How Struggling Metropolitan Division Alters Carolina Hurricanes' 2013-14 Outlook

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How Struggling Metropolitan Division Alters Carolina Hurricanes' 2013-14 Outlook
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a difficult and largely disappointing October performance, the Carolina Hurricanes begin November in fine shape in the new Metropolitan Division.

The 'Canes played nine of 12 games against playoff teams from a year ago and met four of the past five Stanley Cup champions at some point last month.

Their mere four wins were undoubtedly underwhelming, yet their 11-point total is still good enough for a miraculous second-place spot in the division.

Metropolitan Division's Struggling Standings
Wins Losses OT Losses Goal Diff.
Pittsburgh Penguins 9 4 0 +10
Carolina Hurricanes 4 5 3 -10
Rest of Division 25 38 7 -42

http://www.nhl.com/ice/standings.htm?season=20132014&type=DIV

It's been a rough coming-out party for the newly formed Metropolitan Division, formed out of the formerly dominant Atlantic Division along with the former Central's Columbus Blue Jackets and former Southeast's Washington Capitals and Hurricanes. 

The Metro is guaranteed of three playoff spots, with the potential of one or two more. Given the tremendous success of the Maple Leafs, Bruins, Lightning, Canadiens and Red Wings in the opposing Atlantic Division, three is most likely all they will get.

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That logic spots the Metro postseason cut-off line at a paltry 75.2 points—also the current pace of the Hurricanes. For comparison, last year's No. 8 seed (the Islanders) squeezed in at a 94-point pace, while 2011-2012's cut-off line fell at 92 points.

Regression to the mean will almost certainly pull the Metropolitan back to respectability as the season progresses. There's hardly any question, though, that finishing in the upper half of the group will require significantly fewer wins than originally expected.

And that's great news for the 'Canes.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

November offers a great opportunity for Carolina to inch back to .500 and finally please the crowd at PNC Arena (their 10-16-4 home record since last winter is easily the worst in the league).

But it's also a dense month sure to test the endurance of the already beat-up and shorthanded roster.

Here's how the Hurricanes' 14-game November slate breaks down:

  • Nine of 14 games at home
  • Season-high five-game homestand
  • Five games against Metropolitan rivals
  • Four meetings with Western opponents ('Canes are 0-3-2 vs. West this year)
  • Four consecutive Saturday night contests
  • Three back-to-backs
  • Two games against struggling New Jersey Devils
  • Two games against defending Eastern champion Boston Bruins
  • Only NBC Sports Network appearance of season (Nov. 5 vs. Flyers)

To take advantage of their opportunity, the 'Canes will surely shoot for at least eight wins and hopefully another spare point or two, as well.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The 'Canes need their two goaltenders back as soon as possible.

Yet they'll need to get all hands back on deck to accomplish that—including Thursday signing Manny Malhotra as well as injured reserve-dwellers Jeff Skinner, Radek Dvorak, Anton Khudobin and (eventually) Cam Ward. Justin Peters is not a goaltender the 'Canes want to depend upon any longer than necessary.

With weekend matches against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the biggest surprise of the Atlantic Division so far, and the New York Rangers, the biggest disappointment of the Metropolitan Division so far, the Hurricanes will experience a perfect comparison of the two divisions to kick off November.

A Saturday win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden would be nice.

A Friday win over the Bolts, as well, would be even better.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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