Second half outlook

Yesterday, ABC 11's Mark Armstrong conducted an interview with Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford on the current state of the team. It's a must-listen for all Hurricanes fans, as Armstrong asks him some tough questions about the club's outlook and some specific players who are clearly underperforming this year. Rutherford admits that this club isn't where he wants it to be right now but his overall outlook is somewhat positive. He says that he think the Hurricanes can be a playoff team and if they add another piece they could be a team "that goes deep into the playoffs." He also implies that he may look to make a coaching change and shake up the team if they miss the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.

Is Rutherford being realistic with these aspirations or is he trying to sell us on a team that will probably end up short again? The Hurricanes may have underperformed, but they are still in the playoff hunt in a very mediocre Eastern Conference, so there is still hope left in this season. It's going to take the team having a really strong second half to make it happen, though. Almost everyone in the East may have gotten off to a slow start, but if you look at each of the team's record in the last 10 games, things are starting to get more competitive. Every team but Washington and Detroit have a non-losing record in their 10 last ten games and the Hurricanes are looking up in the standings in the Metropolitan Division.

They might be only five points out of a playoff spot with 2-3 games in hand, but they are still going to have to climb and uphill battle for the rest of the year, which is what they didn't want to get themselves into. Just how far up to they have to go and how realistic are the playoffs for the Hurricanes?

Last season, I gave everyone a week-by-week look at where the Hurricanes stood in the Southeast Division and how they swiftly fell out of the playoff race thanks to a string of terrible goaltending, shooting luck, injuries and just about everything you can imagine. This year, the situation is a little different because the Hurricanes are going to need to finish these next three months on a high note if they are going to make the playoffs.

It's not quite the hole they dug themselves into in 2011-12, but it's still going to be an upward climb the rest of the way.

Team GP Pts/82 Pts% 90 Pts 92 Pts 95 Pts
Penguins 48 119.6 72.9% 14.5% 15.9% 18.1%
Blue Jackets 47 90.7 53.2% 33.3% 35.0% 37.5%
Flyers 48 90.5 55.2% 30.6% 32.2% 34.7%
Capitals 48 90.5 54.2% 31.7% 33.3% 35.8%
Rangers 49 88.7 55.2% 31.1% 32.8% 35.3%
Hurricanes 46 83.8 51.1% 36.1% 37.8% 40.3%
Devils 49 83.7 52.0% 33.3% 35.0% 37.6%
Islanders 49 73.6 45.9% 40.5% 42.3% 45.0%

The games in hand help Carolina a littl here, but they still need dto earn points in about 36-41% of their remaining games to make the playoffs. According to Sports Club Stats, the Canes will need at least 90 points to have a realistic chance and doing that and they are certainly capable of doing that the rest of the way.

That said, they need to perform much better than their current pace. They are only on pace for 83-84 points right now and haven't done much to distance themselves from the rest of the Metropolitan Division. They've had stretches of good play, yes…but not having any real win streaks or great 10-game stretches has allowed Philadelphia, New York and Columbus to leapfrog them. These teams also got off to poor starts and managed to rebound while Carolina has stayed mediocre and inconsistent for the entire year.

So yes, there is still hope but the Canes need to win at least 19 of their remaining games to put themselves in a good position. Are they capable of doing that? It's tough to tell.

Team Corsi% 5v5 Sh% 5v5 Sv% PPSF/60 PP Sh% PK SA/60 PK Sv%
Hurricanes 50.0% 6.4% 92.7% 51.4 10.9% 51.4 85.6%
Penguins 49.4% 8.6% 91.6% 63.3 15.1% 54.8 91.8%
Flyers 50.5% 7.3% 92.3% 54.3 11.9% 41.4 86.7%
Capitals 49.3% 7.5% 92.4% 60.5 15.7% 63.3 88.6%
Islanders 48.7% 7.4% 91.5% 50.2 13.3% 45.4 90.8%
Rangers 52.2% 6.0% 92.4% 58.9 12.6% 49.3 88.2%
Blue Jackets 48.9% 8.8% 92.3% 50.9 13.6% 57.7 87.3%
Devils 54.2% 7.3% 91.5% 41.9 14.0% 45.4 90.8%

The Hurricanes play at even strength has improved considerably since December and that should give fans some confidence. If their shooting percentage regresses to the league average, then they could make some noise in the second half as long as Khudobin holds up and they can get decent goaltending from Ward and/or Peters. However, the rest of the division is also starting to come around.

The Penguins have a playoff spot locked up so that leaves four spots remaining and it's tough to see the Canes beating out New York, Philadelphia, Columbus and possibly the Devils to make it. Then you have to factor in the teams from the Atlantic Division. They might change things with another roster move or two (adding a third line center would help), but the deck isn't stacked in the Canes favor at the moment. Let's hope they can get things going in the right direction starting this weekend against Florida & Tampa Bay.

Stats taken from Extra Skater