With a mere seven points and eleven straight losses, the 'Canes have begun a season that was highly anticipated as what could be another Cup season 2-10-3.
On the scoresheet, the 'Canes are last or nearly last in every category. They are last in the NHL in points, wins, goals against, and powerplays allowed per game. They are 29th in goals for, 24th in powerplay goals, 28th in powerplay scoring, 24th in powerplay goals against, and have been shut out three times, behind only Nashville with four.
In their past ten games, the Hurricanes have just three points, coming from overtime losses against Pittsburgh, the New York Islanders, and Minnesota. The Hurricanes are also 0-5-0 in their last five, being outscored 22-6, including 5-1 and 5-2 home beatdowns against St. Louis and San Jose.
On the injury side of things, Carolina has been hit hard, too. Erik Cole was out for a month with a broken leg, Tim Gleason has been on and off with a back injury this season, and team leaders Eric Staal and Ray Whitney also both missed last game.
But success and failure is measured by more than the stat sheet. There have been bright spots in this mess. 20-year-old Brandon Sutter has three goals in four games since being called up from the AHL, and defenseman Joni Pitkanen has also been providing some much needed offense while still keeping tabs on his opponents.
The Carolina Hurricanes have the players, coaches, and fans to overcome this slide, and they have the firepower to salvage the season. It's a new day, a new month, a new week. It's time to start the turnaround. Maybe not 11 straight wins, but a 2-1 or 3-1 week. All they need is a boost in confidence, and the eluding two points might be possible.
The 'Canes can turn this around.
And here's how they might be able to do it...
How to Salvage the 2009-10 Carolina Hurricanes' Season
Which the pressure of eleven straight losses weighing down their backs, the Hurricanes just really need to relax, forget, and start over. If they can get their confidence and energy back, the wins will come, in time. All they need to do is start over, right now, like tonight, in Columbus.
One of the most efficient ways to refresh and re-energize is to mix things up a bit. Switch up the offensive lines and defensemen pairings, change the roster, try some new plays and formations. Get the team excited and ready to go. That's what Paul Maurice and the rest of the coaching staff need to do, and quickly.
The minor leagues is a place to start. The AHL's Albany River Rats are never a top team in their league, but there are plenty of young, fresh prospects there that might be able to give the 'Canes a jump.
The coaching staff has already tried it twice in the past two weeks, with Brandon Sutter and Zach Boychuk, and both of them have had among the best performances of the team. Who knows what wingers such as Jerome Samson (4g, 9a, 13pts), Drayson Bowman (4g, 6a, 10 pts), or Patrick Dwyer (5g, 4a, 9pts), or defenseman Jamie McBain, could do?
Anther solution to get some changes back into the lineup is to move around the lines. That was done Friday night against Toronto and in turn gave the 'Canes their best performance in two weeks, despite a 3-2 loss.
Young Brandon Sutter is already playing with veteran and captain Rod Brind'Amour, and perhaps the addition of Zach Boychuk, a teammate of Sutter's in Albany, could provoke a little spark.
Gritty Scott Walker is also the only 'Cane with a positive +/-, and maybe a brawn-speed pairing with Sergei Samsanov, who scored against the Leafs, and playmaker Erik Cole could work.
Offseason newcomers Tom Kostopoulos (Montreal) and Stephane Yelle (Boston) have been together all season, but the line has yet to find a groove in the scoring. Perhaps they aren't meant to be together?
On defense, unit leader Joe Corvo is a -9, and maybe he could use a break from the top pairing. Instead, hard-skating Joni Pitkanen might be a better fit to keep up with top-line attackers.
Corvo could move down to the second pairing with confidence-lacking Aaron Ward, and Albany's young Jamie McBain might be an idea to pair up with Niclas Wallin in an attempt to replace stagnant Andrew Alberts.
Anyhow, here's how the new lines could work out in my mind, in no particular order, while Staal and Whitney are on reserve.
Sergei Samsanov - Scott Walker - Erik Cole
Chad LaRose - Matt Cullen - Stephane Yelle
Tom Kostopoulos - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Zach Boychuk - Brandon Sutter - Rod Brind'Amour
Joni Pitkanen - Tim Gleason
Joe Corvo - Aaron Ward
Jamie McBain - Niclas Wallin
So, now it comes to the crucial question: Will the Hurricanes be able to turn their season around? Maybe.
But can they? Of course.
All questions, comments, considerations, or corrections are welcomed. Much thanks also to Raleigh's News & Observer for their similar article published on Friday, which was the inspiration for this article.