Carolina Hurricanes

Canes’ Francis calls season frustrating

The Canes Noah Hanifin (5) and Cam Ward (30) defend against the Wild's Chris Porter (7) during the third period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Nov. 12, 2015. The Wild beat the Canes 3-2 in overtime.
The Canes Noah Hanifin (5) and Cam Ward (30) defend against the Wild's Chris Porter (7) during the third period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Nov. 12, 2015. The Wild beat the Canes 3-2 in overtime. cseward@newsobserver.com

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis sees the good and the bad in analyzing his struggling hockey team.

Francis, in an interview Wednesday, said he believes Canes coach Bill Peters and his staff have done a good job in handling the team and keeping it competitive.

“I think we’re a well-coached team,” Francis said. “I think you see that on a night-in, night-out basis. It’s more a matter of executing properly and more consistently.”

But the Canes aren’t winning on home ice, at PNC Arena. They’re aren’t scoring enough goals. Their power play has been erratic, too often ineffective.

The Hurricanes (6-10-2) are winless in their last four games after a 4-1 loss Monday to the Anaheim Ducks. They’re seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 15th in the Eastern Conference.

The Canes have nine games at PNC Arena in November are 1-3-2 at PNC Arena this month and 2-5-2 at home overall.

“The frustrating thing for us is that in five of our losses (this season) we clearly were the better team but did not win,” Francis said. “That’s 10 points. That’s the difference of where we are in the standings and where we could be.

“I also know if if’s and but’s were candy nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. This is an outcome-based industry and you have to win.”

Francis noted the Canes have been limiting teams to low amounts of shots. The Philadelphia Flyers, for example, went almost 28 minutes between shots Saturday but won 3-2 in overtime.

The Ducks had 20 shots against the Canes, nine total in the first two periods. On Tuesday, the Ducks had 40 shots against the Nashville Predators but lost 3-2.

“We’re outplaying teams but not scoring goals,” Francis said. “The ones we give up kill us.”

Francis pointed out that both goaltenders have save percentages of below .900 — Cam Ward at .898 and Eddie Lack at .861.

“Our goaltending has not been horrible but it needs to be better,” he said. “You can’t win in this league when you’re under .900.”

The Canes are 29th in the NHL on the power play at 13.1 percent and are 19th in penalty-killing at 80.0. A hockey adage is that the combined percentages needs to top 100 to be productive, and the Canes check in at 93.1.

“The power play has to be better,” Francis said.

Francis believes the Canes’ five-on-five scoring will improve based on the analytics and past performances of players. He noted Jeff Skinner is converting six percent of his shots where he historically has been better than 10 percent.

“You keep telling yourself in time they’ll go in,” Francis said. “You look at the numbers and it tells us things should change.

“But you can’t just sit here and wait and hope it will change. You look at the numbers and say it should, but it hasn’t.”

Francis won’t make any knee-jerk reactions but doesn’t rule out making personnel changes.

“We’re always open to doing that,” he said. “That has not changed since Day One. But if has to makes sense.”

The Hurricanes traded in the offseason for defenseman James Wisniewski but the veteran suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener against Nashville. Defenseman Ryan Murphy is out indefinitely after a concussion against the Flyers.

Francis said former Canes defenseman Tim Gleason, an unsigned free agent, would practice with the team this week on a professional tryout basis.

But a pressing priority fo Carolina is scoring more goals.

Center Jordan Staal said Wednesday the Canes are getting good looks offensively but need “more of a killer instinct in burying them.”

“Myself and I’m sure a few others would like to have all our offense going,” Staal said. “But we can’t steer away from how we want to play. We’ll keep pushing where we can and play the way we can, and it’s a matter of time before they go in.”

  Comments