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Q & A With . . . Canes Country

We reached out to the SBNation blogs for the other clubs in the Metropolitan Division, posing five questions. First up -- the Carolina Hurricanes.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes are an enigma.  On paper, they are an intimidating lot, with Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin up front.  Those four combined for 91 goals and 106 assists last season, but also managed only a cumulative minus-24.  Ouch.  They got little help on the scoring front, as the club ranked 22nd in scoring, with just 205 goals. 

The mediocre showing spurred significant change in the front office and behind the bench. In April, Ron Francis assumed the General Manager position, replacing Jim Rutherford, who assumed temporary advisory duties for the club before being named the new GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins in June.  Also in June, Bill Peters was named the new head coach, replacing Kirk Muller, who later signed on as an assistant to Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis. 

We reached out to Bob Wage, the Managing Editor of Canes Country, the SBNation blog for the Carolina Hurricanes, posing five questions concerning the club's fortunes for the upcoming season.  Here's what he had to say:

Q:  What changes do you expect Bill Peters to bring, both on the ice and in the room?

Peters will bring a fresh attitude and energy to the room which is badly needed. He seems to be an excellent communicator and hopefully his message will get through to the team. In his latest press conference he summarized his system which seems to be an aggressive forecheck. If nothing else, the Canes should be skating hard and forechecking this season, but the most important on ice improvement will have to be the powerplay. Time will tell on that.

Q:  For the Canes to make the playoffs, _____________ needs to step up and be a key contributor.  Fill in the blank.  Why?

Eric Staal.  Ever since he has been on the team, the Hurricanes depend upon Eric Staal to get them going. If he does well, the Canes usually do as well. As team captain, he will need to lead by example and put the team on his back if necessary. Can he get back to be a clutch player? I don't know.

Q:  Last year, the club had 42 points at home and 41 on the road.  Why so relatively good away, and poor at home?  How does this change?

Why do they have such a poor record at home? Do they try harder to please the home crowd and mess up? Are they too comfortable and that is why they start out slow? Time after time when playing at home, this team would come out of the gate lethargic and would be losing in the first period. That is a recipe for disaster in the NHL. How does this change? First of all they need to recognize the problem and it seems Coach Peters is well aware of this and vows to make them start out games better this season. How does he accomplish this? He says its preparation.

Q: Andrej Sekera and Justin Faulk averaged almost 24 minutes of TOI per game last year.  Can they be effective at that level for a full sesaon?  Who provides relief on the Blue Line?

Sekera had a career season last year. Can he repeat again this season? I believe he can and will. He and Faulk make a decent pairing and should do well in that role again. Who provides the relief is the bigger question. The Canes will be counting on Ron Hainsey and Tim Gleason to most likely play the next biggest role on the blueline. A lot of pundits are not optimistic about the rest of the club's defensemen.

Q:  The reunion of the Staals in Carolina resonates in a mnner similar to the Sedins in Vancouver.  One has the "C", the other an "A".  Asset or distraction for the club?

So far, it's been more of a distraction in my opinion. The Staal Brothers get a lot of publicity and attention. But last year, both Eric and Jordan had sub-par seasons compared to their normal stats. The team needs that to change this coming season in order to make it to the post season.

________________

The Hurricanes have talent, but are relying on an older crop of blue liners, with Gleason, Hainsey and Liles, though first round pick Haydn Fleury provides promised relief -- but not likely this year.    That will put pressure on Anton Khudobin, who posted nifty numbers of 2.30 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 36 games last year.  Can he do it over a full season?  If not, can Cam Ward regain his form?   Lots of potential, but lots of questions in Carolina this year.  If Bill Peters can get everyone on the same page, the Hurricanes could contend. However, the Metro Division is a tough place to find your identity.  If the Staals do not meet expectations, new management may not be as patient as the previous regime.

Our thanks to Bob Wage for his candid answers.  Be sure to check out Canes Country for all things Hurricanes.  More to com -- stay tuned.