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The Hurricanes had a really interesting season. Most expected them to be in the basement, but a possession-friendly system and some fresh blood helped. There are more moves that need to be made, and more positions to build on. But this was a season of progress in Carolina.
The Canes can only play spoiler at this point, but they're relishing the role. They beat the Rangers last week and will take on the Bruins this week. Their young players haven't quit on the season and make them scary for the playoff-contending teams they've faced.
With the way they've played in his absence, you'd have to wonder where the Hurricanes would be if top defenseman Justin Faulk had been healthy over the last two months. This is a season Carolina can build off of.
The Hurricanes won just once during a five-game road swing, which looks bad on paper, but the Hurricanes played close games with the Capitals, Penguins and Wild. This team could be a lot more interesting next season if it gets some additional personnel to help out on the roster.
The Hurricanes have points in each of their last five games. They're still lurking on the outskirts of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite having sold off some key pieces at the trade deadline. They're unlikely to make it, but they're still exceeding expectations.
The Canes have lost four of five. One bright spot for this team going forward is its blue line. Rookies Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce have shown some flashes of great promise this year.
The Hurricanes did the right thing by becoming sellers at the deadline. They brought in draft picks and prospects for Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles. GM Ron Francis started taking the steps towards restructuring this roster. It's not easy, but sensible.
The Canes are still just close enough to give GM Ron Francis pause ahead of the trade deadline, but it's still hard to view Carolina as a serious playoff team. Eric Staal is the big fish that some teams may go after if Carolina is willing to sell.
Not having top defenseman Justin Faulk in the lineup after he sustained an injury in practice hasn't been ideal. It just goes to show how important he's been to this club. Now goalie Cam Ward is sidelined, too. They're still in the playoff hunt, though.
Still fighting for a playoff spot, Hurricanes GM Ron Francis faces a tough decision. He has pieces that other teams would value in a trade, allowing Carolina to nab some assets that will help down the line. But waving the white flag this close to a wild-card spot is going to be tough. These next two weeks are huge.
Preseason Power Rankings
Rookie Noah Hanifin has been as good or better than expected, which is a good sign. The Canes were in both games that they ended up losing, too. This is going to be a tough year, but this should also be a year of growth for Carolina.
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