NHL Carolina Hurricanes

5 Keys To Carolina Hurricanes Making The Playoffs In 2013-14

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5 Keys To The Carolina Hurricanes Making The Playoffs

James Gullory - USA Today Sports

Simply put, the Carolina Hurricanes must make the playoffs in 2013-14. There's no way around that.

It's been far too long and the team has come far too close to not be playing postseason hockey. Each year, there's a new list of excuses and reasons as to why this held them back and if only that, etc. None of that puts playoff tickets into fans' hands. What the team does need to do is rely on its strengths and what is already there.

Some help will come from very expected places, and some not so much. Making the playoffs will obviously be a team effort, however there are certain keys that just need to be in the locks to make it happen. A hot roster in October isn't enough. There are roles to be played, things to be done, sacrifices to be made and disasters to plan for.

While nobody can predict an injury, unhappy players, or a streaky divisional opponent, there's no reason for complacency which breeds excuses. Fans have a right, after sitting it out since 2009, to demand a playoff run. The Hurricanes' front office owes it to them as well as the players who have remained loyal.

There are five people, in no order at all, who need to fulfill the heck out of their individual roles if playoff hockey is to be a thing this season.

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5. Staal Brothers

Staal Brothers
Marc DeRosiers - USA Today Sports

Eric and Jordan Staal are the face of the Hurricanes franchise from a marketing standpoint. However, they are the anchors of the team on the ice as well. Both Staal brothers need to play with fierce intensity and be an example in every aspect of the season. They have had the spotlight placed on them, and must use it to the team's advantage.

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4. Anton Khudobin

James Gullory - USA Today Sports

Of course, the no. 1 goaltender for the Hurricanes is Cam Ward. However, he needs an insurance policy should he get hurt, and needs a way for him to take more nights off and get rested. Playing night in and night out will take its toll on anyone. Finally having a strong backup goalie in Anton Khudobin will work wonders. Khudobin just needs to step into that role with consistent reliability.

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3. Kirk Muller

James Gullory - USA Today Sports

It's not as obvious as it seems. Head coach Kirk Muller is unlike his predecessors in that he is more fluid and adaptive. He shakes lines up just enough to be experimental. To keep the rest of the division awake and second-guessing, Muller needs to make his team into a chameleon. He needs to take the football saying of "read, react, and adapt" and apply this to the Hurricanes. Should Muller keep the team shifting and adapting, the playoffs will be a given.

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2. Jeff Skinner

Kevin Hoffman - USA Today Sports

After his legendary rookie season, Jeff Skinner has gotten nothing but better. While his on-ice performance is nails, it's time for Skinner to come into his own off the ice. He's finally past the "new guy" phase, and is settling into the idea of being in the regular lineup. It's time for Skinner to be that bridge between veterans and young guys that is so vital to success. He needs to keep being himself on the ice, yet be who he needs to be in the locker room.

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1. Jim Rutherford

James Gullory - USA Today Sports

The body can't live without the head, and a team cannot live without their GM. Jim Rutherford has had some shaky-at-best decision making skills of late. Seeing a trade deadline go by with no moves made is not what a GM needs to do with a team bucking for a playoff spot. When Rutherford looks at how the successful teams do it and follows suit, the Hurricanes will have plans for May and June.