Hurricanes must get out of no-man's land
It's a place no team wants to end up - No-man's land.
It's the unfortunate position just outside of the playoffs, but too far up the standings to capture a reputable draft pick.
Right now as we pause for the NHL All-Star game, the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in that very spot. With 54 points through 51 games, the team sits just a point outside of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, while having a share of the most games played of any team in its conference.
Heading into the season, expectations remained very low for a Hurricanes club that finished last season with the third-worst record in the East. Ideal, considering the a team's end game is to rebuild with high-end draft picks.
The team currently boasts a prospect pool that is thin next to defensive prospects Haydn Fleury, Ryan Murphy, and Roland McKeown. So for the Hurricanes, another top-5 draft pick (Noah Hanifin was selected fifth overall last year) would do the team wonders.
With that, it was expected that the club should tank. However, with the Hurricanes perceivably rolling, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, it might be time for general manager Ron Francis to provide the team with some aid to keep this run going.
The Hurricanes are giving up just 26.5 shots per game - the fewest in the league - while maintaining the 23rd most potent offense, so an offensive upgrade should be on the team's wish list.
Ladd can provide the offense the team desires, while his sandpaper play would be welcomed. Ladd sits 28th among all forwards with 112 hits, while the Hurricanes are lacking in that department and sit 26th in that category. Let's not forget Ladd has also won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and you can't teach experience.
The Hurricanes are on the right track to success and boast a balanced collection of veterans, rookies and budding stars. They remain within striking distance, but striking distance still means outside the playoffs.
A solid post-All-Star break push could vault Carolina into postseason play, but coming up just short will leave it in a very uncomfortable position. The team must make a move in the coming months whether it's up or down.