1. Are the Hurricanes an elite Stanley Cup contender?
If the Carolina Hurricanes can find the leadership needed to excel, manage Dougie Hamilton’s contract, prepare for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, and have some consistent quality goaltending, then there is a much bigger question facing them in 2021.
Are they elite?
No doubt they have some very elite players. Arguably two top 25 NHL forwards and two top 25 NHL defensemen are on the Canes roster. Carolina has had success over the past two seasons after earning some pretty high draft picks in years past. Where the rubber meets the road is the 14 games that Carolina will play against last year’s Stanley Cup Finals teams.
Set aside the possible opinion that Dallas over performed last season in the Playoff bubble, the Stars know what it takes to win big games. Tampa Bay has been a powerhouse for years in the Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman era. Where does Carolina fit competitively?
If you look at the newly dubbed “Discover NHL Central Division” as a whole, Tampa Bay is the top tier team. Then based on last season and expectations etc. Carolina is a tier below alongside Dallas. Columbus, Florida, and Nashville make up tier three, while Chicago and Detroit round the division out.
To summarize it: Are the Carolina Hurricanes going to allow the Tampa Bay Lightning to run away with the division title? Or will a young but extremely talented team take the next step forward and surprise the NHL?