Luke DeCock

Hurricanes conclude another wasted season

Another season comes to an early end, and the Carolina Hurricanes are in the same position they were last year.

Out of the playoffs. And 12 points worse.

After being told all summer how close this group was to making the playoffs, this group is actually 17 points farther away from the playoffs after a thoroughly pointless season.

No rebuild or remodel. And no forward progress or positive momentum with the same group, either. Just another season wasted, the fan base pressed for patience again after a sixth straight spring out of the postseason. Only the Edmonton Oilers have a longer playoff drought.

To the delight of the many Red Wings fans in attendance Saturday, Cam Ward gave up a wraparound goal after only 48 seconds, the beginning of a fitting end to a miserable season – a 2-0 loss to a Detroit team resting Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.

Change the general manager, change the coach, nothing changes. Alexander Semin is still here cashing massive paychecks – with a grand six goals to his credit – as is just about everyone else except top-pairing defenseman Andrej Sekera, traded away at the deadline.

Even the first-round pick the Hurricanes got for Sekera from the Los Angeles Kings will be a year late in arriving after the Kings missed the playoffs, one potential piece for the future kicked another season down the road.

The Hurricanes still have an 8.5 percent chance at winning the draft lottery and landing Connor McDavid, in which case the entire picture changes drastically, but otherwise they’ll pick fifth (64.5 percent) or sixth (27 percent) in a draft with three franchise players.

And, by the way, Peter Laviolette and Paul Maurice are both in the playoffs, with the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets.

First-year general manager Ron Francis will point to the three months Jordan Staal missed, among other injuries. The Columbus Blue Jackets lost more than 500 man-games to injury and still finished 18 points ahead of the Hurricanes, who were the 10th-healthiest team in the league. And that’s with Ward not only staying healthy but showing substantial improvement in both goals-against average and save percentage. You can’t blame it all on Justin Peters this time.

“We’ll dig into it and look at it here as we go along and try and figure out what went wrong,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “We’ll have some ideas and some theories and we’ll dig into it and try to find a way to fix it during the summer. We’ve got some work to do.”

Peters’ no-nonsense approach has created some reason for optimism behind the Carolina bench, but he still posted the worst record of any of the NHL’s eight first-year head coaches (four are in the playoffs with teams that missed the playoffs last season), after promising a better power play, a better home record and better starts.

Mission accomplished on the first (18.8 percent, 16th in the NHL, up from 14.6 percent and 28th) but there was almost no change at home (18-16-7 vs. 18-17-6) or early in games (the Hurricanes were outscored 74-54 in the first period this season compared to 67-46 last season, and scored first in 36 games, up from 32).

The penalty-kill saw dramatic and unexpected improvement, but with essentially the same roster, the Hurricanes went from 83 points to 71 points.

Peters is headed to Charlotte to watch the Canes’ minor-leaguers. Francis, who was scouting in Canada on Saturday, will join him there and Peters will chauffeur him home.

“It’ll be a captive audience for 2 1/2 hours,” Peters said. “That’ll be real good. Even more if I go slow.”

He may want to lock in the cruise control and stick to the right lane. After the way this season went, Peters should have plenty to say to Francis about changes that need to be made.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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