner Tom Dundon, the selection of Brind’Amour as head coach might have been the best received, especially by Canes fans. It hurt to see Ron Francis, Cam Ward and Skinner leave. The same with Chuck Kaiton, long the radio voice of the team.
But Brind’Amour remains, intent on having his team play with the intensity and competitive fire he once had. He has never been a head coach. He wanted the chance. This is his chance.