The 2022/23 Carolina Hurricanes season was another case of so close yet so far as they reached the Eastern Conference Finals only to be swept by the Florida Panthers, so they aim to right the ship in 2023/24.
The Canes don't really have an area of weakness and Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas, and Andrei Svechnikov make a great top line, but they don't have a superstar who can lift the team when they most need it.
The additions of Dmitry Orlov and Michael Bunting certainly don't hurt, but will they deliver that final boost that Carolina needs to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2006?
Here we take a look at how they stack up going into the new NHL season.
|What||2023/24 NHL Season|
|Where||US & Canada|
|When||October 10, 2023 - June 2024|
|How to watch||ABC, ESPN, TNT & NHL Center Ice|
|Odds||TOR Maple Leafs +800, COL Avalanche +850, EDM Oilers +900, NJ Devils +1000, CAR Hurricanes +1000|
They fell two wins short of their 2021-22 regular season wins total with 52 last season but that was enough for the Hurricanes to win their division for the third straight year, denying the New Jersey Devils by a single point.
They eliminated the New York Islanders with an OT win in game six of the first round and another overtime victory saw them take out the Devils in five games in the second.
That was their final win of the campaign. They were swept in the conference finals and all four of their losses to Florida in the series came by a single goal, with the opening encounter going to a fourth overtime period.
Another deep play-off run is the least that Caniacs will be expecting from Rod Brind'Amour's boys this season. Having developed into a force in recent seasons, finally winning a second Stanley Cup is what they are really gunning for.
It is interesting that the Hurricanes seem to have focused on bolstering the defense in the off-season, as that was an area they were already strong.
Only Boston allowed fewer than Carolina's 210 goals-against during the regular season, and with Orlov, Caleb Jones and the returning Tony DeAngelo joining Brent Burns, Jacob Slavin and co., they have the makings of arguably the stoutest blueline in the league.
They also have three goalies on one-way contracts - meaning a player gets the same pay whether they play in the NHL or minor leagues - so it will be interesting to see how that shakes out with 24-year-old Pyotr Kochetkov pushing for starts behind established duo Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.
With defense like that you don't always need many goals to win a game, but some more potent forwards wouldn't hurt their cause with none of their offensive players scoring 40 or more goals last season.
Bunting is likely to go straight onto the top line, but his 23 goals for Toronto last season isn't earth-shattering.
Sebastian Aho was the only Hurricanes player to top 30 goals last season, scoring 36, and defensemen Burns and Brady Skjei were the joint fourth-highest scorers with 18 goals each.
They also ranked only 20th on the powerplay.
Andrei Svechnikov could certainly make a difference if he returns in full health. The 23-year-old tallied 55 points in 64 games last season before succumbing to an ACL injury, for which he has had surgery.
Carolina are in as +1000 joint fourth-favorites to win the Stanley Cup with only the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers perceived as having a greater chance by the oddsmakers.
They are +600 favorites to score the most regular-season points, but with the Presidents Trophy recipients having gone on to win the Stanley Cup only twice in the last 20 years, they won't be particularly focused on that despite finishing second last season.
The Hurricanes are +350 to win their division for the third straight year and -700 to make the playoffs for the sixth year in a row.
Captain Jordan Staal has the 10th-shortest odds at +1800 to win the Selke Trophy for the forward with the strongest defensive ability.
Aho is +6600 to win the Hart Trophy for the NHL's most valuable player, while Svechnikov is +15000.
Brind'Amour has the second-shortest odds at +750 to win the Jack Adams Award for the league's best coach, behind only Lindy Ruff of the New Jersey Devils.
For the Vezina Trophy honoring the league's top goaltender, Pyotr Kochetkov is +3300, Frederik Andersen is +5000, and Antti Raanta is +10000.
The Canes kick off their season with a visit from the Ottawa Senators to PNC Arena on October 11 before embarking on a six-game road trip including a swing through California.
They have a run of three matchups against fellow Metropolitan Division opponents in last October and early November, all of which are on the road, so it will be a challenging opening month for the Hurricanes.
Their first rematch with the Panthers comes in Sunrise on November 10, while they host defending Stanley Cup champions Vegas on December 20.
Former Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour is about to start his sixth season behind the bench.
After spending the last ten seasons of his playing career in Carolina, the Ottawa native was named an assistant and development coach for the team at the end of the 2010-11 season, with his role focused on the younger forwards.
After the team failed to reach the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year, Brind'Amour was announced as head coach in place of Bill Peters after the conclusion of the 2018 season.
Reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season in charge, Brind'Amour's team have made the playoffs all five seasons in which he has coached them.
Dmitry Orlov (D) (Boston)
Tony DeAngelo (D) (Philadelphia)
Caleb Jones (D) (Chicago)
Michael Bunting (F) (Toronto)
Max Pacioretty (F) (Washington)
Paul Stastny (F) (FA)
Derek Stepan (F) (FA)
Jesse Puljujarvi (F) (FA)
Shayne Gostisbehere (D) (Detroit)
Calvin de Haan (D) (Tampa Bay)