There are four big questions looming for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2020-2021.
For the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL as a whole, the puck drops for the 2020-2021 NHL season in about a week. Just like in every new season, there are feelings of excitement mixed with expectations. Except unlike seasons past, we have a 56-game schedule with new divisions and a new format. This will make for some unknowns and the unexpected.
We know we can depend on the NHL’s ultimate prize of the Stanley Cup being awarded. Something new in regards to Lord Stanley’s Cup is that the Hurricanes are now considered legitimate contenders by the majority of hockey people. Not too bad for “a bunch of jerks.”
In the 2019 postseason, the Canes were one of the Wild Card teams that wreaked havoc on top seeds across the bracket, knocking out the Washington Capitals after Alex Ovechkin literally knocked out the then-rookie Andrei Svechnikov in a fight. Somehow that catapulted Carolina to the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, last season’s Playoff push did not last as long, but Carolina absolutely handled the New York Rangers in a three-game sweep in the Play-In Round before being knocked out by Boston for the second straight year.
The Hurricanes did not make a huge splash this offseason and did not suffer any marquee losses. So why are the Canes one of the more exciting teams heading into this season? Their difference makers are another year older, and the core of their team has been together for yet another year. For a young team, that alone can be a big deal.
If the Canes are going to get past their Boston roadblock, a few questions cannot be ignored. The team’s youth brings us to the first big question facing the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2020-21 NHL Season.
4. Do the Hurricanes have the leadership and experience for a deep playoff run?
Arguably the largest departure for the Carolina Hurricanes this offseason was the retirement of former captain Justin Williams. Williams did not know if he would play in the 2019-2020 season and ended up joining the team midseason. He may not have worn the “C” in his final, partial season, but he scored eight goals in only 20 regular-season games.
Williams won three Stanley Cups in his career and was known as “Mr. Game 7”. Williams was 38-years-old in his final season.
The legendary David Ayres was the only player older than Williams to play for the Hurricanes last season. There are only three players currently rostered in Carolina that are 30-years-old or older.
In fact, the Hurricanes are the second-youngest team in the NHL at 26.17 years of age. Only the New York Rangers are younger. Youth does not always mean lacking experience, but for the Canes, it means exactly that. Over the past two years, Canes have played in 23 Playoff games. The active postseason games played leader on their roster has played in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
The team’s official leaders are captain Jordan Staal and alternate captains Jordan Martinook and Jaccob Slavin. Between those three and superstars Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, can the ship stay on course in another strange season? Of course, we also have to factor in Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour, who is no slouch himself, but only time will tell.