Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.
The CAROLINA HURRICANES as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)
Last Season VS the PQC: On Goal Analysis called the Carolina Hurricanes 'Chasing Stanley' (IN the playoffs) at Game 79 on April 4th, 2009. In fact, Carolina was the last team for whom OGA made the 'IN' call during the final weeks of the regular season. Remember, last season was a nail-biter as several teams fought for the remaining playoff spots available at the bottom of the stack in each conference. Carolina found their way in and sure made an impression once there. I know Bruins and Devils fans remember...
The Hurricanes finished the season with a PQC rating of 4.85 - testament to playing consistent 'Canes hockey as the team's post-lockout average of PQC rating 4.88. But it was close-skating earlier in the season when the Hurricanes were just short of OGA calling them out of playoff contention when their play suffered from Games 20 through 30. Entering Game 20, Carolina was a full point above the PQC mean-line but just 10 grueling games later and 8 losses out of 10 games (1 OT loss and 2 Shootout losses), they fell 2.5 points below the Curve.
By Game 40, they were back to 1 point above the Curve and by Game 50, back to 2 full points below. What a wild ride their season was and it served as a preview for the type of playoff hockey the 'Canes would bring to post-season. Buzzer beaters and comebacks, the 'Canes knew roller-coaster hockey last season.
Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: Again, Carolina's average is 4.88 against the PQC. And they show some remarkable trending when examining each of the seasons. Not considering the meteoric run to the Stanley Cup hoist in 2005-06, their play has been similar season to season for the first half. They tend to play at or just above the PQC baseline until around Game 40. Then it's two seasons above and two below. How will the 2009/10 season change their average? Well, expectations are high after having advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. And now the league knows it's high tide again with Hurricanes making the Southeast Division less comfortable for the Washington Capitals.
- A fairly quiet summer in the Carolinas for Hurricane season. Fan-fave Erik Cole was awarded a new 2-year deal as was Chad LaRose. A bevy of contracts come due next season, so the 'Canes obviously feel confident about the team they have assembled for Paul Maurice who took over the coaching duties midway through last season.
- 36-year old Aaron Ward came home from Boston to begin his second stint with the Hurricanes. Ward played with them from 2001-2006 and his family never left the area.
- Lackluster Patrick Eaves went the other way to Boston in the Ward trade and Frantisek Kaberle was bought out of his contract.
- Other notable additions to the team are Tom Kostopoulos, Andrew Alberts and just recently, Stephan Yelle.
- The Hurricanes wanted a slightly bigger, tougher team this season and it looks like they have accomplished this goal during the off-season while also adding some veteran leadership.
THE FANTASY DOSE
The Sure Thing: Eric Staal (C). Last season, Ray Whitney actually led the team in scoring and is obviously still a force of offense. But Eric gets the tip here because, although finishing two points behind Mr. Whitney, you cannot ignore Eric's +15 rating as compared to Ray's +2. The biggest reason to go with Staal? You probably won't miss him due to injury because he is iron. He has missed only 1 game since 2003 and has scored 30+ goals per season in the previous four. Get some Staal if you can. The Eric version.
TrustyRusty: Ray Whitney (LW). 77 points last season is very respectable. Having 18 more assists than the closest teammate and nearly a 1/3 of his goals coming on the PP means he can be trusted to setup scoring chances. And unless your fantasy game hates assists, you need to pick a playmaker for your team. Always.
Up and Coming: Chad LaRose (RW). Chad begins his 5th NHL season this year, all with Carolina and is really coming into his own. He is only 27 and he put home 19 goals last season. The season previous (07-08) he had 11 goals in 58 games. Expect even more production and ice time for Chad this season.
Under the Radar: Jussi Jokinen (L). A late-season acquisition (rescue) from the Lightning, Jussi played 25 games with the Hurricanes and had only 1 goal (11 assists). But do you recall what he did in the playoffs for Carolina? 7 goals in 18 games. And the quality of the goals were pretty tasty, too. With some confident hands he was the 'shootout' maestro when in Dallas, so expect more confident play this regular season as he settles into the Hurricane organization.
The Watchful Eye: Zach Boychuk (LW). While many hope to see Boychuk join the team at the RBC Center on a regular basis, this top prospect from the 2008 draft will most likely spend the season in Albany due to Carolina having plenty of folks up front. But if the injury ninja strikes, keep an eye out for this kid. He's a point-per-game 19 year old in the minors and comes with big expectations.
The Crease: Cam Ward. Last season, the Frozen Pill ended up with 'Goalie Cam' in a Yahoo league with autodraft. Other players may have snickered at the Pill's fate, but not by the time the season was over and Cam was 3rd in the NHL with 39 wins.
Mad Scientist: Sergei Samsanov (LW). Samsanov hit his stride again last season after having dropped off in production (big-time) once he left Boston. But he's back and found his sweet spot in Carolina midway through the season. Now that he's comfortable and his confidence is back, we could see a big year for Sergei assuming, as with all players, he is used on a top-two line and given Power Play time.
THE DAILY TIP IN REPORT (DTIR)
Will the Carolina Hurricanes be in contention for the playoffs again this season? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.
Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.
And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.
Tomorrow is Sunday and Big Tex brings you the 'First Church of the Faceoff' (his line, not mine) with daily devotion to the Chicago Blackhawks. Here come the 'Hawks!
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