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2023-24 NHL East Preview: SENS vs CAROLINA HURRICANES

As the 2023-24 season fast approaches and October 11th is only 15 days away, it’s time to analyze the teams in the Eastern Conference compared to the Senators. We will start with the Metropolitan Division and last year’s division leader, the Carolina Hurricanes.


Strengths

The Canes are a stable organization and what the Senators, under new owner Michael Andlauer, should strive to be. GM, Don Waddell, was active in free agency and clearly the ‘Canes are in their winning window.


Head Coach, Rod Brind’Amour, is entering his sixth season as head coach and 13th behind the bench and the consistent messaging provides even further stability.


Size and strength define their roster with a defence led by an aging Brent Burns who showed, at 37, that he still has the goods. Jacob Slavin and newly acquired Dmitry Orlov will provide the stability in the system to allow Burns to do what he needs to do.


Their forward core is solid with Martin Necas, Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov providing the bulk of the offence while Jordan Staal provides that two-way centre and penalty kill that top teams need.


Weaknesses


The Canes re-upped on Fredrik Andersen and Antti Raanta in the off-season and while stability and familiarity can be a positive, this tandem may benefit more from the team and system they play behind rather than the other way around.


Their numbers in 2023 are very solid. Neither played half the games and both are in their latter years. Third goalie, Pyotr Kotchekov, played in 24 games delivering nearly identical results.

It’s unclear who the number one goalie will be and if he can haul the mail.

Is goaltending a weakness? Perhaps that’s a stretch. If the machine breaks down, will they break down?


Opportunities


Svechnikov tore his ACL prior to the post season and left a huge hole in the Canes roster. As a legit power forward, that could have come in handy for the playoff run.


He will not be ready to start the season and the Canes will be able to benefit from LTIR pooling to replace him until he is ready to go. That said, they still have about $920K to spend on the cap before being able to take advantage of that opportunity.


Threats


There aren’t a lot of threats to the Canes repeating as Metropolitan Division champions. However, one item of concern could be their age. The other could be the competition in the division with New Jersey and the New York Rangers.


Having eight players north of 30 years old is not the worst thing to have. Experience goes a long way towards winning a championship. The concern could be the critical roles that they play. Brent Burns, Antti Raanta, Frederik Andersen, Jordan Staal are not depth players. These are critical components to their success.


Father Time is undefeated. How susceptible will this group be to injuries or simply hitting the wall that all players hit?


The Devils (112) and Rangers (107) were hot on the Canes (113) heels last year. Over 82 games they could overtake the Canes with their speed and youth if they stay healthy.


The Canes are poised for another successful season barring injuries and, despite the age of some key players, their best forwards are Necas (24), Aho (26) and Svechnikov (23).


The Senators have youth on their side and Stutzle, Norris and Tkachuk are or will be as impressive a three-headed monster as the Canes have one day soon if not this season.


The Senators' top four with Chabot, Sanderson, Zub and Chychrun are also younger and could compete with the Canes' fab four of Burns, Orlov, Slavin and Skjei. However, the Canes' bottom pair of Pesce and DeAngelo do seem to surpass Erik Brannstrom and Travis Hamonic.


That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Canes will likely not be a concern for the Senators when battling for a wildcard spot.


Prediction: 2ND PLACE METROPOLITAN DIVISION


By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey

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