Carolina have been perceived as ’winners’ of this off-season, despite accomplishing only minor upgrades on paper. Outside of signing their own RFAs, Carolina acquired Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk in trades. In the free agent market, they acquired the services of senior Justin Williams via UFA. Although solid acquisitions, Carolina was nowhere near a contender prior to these transactions. So to what do we attribute the grand sense of optimism in and around Raleigh?

Summarizing Adam Gretz of NBC Sports: Scott Darling. Darling was acquired back in April after the Blackhawks were eliminated from playoff contention. Subsequently, the team relieved itself of Eddie Lack’s services by offloading him in Vancouver, while relegating long-time Cane Cam Ward to the backup role. Gretz rightfully spotlights Darling as a potential savior to the team in the short-term. Darling certainly has the credentials to backstop an NHL team, as his career .924 save percentage is quite impressive. Last year, he tallied a 18-5-5 record – he seems ready to perform. Gretz also showcases the fact that Carolina allowed the second-least amount of shots against in the past three seasons (behind Los Angeles), while the goals-against-average was on the lower end of the middle pack. He points to the success of Carey Price on a middling Canadiens squad as rationale to hope for a resurgence in the standings.

Although Gretz is correct in assuming Carolina will likely improve, it doesn’t necessarily ensure a playoff berth.