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The Carolina Hurricanes missed the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, prompting an organizational re-shuffling that resulted in Ron Francis being named General Manager. Off-Season Game Plan looks at Francis challenge: finding a way to take this top-heavy team and make it a playoff contender. The second order of business for Francis figures to be finding a replacement for head coach Kirk Muller, who was fired in Francis first order of business as the new GM. All of the Canes problems cant be laid at Mullers doorstep, but its low risk to try a new approach when the past two seasons have yielded a .481 points percentage (125 points in 130 games). Francis former teammates Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson have both been rumoured as possible fits for the job. In addition to someone new calling the shots behind the bench, Francis has some complicated personnel decisions. The Staal brothers, Alexander Semin and Cam Ward each come with a cap hit of at least $6-million and that kind of ticket can always get moved out if it doesnt come with results. Its one thing to pay your marquee No. 1 centre more than $8-million if youre making the playoffs regularly, but when youve been on the outside for five straight seasons, its not inconceivable to consider trying something different. Same goes for paying a goaltender more than $6-million per season; only it gets more challenging to find takers when that goalie has struggled to stay healthy and played poorly over the past couple years. At one time -- much closer to 2006 -- it would have seemed sacreligious to consider trading Eric Staal or Cam Ward, but those are some possibilities that Francis may have to consider as he takes over the reigns of a budget-conscious team. To be fair, its not impossible for the Hurricanes to turn what they have into a competitive team. In addition to their high-priced forwards, the next generation is represented by Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm and their defence at least has a legitimate first pairing in Andrej Sekera and Justin Faulk. Its going further down the depth chart that causes more concern, as the Canes have been attempting to get by with bargains in those final roster spots. "I dont know if youre ever ready for this job," Francis told the Raleigh News & Observer after taking over from Jim Rutherford. "One thing Ive learned is there are no easy decisions. There are a lot of tough decisions." He may not be ready for it, but it sounds like Francis has some idea what hes getting himself into. The TSN.ca Rating is an efficiency rating based on per-game statistics including goals and assists -- weighted for strength (ie. power play, even, shorthanded) -- Corsi, adjusted for zone starts, quality of competition and quality of teammates, hits, blocked shots, penalty differential and faceoffs. Generally, a replacement-level player is around a 60, a top six forward and top four defenceman will be around 70, stars will be over 80 and MVP candidates could go over 90. Sidney Crosby finished at the top of the 2013-2014 regular season ratings at 87.12. Salary cap information all comes from the indispensable www.capgeek.com. CF% = Corsi percentage (ie. percentage of 5-on-5 shot attempts), via www.extraskater.com. GM/COACHRon Francis/Vacant Returning Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Cap Hit Jeff Skinner 74.48 71 33 21 54 51.2% $5.725M Eric Staal 73.38 79 21 40 61 52.4% $8.25M Alexander Semin 73.10 65 22 20 42 55.2% $7.0M Jordan Staal 68.53 82 15 25 40 54.0% $6.0M Patrick Dwyer 62.71 75 8 14 22 48.4% $900K Riley Nash 61.45 73 10 14 24 50.6% $575K Elias Lindholm 61.08 58 9 12 21 49.6% $925K Free Agent Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Nathan Gerbe 66.34 81 16 15 31 51.8% RFA $550K Jiri Tlusty 66.09 68 16 14 30 51.2% RFA $1.6M Andrei Loktionov 60.82 68 7 15 22 55.1% RFA $725K Manny Malhotra 60.35 69 7 6 13 41.4% UFA $600K Drayson Bowman 58.61 70 4 8 12 45.5% RFA $600K Radek Dvorak 57.67 60 4 5 9 42.7% UFA $600K 21-year-old Jeff Skinner has had some ups and downs already in his career, but after scoring a career-high 33 goals last season, he now has 97 goals in 259 games through his first four years. Since 2000, the players to have more than 97 goals through their age 21 season are Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin. He could be a premier offensive threat, though if thats the case, it probably makes sense to give him more ice time -- he played more, per game, in each of the previous two seasons. For the first time since his rookie season, Eric Staal finished a full season with fewer than 70 points and, coming off a knee injury suffered at the World Championships, it contrasted with a percentage-driven 2012-2013 season during which he put up 53 points in 48 games. There were rumblings during the year that Staal (or Skinner) might be available and that isnt necessarily a crazy idea. The cap hit for the two seasons remaining on his deal is $8.25-million, but the actual cost is $18.75-million and while turning 30 isnt a hockey death sentence, Staal will turn 30 in October and hes put on a lot of miles -- since coming into the league, in 2003-2004, he ranks fourth in games played with 769. This doesnt mean shipping Staal out at the first possible moment, and he does have a no-trade clause, but if a contender will pay a premium of young players, prospects and picks to land a big scoring centre like Staal, then the Hurricanes may want to at least consider that option now while he has value. While his scoring numbers declined last season, Alexander Semin was a victim of percentage regression more than anything. He had more than three shots on goal per game for the fifth time in the past six seasons and, over the past four seasons, has been one of the best at generating shot attempts while hes on the ice. Its entirely fair to wonder about the value of paying a $7-million cap hit for the next four seasons, until hes 34 but, at the moment, Semin is still a dangerous offensive winger. When the Hurricanes brought Jordan Staal in from Pittsburgh, the idea was that Staal would be able to play in a more offensive role, and it hasnt really worked out that way. He gets significant ice time against quality opponents, but Staal hasnt been blessed with great finishers on his lines in Carolina (Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer were his most common linemates last season) so, even with strong possession stats, his scoring rates have actually decreased. Hes also signed forever, through 2023, so theres room to improve the situation, by finding Jordan Staal linemates that may be more suited to producing offensively. Patrick Dwyer has played more than 14 minutes per game for each of the past three seasons, yet has been among the lowest-scoring forwards in the league (among those playing at least 2000 5-on-5 minutes). His possession numbers have fluctuated from year to year too, based on situations, so there is a fit in the lineup for Dwyer, but it only makes sense in a checking role. Riley Nash is ostensibly a checking centre, though one who started 59.3% of his shifts in the offensive zone and didnt face tough competition. Its not on Nash to determine usage, thats on the coach, but if the Hurricanes intend to free up others for offensive opportunities, then Nash should be taking on more defensive responsibility. The fifth pick in last summers draft, Elias Lindholm had a solid, if unspectacular rookie season. His role increased as the season progressed and scored 14 points in 37 games after a stint playing for Sweden at the World Juniors. Expect Lindholm to move into a more prominent role next season. Bought out by the Buffalo Sabres, Nathan Gerbe came in at a bargain cost and tied career highs with 16 goals and 31 points, with impressive underlying numbers to support that production. In fact, with any kind of luck (ie. a respectable on-ice shooting percentage), Gerbe could have put up better scoring stats. It turned out that Jiri Tlustys 23-goal-in-48-games outburst from 2012-2013 was fluky (who knew?), and his scoring stats came back to earth. With decent possession numbers, its still reasonable to think that Tlusty can be a useful complementary scorer. After coming over from New Jersey in the Tuomo Ruutu trade, Andrei Loktionov capably filled a complementary role. His usage has always been sheltered, but he puts up good possession numbers and should be hitting a point at which he can be given more responsibility, fitting in a top-nine role. Drayson Bowman played a career-high 70 games for the Hurricanes last season, but hes managed 33 points in 176 career games. With uneven results to this point in his career, Bowman is likely still battling for a job. Nothing wrong with keeping him for a fourth-line role, but its possible there are better alternatives too. It would be great for Carolina to dip into the free agent market and bring in another proven scoring forward, but if the Hurricanes are operating on a budget, the more likely scenario could be to find some value plays, not unlike last years addition of Gerbe or Manny Malhotra. Peter Regin, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter are a few veterans that might come relatively cheaply, but could still upgrade the Hurricanes forward depth. Returning Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Cap Hit Andrej Sekera 73.85 74 11 33 44 51.5% $2.75M Justin Faulk 68.67 7 5 27 32 51.8% $4.833M John-Michael Liles 62.94 41 2 7 9 49.5% $3.875M Jay Harrison 61.47 68 4 11 15 47.9% $1.5M Ryan Murphy 61.31 48 2 10 12 48.8% $863K Free Agent Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Ron Hainsey 62.09 82 4 11 15 51.0% UFA $2.0M Brett Bellemore 60.41 64 2 6 8 48.4% UFA $600K Mike Komisarek 58.09 32 0 4 4 48.5% UFA $700K Joni Pitkanen N/A UFA $4.5M Moving to Carolina brought about a dramatic change for Andrej Sekera, who had been a steady enough to-four defenceman in Buffalo, but he emerged as a top-pair stud for the Hurricanes, setting career-bests in goals (11), assists (33) and time on ice (23:41), all while facing high quality of competition. Next season is the final year on his current contract, so Sekera is due for an extension which will come with a healthy pay raise. 22-year-old Justin Faulk is the building block on the Carolina defence, playing 23:19 per game through his first three seasons and facing the toughest assignments. A great skater, who makes smart decisions and signed through 2020, Faulk is a stable presence already and should continue to get better. Unable to crack the lineup of the Toronto Maple Leafs, John-Michael Liles played over 20 minutes per game in Carolina and even provided strong puck possession numbers in the process. Hes three seasons removed from his last 40-point season, but Liles mobility and smarts still work to his advantage, on a team that is willing to make use of those assets. Jay Harrison offers size, but his ice time was down last year after struggling more than he had in previous years. Hes reasonably priced as a third-pair option, in the hopes that maybe he finds a better fit with another partner. One of Harrisons regular partners last season, Ryan Murphy is an undersized 21-year-old who is still trying to make his way in the league. Murphy is a terrific skater, and that has helped him put up 24 points in 25 AHL games, in addition to a dozen points in 52 career NHL games, so there is offensive upside to be realized. Even if Murphy is given easier minutes, with power play time, he should be able to find a regular spot on a Carolina blueline that needs to be better. The Hurricanes are looking at some significant changes on defence, thanks to four unrestricted free agents. Ron Hainsey was certainly good enough to keep and if Joni Pitkanen is healthy, that could be interesting but, otherwise, the Canes may look elsewhere for improvement. Returning Goaltenders Player Rating GP W L OTL GAA SV% Cap Hit Anton Khudobin 77.25 36 19 14 1 2.30 .926 $2.25M Cam Ward 63.71 30 10 12 6 3.06 .898 $6.3M Free Agent Goaltender Player Rating GP W L OTL GAA SV% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Justin Peters 69.64 21 7 9 4 2.50 .919 UFA $538K Anton Khudobin had a terrific year, posting a .926 save percentage in a career-high 36 games, earning a two-year contract extension and, if the Hurricanes can find a taker for incumbent starter Cam Ward, the starting job would appear to be Khuodbins going forward. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage in 57 career games, which is great, the best among goalies with at least 50 games, but thats such a small sample, and he had a .912 save percentage in 156 AHL games, so theres most likely downward mobility in those numbers. Ward won the Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP in 2006 and was an above average goaltender from 2008 through 212, but injuries have limited him to 47 games over the past two seasons and, even when hes played, he hasnt been effective, posting a .902 save percentage, which is near the bottom among goaltenders over the past couple seasons. Theoretically, the Hurricanes may be prepared to move Ward, but finding a taker for the remaining two years (and $13.5-million) on his contract could be challenging, at best. Top Prospects Player Pos. Team/League Stats Brock McGinn LW Guelph (OHL) 43-42-85, +46, 58 GP Michal Jordan D Charlotte (AHL) 4-21-25, -12, 70 GP Victor Rask C Charlotte (AHL) 16-23-39, -3, 76 GP Trevor Carrick D Sudbury (OHL) 22-29-51, -6, 70 GP Sergey Tolchinsky LW Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 31-60-91, -9, 66 GP Phil Di Giuseppe LW Michigan (Big 10) 13-11-24, +7, 35 GP Brett Pesce D New Hampshire (HE) 7-14-21, -4, 41 GP Daniel Altshuller G Oshawa (OHL) 2.56 GAA, .917 SV%, 52 GP Jaccob Slavin D Colorado College (NCHC) 5-20-25, +2, 32 GP Keegan Lowe D Charlotte (AHL) 2-10-12, -7, 63 GP Zach Boychuk LW Charlotte (AHL) 36-38-74, -7, 69 GP Brock McGinn, the third of Fergus, Ontarios McGinn brothers (Jamie and Tye are with Colorado and Philadelphia, respectively) to be drafted to the NHL,has enjoyed a great season with a powerhouse Guelph team. Hell play a physical game and, as hes shown this year, should be able to contribute some offensively too. After four AHL seasons, Michal Jordan could be ready for a real NHL opportunity with Carolina. Hes been their best AHL defenceman and, with free agents potentially departing, Jordan could slide into a depth spot next season. A second-round pick in 2011 Victor Rask had a solid first pro campaign. He could use more time to refine his game, and establish that he can score consistently at the AHL level, before pushing for an NHL spot. 2012 fourth-round pick Trevor Carrick has steadily improved throughhout his junior career and is ready to embark on a pro career next season, but likely will require a few years of development. Undrafted last summer, after scoring 51 points in 62 games in his draft year, Sergey Tolchinsky quickly earned a free agent contract with the Hurricanes, then continued to improve his game in the OHL. Hes small, but skilled. Drafted in the second round in 2012, Phil Di Giuseppe didnt make a ton of progress at Michigan, scoring 26 points in 40 games as a freshman, then 52 points in 75 games over the past two seasons. Hes signed with the Hurricanes and played in three games with Charlotte late in the year, so Di Giuseppe will have a chance to show whether or not hes going to have a notable offensive game in the pros. Taken in the third round last summer, Brett Pesce is a lanky collegiate defender who improved his production as a sophomore. He still has a couple more seasons of collegiate eligibility and can use them to get stronger as he prepares for his pro career. A third-round pick in 2012, Daniel Altshuller has steadily improved throughout his junior career and, at 6-foot-4, has good size for the position. Give him a few years in the AHL and see what happens. An offensively-minded blueliner, Jaccob Slavin played for Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships and led Colorado College in scoring as a freshman. A tough, physical stay-at-home defenceman, Keegan Lowe was a third-round pick in 2011 and had a decent first pro campaign. Lowes game wont stand out, but for a team without great defence prospects, hes in the picture. Zach Boychuk has been a top Hurricanes prospect forever, since he was a first-round pick in 2008, and hes managed nine goals and 24 points in 96 NHL career games, but after 74 points in 69 AHL games last season, the undersized winger cant be ignored altogether. Hurricanes advanced stats and player usage chart from Extra Skater DRAFT7th - Kasperi Kapanen, William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers FREE AGENCYAccording to www.capgeek.com, the Hurricanes have approximately $37.9M committed to the 2013-2014 salary cap for 16 players. Check out my possible Hurricanes lineup for next season on Cap Geek here. Needs: Three forwards, one top four defenceman, depth defencemen.What I said the Hurricanes needed last year: Two top nine forwards, depth forwards, depth defencemen.They added: Nathan Gerbe, Elias Lindholm, Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey, Ryan Murphy, Mike Komisarek, Brett Bellemore, Anton Khudobin. TRADE MARKETEric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jiri Tlusty. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Nmd Uomo Outlet . The Braves optioned outfielder Jose Constanza to Triple-A Gwinnett. As expected, the Braves also called up right-hander Julio Teheran from Gwinnett to start Sundays game and optioned backup catcher J. Scarpe Nmd Nere Scontate .The Canadiens will visit the Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on New Years Day 2016, taking hockeys oldest rivalry outside.It was special in 2010 just to be there with the history behind Fenway Park and all that, Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron said. http://www.scarpenmdscontate.it/.com) - Hassan Whiteside scored 20 points with nine rebounds in the Miami Heats 83-75 win over the Boston Celtics on Sunday. Nmd Human Race Italia . The premature end left 26 players still to finish the round in the Asian Tour event. Siddikur, who shot a bogey-free first round to share the lead with five others, eagled the par-5 first hole before bogeying twice and rebounding with six birdies. Adidas Nmd r1 Italia . 98 jersey in a game yet, and already its a big seller.CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Even when Andy Dalton is mixing interceptions and touchdowns, the Bengals somehow find a way to win at home. And thats the best thing the AFC North champions take with them into the post-season. Their next game will be at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals are still perfect. Dalton threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and set a pair of Bengals passing records on Sunday, leading Cincinnati to a 34-17 victory that eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals (11-5) are 8-0 at home and will host San Diego in a playoff game next Sunday. They beat the Chargers 17-10 in San Diego on Dec. 1. Cincinnati wound up with the No. 3 seed when New England beat Buffalo 34-20 later Sunday to clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. "Were playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Dalton, who was 21 of 36 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. "The last couple of years we played on the road. For us to have a home game here, itll be a great environment. "Were ready for the playoffs to start." The Ravens (8-8) lost their last two games, denying them a chance to make the playoffs for a sixth straight season. They couldnt avoid the Super Bowl slump thats so common. The Ravens became the 15th Super Bowl champ that failed to reach the playoffs the following season, and the sixth in the last 12 years. Their running game fell apart, the offence had to settle for field goals, and the defence missed Ray Lewis inspiration in the big moments. "Thats it," coach John Harbaugh said. "That ends it. That stings." In Cincinnati, theres only one thing in mind: win a playoff game for the first time since the 1990 season. The Bengals lost opening-round games in Houston each of the last two seasons, leaving them tied for the seventh-longest stretch of playoff futility in NFL history. This time, theyll be playing at home, where theyve scored 49, 41, 42, 42 and 34 points in their last five games. "If we have to play next week or we have to play in two weeks, this team is going to carry this swagger and attitude into the playoffs," offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "If we continue to put up 30-plus points a game and continue playing defence the way we are, well have a chance to make a lot of noise.dddddddddddd" Most of the focus will be on Dalton, who had two horrid games in the playoffs. He put together one of the best seasons by a Bengals quarterback, breaking Carson Palmers club records for touchdown passes and yards passing on Sunday. Dalton threw interceptions on Cincinnatis first two possessions, then regrouped. He threw a 53-yard pass to A.J. Green, who got behind a defence that went for a fake handoff. Marvin Jones made a one-hand, diving catch in the end zone for a 16-yard score just before halftime. Daltons 33rd TD pass surpassed Palmers club record from 2005. He finished 21 of 36 for 281 yards, breaking Palmers club record for yards passing in a season with 4,296. After the Ravens tied it 17-all in the third quarter, Dalton led a 90-yard drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run. "He just keeps being Andy," coach Marvin Lewis said. "He just keeps playing." All too often this season, the Ravens settled for field goals when they got close to the goal line. They did it again on Sunday, managing only three field goals off Daltons first three three interceptions. Justin Tucker was good from 38, 22 and 34 yards, giving him a club record of 38 field goals. The Ravens took advantage of Shawn Powells 10-yard shanked punt and evened it 17-all in the third quarter. Flacco threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown, and Ray Rice ran for the 2-point conversion. Dre Kirkpatrick had two interceptions in the fourth quarter that sealed it, including a 21-yard return for a touchdown. Flacco, playing his second game on a sprained left knee, was 30 of 50 for 192 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Notes: Flacco threw for a career-high 3,912 yards this season. ... Browns TD catch tied Torrey Smiths club record of 7 TDs by a rookie. ... Rice set a club record for total yards from scrimmage with 9,214 career. ... The Bengals played without TEs Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and rookie Tyler Eiffert (neck). ... The Bengals had to reconfigure their offensive line again when C Kyle Cook suffered a foot injury and tackles Anthony Collins and Whitworth hurt ankles. X-rays on Cook were negative. ... The Bengals had two receivers with double-digit TD catches for the first time in their history. Green had 11, Jones 10. ' ' '