Better luck next year: How do the Carolina Hurricanes get over the hump?
They keep getting so close. It has to happen at some point .... right?
Welcome back to Better Luck Next Season where we will take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and what sits ahead for all of the teams that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs or lost in the playoffs. Today we look at the Carolina Hurricanes, one of the NHL’s best teams that keeps getting so close to the top of the mountain but just missig out on reaching the peak.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been one of the NHL’s best teams over the past five years and have pieced together a balanced, deep roster that is also loaded with players in the prime years of their careers and mostly signed to team-friendly contracts.
Only one of their top-six scorers from a year ago was over the age of 25 (37-year-old Brent Burns), while only two of their top-10 were over the age of 28. They also only have one player (Sebastian Aho) that accounts for more than $8 million against the salary cap. They are good, while that contract situation gives them plenty of salary cap flexibility in which to operate.
They are not going away anytime soon.
But the one thing this current core is still missing is a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, despite the fact they keep getting close.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season (when Rod Brind’Amour took over as the team’s head coach) they have made the playoffs every year, are fourth in the NHL in regular season wins, won at least one playoff round in four of those years and also made two different Eastern Conference Finals, including this past year.
It has been an extremely successful team.
It has also been a frustrating team in the sense that it can’t quite get over the Eastern Conference hump and get closer to a championship.
Of the top-seven teams in regular season wins since the start of 2018-19 (Boston, Tampa Bay, Colorado, Toronto, Carolina, Vegas, and Florida) Carolina and Toronto are the only two that haven’t reached at least one Stanley Cup Final during that stretch.
They also have failed to win a single game in both of their most recent Conference Final appearances, getting swept by Boston during the 2018-19 playoffs and then going out in four games against Florida this past season. They’ve been one of the final four teams still standing two times, which is great, but they’ve never gotten closer than halfway to a Stanley Cup in terms of actual wins.
I tend to be of the belief that talent will ultimately win out and that if teams like this stay the course that it can finally reach its goal. St. Louis finally eventually broke through the door and won its championship after years of disappointment. Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals got there. It took Colorado a few years of second round losses before getting its championship. Tampa Bay spent years in the Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final before winning back-to-back titles. Even though it didn’t result in a championship, the Joe Thornton-Patrick Marleau San Jose Sharks eventually did get to a Stanley Cup Final.
Carolina is young enough and good enough that its time could still come.
Especially when they do so many things right.
It really is a trust the process sort of thing.
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