Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes – Part 6: The all-important goalie position

Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes – Part 6: The all-important goalie position

A brief history of the Carolina Hurricanes goalie position A significant part of the Hurricanes struggles in recent years has been the team’s inability to get league average or better goaltending. Be it because of the team in front of him or his own play, Cam Ward just could not seem to find his way into the top half of the league in terms of basic goalie stats. The Cam Ward/Eddie Lack duo did not work for two years. And finally a big bet on Scott Darling failed miserably. This past summer, the team entered the off-season hoping for a rebound from Darling and also with one spot to fill after Ward’s departure. Rather than a few higher-end options, the team signed Petr Mrazek to a one-year, ‘prove it’ type deal. But ironically, the Hurricanes goaltending pivoted not based on a Darling rebound or Mrazek surge. Darling started the season injure and Mrazek struggled out of the gate. The Hurricanes goaltending play instead pivoted based on the steady and calming play of waiver wire acquisition Curtis McElhinney who stabilized the position while the team struggled to get its feet under it in the first half of the season. Next, Mrazek’s game rounded into form. Suddenly and just in time, the Hurricanes had not one but two goalies playing well. The Hurricanes second half surge up into the playoffs featured numerous positives, but I think it is fair to say that the team would not have made the playoffs without the improved goalie play. That positive ending to the 2018-19 season might suggest that the goalie position would be more...
Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes – Part 5: Filling the greatest need

Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes – Part 5: Filling the greatest need

On the one hand, the Hurricanes took a huge step forward in the 2018-19 season pushing into the playoffs and then going a step further playing all the way into the Eastern Conference Finals. But on the other hand, I think it is fair to say that the team overachieved a bit with some playoff magic and in a good way still has significant room to improve. Having a solid goalie tandem emerge made a world of difference in tipping many games, some undeservedly, into the win column in the second half climb up the playoff standings. And Brind’Amour’s system proved capable of generating scoring chances across the entire roster even if it had some dry spells. And though it took reinforcements from outside the organization in Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan, the blue line finally emerged as a strength. If I look forward to 2019-20 with the aim of building on a decent foundation and improving, what jumps out is the potential to add one or two more players who are pure offense. More specifically, the goal is to add a catalyst/driver for a second scoring line.  That would take some pressure off having to always overachieve offensively via the forechecking system. Adding one more player with a higher-end playmaking skill set should also boost the scoring of a couple other players. Aho drove his line and boosted Micheal Ferland’s production in the first half of the season and did the same with Justin Williams in the second half of the season. Adding a similarly capable puck-distributing type playmaker to fuel a second line should similarly add...
Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes – Part 4: Making the difficult decisions — The blue line

Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes – Part 4: Making the difficult decisions — The blue line

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe continues building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes roster by making a couple of the difficult decisions facing the team this summer.   Justin Faulk Despite crediting Justin Faulk for have a pretty strong 2018-19 season, I would trade him this summer. I make this decision not because Faulk is not a good player but rather simply based on risk versus reward and also the team’s broader roster and needs.   Risk versus reward Faulk is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019-20 season. Based on continued escalation of prices in the free agent market and scarcity of available quality defensemen especially who are right shots, I would expect Faulk’s contract to cost $7-8 million per season and likely for at least four years, quite possibly more. Faulk will be 28 years old when the contract starts and 32 or 33 years old when it ends. Even in the midst of a strong season overall, Faulk still had a few games in which he struggled defending speed. In an NHL that is speed above all else, I think Faulk teeters right on the line of being mobile enough to defense top-tier forwards which makes his next contract more risky than most realize.   The roster situation As noted above, higher-end defensemen are hard to come by in the NHL. So even given the risk that I suggested above, if the Hurricanes were short on top 4 defensemen, they might be inclined to take that risk for lack of better options. But the Hurricanes are five or arguably even six (if you want to...
Watch points building toward the 2019 NHL Draft weekend

Watch points building toward the 2019 NHL Draft weekend

With the start of the 2019 NHL Draft weekend now only four days away, the trade market should be starting to heat up. Most of the deals are usually announced over the weekend, but that does not mean things are not active right now. In that vein, here are some watch points for this week.   The goalie position Most likely for the Carolina Hurricanes at the goalie position for the 2019-20 season is that the team goes with some combination of Petr Mrazek, Curtis McElhinney and Alex Nedeljkovic. But the team has not really tipped its hat to indicate that it for certain is headed in that direction. If the team is looking to go a different direction, the next week could be when it happens. On the possible trade front, probably the biggest name floating around right now is Jonathan Quick. Quick is a proven, elite goalie with a strong playoff resume. But he is also 33 years old with four more years remaining on his contract with an average actual cost of $4 million and a yearly salary cap hit of $5.8 million. I like Quick but consider the four-year at his age to be very risky. But regardless, if the Hurricanes wish to look outside the organization for a goalie, this week could be the time.   The three second round picks Another interesting situation for this week is the three second-round picks that the Hurricanes currently own. On the one hand, it would seem reasonable to trade one or two of these picks to another team looking to move up. On the other hand,...
Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes – Part 3: Potential upside from the existing roster and organization

Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes – Part 3: Potential upside from the existing roster and organization

Parts 1 and 2 of “Building the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes” acknowledged the positive trajectory of the team currently but took sort of a devil’s advocate starting point. Today’s Part 3 looks at the more positive side of things and considers potential upside that resides within the existing roster and organization.   Change in mindset The sizable hurdle that the Carolina Hurricanes cleared to climb into the playoffs should not be underestimated. After familiar looking ups and downs with more downs in the first half of the season, the team turned the corner and never looked back. The team’s consistency was high, and each and every one of the rare letdowns was followed up immediately with a rebound win. In the NHL, I do think there is ‘learning to win’ is a legitimate thing. If that is the case, then the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes should have an advantage over the 2018-19 team simply because the group now knows what it takes.   Remaining upside for a youthful roster If the Hurricanes were to bring back the exact same roster for the 2019-20 season, there would still be the potential for reasonable step-wise improvement. So many of the leaders on the team are young and still growing as players. Andrei Svechnikov is the most obvious case for future upside, but there are others. Sebastian Aho is still only 21 years old and entering only his second season as a center. His 83 points in 2018-19 would be solid if they proved to be his ceiling, but I think it is possible that he still has one more gear. Warren Foegele and...
Organizational topics: ECHL affiliate, Mike Bales resignation and Mike Vellucci

Organizational topics: ECHL affiliate, Mike Bales resignation and Mike Vellucci

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe addresses a short list of organizational topics.   ECHL affiliate A couple weeks ago, the Florida Everbladed announced that they would no longer be an affiliate for the Carolina Hurricanes. The team was Karmanos-owned, so the ownership changeover seemingly prompted a reevaluation of their Hurricanes relationship. I think this has the potential to be a huge positive if the Hurricanes can land an ECHL affiliate that is closer to home. The obvious candidate is the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Adding Greenville as an ECHL affiliate could have multiple positive effects. First, at just a two hour drive to Charlotte and a four-hour drive to Raleigh, such a move could extend the team’s reach and add another satellite fan base that is within driving distance of PNC Arena for a weekend of games. The move could have significant benefit development-wise too. The two-hour distance from Charlotte to Greenville could make it possible for development coaches to spend more time with the few Canes prospects who are playing at the ECHL level. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Having an ECHL affiliate is not an absolute requirement. The possibility exists that the team could do without an ECHL affiliate and just loan out the couple of those players to whoever needs the help.   Mike Bales On Wednesday, the Hurricanes announced that goalie coach Mike Bales had resigned. Shortly thereafter, Elliotte Friedman from TSN suggested that Bales could be headed to Buffalo. At a minimum, the move is a curious one. Coming off a winning season with a young team, one would figure...