The Carolina Hurricanes' abysmal five-game losing streak has pointed fingers at every unit, player and strategy.
Third-string goaltender Justin Peters has yet to win a game this season. Brothers Eric and Jordan Staal are goalless with a minus-seven rating during the slump. Defensemen Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison have made several costly pinches and Andrej Sekera has become a turnover machine.
Excuses can be made. Leading scorer Jeff Skinner, franchise goaltender Cam Ward and depth forwards Radek Dvorak and Kevin Westgarth remain sidelined, and battered rearguard Tim Gleason rejoined them over the weekend.
Yet the bottom line is this: Since Ward's departure in Minnesota on Oct. 24, the 'Canes have been outscored 18-5 and outshot 160-138 in their fall to a pitiful 4-7-3 record.
The general public has largely heaped the blame upon Peters, and a quick glimpse at his 3.49 GAA this season and 15-27-6 career record would seem to justify that decision.
Look past the box scores, however, and Peters has done his best to try to right the ship this season. He produced a number of sparkling stops against Colorado and Tampa Bay in particular before repeated defensive breakdowns took their toll, and recorded near-.900 save percentages against Minnesota and Pittsburgh, as well.
The Hurricanes' ship is leaking from every porthole. It's not reasonable to force a 27-year-old AHL journeyman to keep it afloat.
Below, compare Carolina's offensive production over the years in front of Peters compared to other goaltenders:
|Season||Peters Record||With Peters||Without Peters|
|2013-14||0-5-0||1.00 GPG||2.44 GPG|
|2012-13||4-11-2||2.60 GPG||2.67 GPG|
|2011-12||2-3-3||2.67 GPG||2.58 GPG|
|2010-11||3-5-1||2.50 GPG||2.87 GPG|
|Total||9-24-6||2.37 GPG||2.70 GPG|
Except for the outlying 2011-12 campaign (which also included a mere six-game sample size), the 'Canes goal-scoring has consistently dipped when Peters stepped in to the crease behind them—and no more drastically than this ongoing campaign.
Eric Staal has had a indisputably terrible autumn, registering a team-worst minus-10 rating, taking nine minor penalties in 14 games and going pointless in four straight.
How would you grade the Hurricanes' season so far?
Nathan Gerbe, after such an explosive start, has just one point and a minus-three mark over the five-game streak.
Jiri Tlusty has figured in on the scoresheet in just three matches to date and has been nothing short of useless in the defensive zone.
Tuomo Ruutu hasn't scored in five consecutive games and has finished with a negative plus/minus rating in four consecutive.
Riley Nash hasn't scored in five consecutive games, either, and has managed a simply pitiful four shots over that same time span, too.
Across the board, the Hurricanes' impact players have not only lost their mojo but, in most cases, dropped into absolute invisibility.
Their confidence has disappeared. Kirk Muller's low-key attitude hasn't sparked a much-needed jump. Jim Rutherford's stubborn roster decisions have left the same players on the ice night after night. A string of small, quiet crowds at PNC Arena hasn't helped, either.
Justin Peters may possibly be the only person not at fault in Carolina's offensive train wreck.
Five consecutive home games—the first four all against teams the 'Canes have already met this season—now offer the opportunity for the Hurricanes to get back on track. The November schedule will finally begin to offer the every-other-day game routine that October didn't, and perhaps an easier set of opponents, as well.
But, for the moment, only the most optimistic can envision the sleepwalking Hurricanes turning their 2013-14 campaign around in such a short manner. The way the season has gone so far, it seems more likely than any positive signs will be transformed into cringe-worthy moments in an instant.
Yes, Justin Peters must improve. It may be another two weeks, after all, before even second-string netminder Anton Khudobin can return.
And yes, the offense must improve, too—improve tremendously. Their current league rank of 27th isn't just insufficient, it's downright inexcusable on a team with so much talent.
The Carolina Hurricanes need a miraculous turnaround. And they need it soon.
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.