That was last year.
The Carolina Hurricanes are a different team as they prepare for training camp and will have a chance to put their imprint on the Eastern Conference and possibly even win it.
Start off with the acquisitions of Jordan Staal and Alex Semin. Staal is a legitimate star who is thrilled to be in Carolina (souce: ESPN.com) and playing with his older brother Eric. Playing on the same team with his sibling has been a goal for Jordan for many seasons, and now he gets to work it out.
Jordan Staal is an excellent center who can get the job done in the faceoff circle and play superb defense. He can also skate, pass, shoot and use his instincts when he gets in the dirty areas near the net.
Head coach Kirk Muller is going to try the obvious by putting the brothers together on the same line—at least is training camp—to see if their family chemistry translates into on-ice chemistry (source: TSN.com).
It should because both have developed reputations for determination and work ethic playing separately. Together, they should create matchup problems for opposing defensive teams.
Jordan Staal had 25 goals and 25 assists last season for the Penguins, who wanted to keep him and presented him an offer prior to the draft because he figured in their long-term plans. However, Staal's reaction was lukewarm and the Penguins decided to move him rather than have him finish out the remaining season on his contract.
The leadership factor of the Staal brothers playing together could make the Hurricanes a far more formidable opponent.
Of course, they won't be able to do it alone. General manager Jim Rutherford believes he added to the team's offensive level by signing Alex Semin to a one-year, $7 million free-agent contract. Semin has explosive offensive talent and one of the hardest shots in the NHL, but he is hardly a guarantee. Semin was not fully engaged with the Capitals the last two seasons.
Semin scored 40 goals in 2009-10, but his goal total dipped to 28 in 2010-11 and 21 last season. However, Rutherford believes that Semin can get back to his most productive levels if he is relaxed and happy. "I've always had a very strong opinion of him as a player," Rutherford told ESPN.com. "Of course, we see it firsthand—he certainly hasn't been a friend of the Hurricanes as an opponent."
The Hurricanes may have finished in last place in the Southeast Division, but they are not without weapons. Forward Jeff Skinner is one of the top young players in the league. He has scored 51 goals in his first two seasons and he has a slew of offensive moves that should allow him to become a 30-goal scorer on a regular basis.
Are the Hurricanes legitimate Eastern Conference contenders?
Jussi Jokinen, Jiri Tlusty, Jamie McBain and Tuomo Ruutu are all useful parts for the Hurricanes. Remember that Cam Ward is a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy winning goalie and is capable of stopping the most explosive offenses.
However, he just can't do it all by himself. The addition of Jordan Staal and Semin can be enough to help the Hurricanes improve offensively and win the Southeast Division.
If that happens and they end up with the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, they will have a chance to assert themselves in the postseason.
The Hurricanes have come out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup in the past—they defeated the Edmonton Oilers in seven games in 2006—and they have a chance to rekindle those memories if they can get off to an explosive start and ride that crest throughout the season.