Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal and piecing together the optimal puzzle

Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal and piecing together the optimal puzzle

Important to note is that two games into the 2017-18 season is too early to start cementing down any decisions for the entire season. That said, much of my basis for my thoughts on this topic do consider Jordan Staal’s track record that dates back multiple years now and also a full season with the Hurricanes for Sebastian Aho.   History and skill sets Jordan Staal’s foundation as an NHLer was developed playing as a shutdown line center on a third line behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on a Cup-winning team in Pittsburgh. It is not Staal cannot score. It is just that the areas of his game that is elite are the defensive part and also his incredible ability to start in the defensive zone, win the puck and often single-handedly move it from the defensive zone to the offensive zone. Staal does those things at an elite level, whereas scoring-wise he is probably at best an average top 9 forward. To be clear, Staal is certainly a valuable part of a winning Hurricanes team in 2017-18 and beyond. But his skill set that leans defense does have implications in terms of who he fits with line combination-wise and how he can be best utilized. Sebastian Aho’s history as an NHLer is shorter at only one season, but there is enough there to get a reasonably strong understanding of Aho’s skill set. At his core, he oozes offense. He finished with a solid 24 goals in 2016-17 despite a slow start in that department, and his 49 points while not eye-popping were easily respectable especially on a...
Gm2 Vs. Clu: Late Skinner tally steals OTL point against Columbus

Gm2 Vs. Clu: Late Skinner tally steals OTL point against Columbus

After an entertaining and exciting home opener on Saturday night, Tuesday’s Carolina Hurricanes game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was one of those games that can make NHL hockey a tough sell to casual fans. The game was actually a decent one with both teams playing reasonably sounds hockey and both goalies making up for whenever they did not. The result was a 2-1 overtime loss for the Hurricanes that featured some suspense but a whole bunch of raw entertainment value. Worth noting on a less successful night is that sometimes the other teams are good too. Columbus’ bread and butter is leaning on its blue line and Sergei Bobrovsky to be stalwart defensively, and they are a good hockey team that was successful with that formula against all varieties of teams in 2016-17. So having them tamp down the Hurricanes’ offense is not a shocking event. On top of that, three points out of four in two home games is roughly the pace needed to make the playoffs, so through two games the Hurricanes are on track.   Here are my collection of notes from the game:   1) Jeff Skinner Albeit only two games into the season, Jeff Skinner had had a quiet start before scoring what will hopefully be his first of many huge goals this season. After a handful of good scoring chances went by the wayside late in the third period, the game felt out of reach despite being a one-goal game. Then Skinner capitalized on a miscue to earn his team a point in the standings and a chance for another. Skinner gloved...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm2 Vs. Clu: First division battle comes in game two for Canes

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm2 Vs. Clu: First division battle comes in game two for Canes

One of the challenges that the Hurricanes must face in pushing up into the playoffs for the 2017-18 NHL season is the fact that the team plays in what is thought to be the best division in the NHL right now. To make the playoffs, the Hurricanes will need to finish ahead of at least three of the eight teams in the Metropolitan Division. Winning head to head in four-point games is the surest path to climbing above enough division rivals, and Tuesday represents the first of those four-point games against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Michael Smith’s game day at CarolinaHurricanes.com is a great game day stop if you want to know the expected line combinations and defense pairings based on the morning skate before you arrive at PNC Arena (or settle down in front of your television) tonight.   What I’m watching for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Columbus Blue Jackets 1) The defense on many levels Despite the win on Saturday, I would give the blue line a C- for Saturday’s effort. The group gets credit for chipping in a big goal by Noah Hanifin and for doing a decent job of moving the puck at times. But the volume of ‘big oops’ level defensive breakdowns that led to uncontested scoring chances and pretty directly to three of Minnesota’s four goals were too many. Noah Hanifin: His game was night and day playing offense and defending (see detailed notes from Saturday’s game). He had a strong game playing offense and with the  puck on his stick. He had a really tough time defending in the neutral zone and...
Random Hurricanes notes: Martin Necas, the blue line without van Riemsdyk and more

Random Hurricanes notes: Martin Necas, the blue line without van Riemsdyk and more

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has a few catch up notes from Canes hockey conversations that I have had over the past few days.   Martin Necas I have had multiple people ask for my thoughts and/or share theirs on the Martin Necas situation. At the most basic level, I see Necas as the kind of pure playmaking center with speed that the Hurricanes desperately need. Patience is in order for an 18-year old 2017 draftee, but I think he projects into that role and that it could be sooner rather than later. I posted a detailed assessment of Martin Necas on September 28. In the here and now after the first regular season game, here are my thoughts on Martin Necas… I think the greatest odds (by far) are that he eventually plays elsewhere for the vast majority of the 2017-18 season. I say that for two reasons. First is that I think it is unlikely that he makes the Hurricanes significantly better as a wing for the 2017-18 season. As I said in the previous article, I think he is capable of playing at the NHL level and holding his own, but the bar to stay has to be set higher than ‘could do it.’ That gets to the second reason which is that I think his long-term development is best served playing a full season in a variety of roles at the center position. So why is he still at the NHL level then? I think there are three reasons. The first is that it is simply a reward for his play since being drafted. He...
Monday Coffee Shop: Basking in the euphoria of a season-opening win

Monday Coffee Shop: Basking in the euphoria of a season-opening win

As I noted in my ‘What I’m watching’ preview, the Hurricanes have not had recent success in their opening, so Saturday’s wild win was a breath of fresh air and hopefully an early sign that things really are different this year. The Monday Coffee Shop will mostly offer up another day to savor Saturday’s win and at the same time consider what it means for the 2017-18 season. If you missed it, Canes and Coffee’s notes on Saturday’s game plus a number of great reader comments are HERE.   Carolina Hurricanes polls Please remember to click ‘vote’ after each individual poll response.   What is the significance of Saturday's season-opening win? The break from recent history winning the first game is significant in terms of starting anew for 2017-18 and changing the attitude/mentality. It is an important two points after early season struggles the past couple years but is just a single game still. Other (add in comments) View Results  Loading ...   After Sebastian Aho, which Hurricanes forward impressed you most positively in Saturday's win? Elias Lindholm Brock McGinn Joakim Nordstrom Victor Rask Derek Ryan Jeff Skinner Jordan Staal Justin Williams Other (add in comments) View Results  Loading ...   What is your take on the non-call for goalie interference in the last second of play? Horrible call. The Wild player was in the crease and prevented Darling from playing the shot which by definition is interference. I'm torn. Darling found his way wide of the net on his own, but he was somewhat impeded after that, so it's hard to say. Correct call. Darling got to where...