Out of playoffs again, Canes seek answers

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 9, 2014 

  • Final home game

    Canes vs. Capitals

    7 p.m. (FSCR)

— A day after having their final playoff chances end, the Carolina Hurricanes were back at work at PNC Arena on Wednesday.

They also were trying to come up with some answers.

The 4-1 road loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday mathematically eliminated the Hurricanes (34-34-11), who face the Washington Capitals on Thursday in their final home appearance. For the fifth straight season, there will be no Stanley Cup playoffs, leaving everyone in the franchise dejected and Canes fans frustrated, again.

Canes captain Eric Staal noted the close games that could have been won with a power-play goal, with more attention to detail, a little more effort, a little more confidence.

“There’s a fine line between winning and losing and I think we found a way to lose too many times, whether it be a breakdown or special-teams play or not bearing down on a chance,” he said.

Staal was a big part of the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup win in 2006 and has been to the playoffs just once since then. Asked to sum up his emotions, he quickly said, “It goes without saying, very disappointed. We feel like we’ve got a good enough team to be in the playoffs but obviously we’re not going to be there.

“We need to find a way to extract a little bit more from each guy. I think offensively the confidence wasn’t as high as it needs to be, producing goals on offense. … We didn’t generate as much as I think we’re capable of.”

Staal doesn’t exclude himself. With three games left in the season, he has 19 goals and 39 assists and though he leads the Canes with 58 points, he will finish with his fewest in a full season since his rookie year of 2003-2004.

“For me, I know what’s expected of me here,” Staal said. “I’ve been here long enough to understand that and obviously I’m counted on offensively to produce. I felt like I’ve done a lot of the same things I’ve done every year but for whatever reason, goal-scoring wise, the puck didn’t seem to be hitting the back of the net as it has in the past.

“I think my shots were down. I didn’t get as many looks at the net, not enough high-quality shots. I have one power-play goal, which isn’t good enough.”

For six seasons, beginning in 2005-06, Staal averaged 14 power-play goals per season. He has 11 power-play goals in his past 206 games during the past three seasons.

A serious knee injury in May at the 2013 IIHF World Championship was a big setback for Staal. He spent the summer rehabbing the injury, got off to a slow start to the season and said Wednesday he did not regain his form until late-December.

“After Christmas my pace and my game was back to where it needs to be,” he said. “It was tougher than I thought it would be, but I’ve never made any excuses and I’m not going to make any now. It was a tough start not only for me but I think for a few other guys. … That makes it a tough hill to climb and you get behind.”

Defenseman Ron Hainsey noted the Canes beat teams such as Colorado, Anaheim, San Jose and Pittsburgh with solid team efforts. But they also let potential points slip away too easily at other times and are 18-16-6 at home.

“We’d have great games in spurts against top teams, especially early in the year playing the Western teams really tough,” Hainsey said. “We just weren’t able to consistently do it throughout the year and we weren’t able to get away with it. Sometimes you can outscore consistency problems, but we weren’t able to.”

Canes coach Kirk Muller said he didn’t want to discuss the reasons for missing the playoffs until after the season had played out.

“It is disappointing,” Muller said. “From a personal way of viewing it, I think I look at it though as we’re on the right track. I know that’s not easy to explain short of getting into all the details, but I think we’ve looked at some different areas we’ve improved on and I think we’re in the right direction.”

Muller has a year remaining on his contract. He said he has gotten no assurances from team owner Peter Karmanos Jr. or management about next season but hopes to return.

“We’ve got a good group of young guys,” he said. “As far as this year we’re not happy we didn’t make the playoffs, but I want to be around to turn this thing around. I want to get this team in the right direction.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service