RALEIGH, N.C. – Following practice at PNC Arena on Friday, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters openly stated what he expected his team to do this year – score goals.
Not an epiphany by any sense, but the disclosure revealed more about the team’s offensive expectations for an upcoming season than has been publicly presented in recent years.
Though he didn’t provide the number, Peters, who has that positive integer in his mind, indicated he will be keeping track of his team’s tallies with more scrutiny, individually and collectively.
To answer the question, he asked the question, “Where are the goals gonna come from?”
“That’s the biggest thing for me,” Peters said.
“We’ve addressed it to some degree with some of the trades we’ve made, and we have a number that we’d like to hit for goals-for, for the season, and gotta make sure we get close to that number. If you don’t get into that certain number, whatever teams think it is, that magic number, there’s no playoffs, so we gotta score more and we’re gonna score more.”
No matter how painful, the Hurricanes have now pulled off the band-aid and uncovered the wound that has never healed with this team.
No matter how hard they’ve work to focus on defense more than offense, and even with the assumption that the offense would produce itself, not enough goals have been scored over the past five seasons.
Who will accomplish that task for this team?
It’s a question that has been asked every year during training camp and the preseason.
An inquiry that never has had a clear answer because you never know which version of your ‘top’ goal scorers will surface.
However, by looking at the numbers, it is clear that the Hurricanes do not have enough individual scoring power, even when considering the contributions of captain Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner.
The team’s scoring leaders, Staal and Skinner, have produced an average of 24 and 23 goals respectively over the past five seasons.
Good numbers, but not elite goal-scoring results by any stretch, and not enough to carry a team fully on their shoulders.
It’s a problem that can only be solved by a ‘scoring by committee’ concept – a complex practice with too many variables – and one that unfortunately has brought Carolina to its current state of play.
Dozens of players – prospects, trade acquisitions, and free agents alike – have been assembled to surround Staal and Skinner, but they have been unable to execute the game plan well enough to produce the number of wins needed to make the playoffs.
The offensive production has become a predictable practice and is eye-opening when you look at it.
Staal hasn’t scored 30 or more goals since the 2010-2011 season when he finished with 33, while Skinner netted 33 in 2013-2014, and 31 in 2010-2011.
Those are the type of numbers expected of both players.
“We need the guys who are supposed to score, to score,” Peters said.
“For me, it starts now. It doesn’t start in Nashville or against Detroit. It starts now. If you’re an offensive guy, you should be scorin’ at this time of year.”
Peters didn’t forget mentioning the team’s blueliners as part of the overall scheme to increase scoring production.
He expected to see it during both upcoming preseason games against the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators on Saturday and Sunday.
“You need your D up on the rush, you need your D ready to shoot up top in the zone,” Peters said.
“If you give your team an advantage, you’re lookin’ for offense – if you’re a D-man that has that capability, you better put it on display this weekend this weekend for sure.”
After scoring a career-high 15 goals in his fourth season of play in 2014-2015, defenseman Justin Faulk set that bar, and will now be expected to match it, plus more.
Even with all good intentions and directions from Peters to put the puck in the net, Carolina must begin to skate at a pace that will keep opposing defenders wondering what’s coming next.
Otherwise, goal production will once again come at a premium, and many one and two-goal leads will disappear to defer valuable points in the standings with ties and overtime or shootout results.
It’s a balance of executing the offense at a high level of speed to gain the zone while not slowing to effectively produce quality scoring chances with accurate passing, shooting, and goals scored as a result.
“You wanna do it right,” Peters said.
“You wanna be able to do it right, and be able to do it quicker. So, you get quicker and quicker as you go and the execution gets better throughout the year. A, you gotta know where you’re goin’, then B, you gotta do it quick – quicker than the other team.”