Five positives for the Carolina Hurricanes

Five positives for the Carolina Hurricanes

After a disappointing loss on Thursday, the Hurricanes are off to an 0-2 start for the week and have extended their struggles against the Metropolitan Division. Paired with the cloud of what could be bad news on Dougie Hamilton’s injury, and Canes fans will likely wake up with a bit of a negative hockey feeling on Friday. While there is some merit in those feelings, there is actually a legitimate set of positives too. That is the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe.   1) The standings Even with the consecutive losses, the Carolina Hurricanes still sit in the first wild card spot. The standings shows a tie with Columbus and Philadelphia, but the Canes have a game in hand which when I adjust is the equivalent of a point. And if they need it, the Canes also have the tiebreaker in hand. There is nothing for cushion, but being on the right side of the playoff cut line through 57 games is a perfectly good place to be.   2) This team still has untapped upside This team has significant upside in two forms. First, simply in terms of cleaning things up a bit defensively and taking too many penalties, this team can be better. Further, despite being in playoff position, a number of players have the potential to do more for the remainder of the season. That topic was the subject of my Daily Cup of Joe earlier this week.    3) The team is about to add another good player in Justin Williams In addition to the possible upside for existing players, the Hurricanes just...
Playing Rod Brind’Amour

Playing Rod Brind’Amour

Suddenly, we are 46 games into the 2019-20 NHL season. Though I still feel like the Hurricanes are still a work in progress in many ways, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour has a good amount of run time with the current group. The team is in much better position than it was at this time last season, but with the Metropolitan Division’s success, it does not appear that the Canes will be exempt from another dog fight down the stretch. And with the stretch run right around the corner, the time is now to figure out how to get the most from this group in the final 36 games. No doubt, priority one will always be to win the current game, but I also think Brind’Amour has some work to do sorting things out in the coming weeks. Below is a short list of things that I think Brind’Amour is considering right now.   Goalies James Reimer has done an admirable job in the backup role spelling Petr Mrazek regularly and being productive in the process. But as the season progresses, I have to think Brind’Amour will be watching to see if Mrazek can find a rhythm, hit a higher gear and take on a greater share of the starts just like he did in 2018-19 when the team surged up into the playoffs. By no means are we at the point, where one goalie can just run the schedule, but at the point where Mrazek gets hot (if he does), Reimer could be shifted to only playing in back-to-back sets.   Defense The big watch point on defense continues...
Carolina Hurricanes players potentially with more to give

Carolina Hurricanes players potentially with more to give

Through 46 games, the Carolina Hurricanes have 56 points. That is good enough for the first wild card position and is a pace for 100 points at the end of the season. Unlike 2018-19 when the Hurricanes dug an early hole and need to make up for it in the second half to challenge for the playoffs, the 2019-20 Hurricanes likely just need to keep place to return to the playoffs. But despite being in pretty good position, the Carolina Hurricanes actually have a number of players with more to give. That is the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe.   Martin Necas To be clear, Martin Necas is having a fine rookie season. After having trouble acclimating to the NHL initially in 2018-19, his second try has been successful. Even with missing a few games due to injury, Necas is on target for a solid mid-40s for points. And shifting to wing with a bit less responsibility in terms of sorting things out defensively has enabled him to just leverage his skating ability to try to make things happen. So if he continues at his current pace, I would consider 2019-20 a successful rookie season for Necas. That said, I think he is one of the players who could have more to give in the second half. He looks increasingly comfortable with the puck on his stick which could see him on the brink of a break out as a playmaker/scoring chance generator. He has also scored a few pretty goals lately. Could he be on the brink of finding an even higher gear after building a...
An early look at the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline for the Carolina Hurricanes

An early look at the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline for the Carolina Hurricanes

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe builds on two specific items from yesterday’s random notes, so if you did not already read that, it is probably a good starting point. That article touched on two things, but in the process identified Jake Gardiner as a key player on the blue line and Erik Haula as a key player among the forward group. Aside from random injuries which are unpredictable, I think those two players more than any other could dictate what if anything the Hurricanes do between now and the February 24 trade deadline.   The financial situation for 2019-20 By signing Justin Williams to a league minimum $700,000 contract with $1.3 million in incentive-based bonuses the Hurricanes maximized the amount of salary cap potentially available to add another player. The $700,000 salary counts against the salary cap (so roughly $350,000 for half of a year), but the team has the option of counting the performance bonuses against the 2019-20 season or deferring them to next season. With the Hurricanes likely to have some spare salary cap next season that it cannot really use because it needs to be saved to re-sign Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton the following summer, the downside of deferring the bonus cap hit to next season would something between minimal or actually nothing. As such, though the Hurricanes do not have virtually unlimited cap space available as in years past, the team should be able to squeeze in one more player at significant cost if it chooses to. Right now, CapFriendly shows the Canes having room to add $2.7 million of salary cap today. But...
Random Canes notes

Random Canes notes

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a quick batch of Canes notes with a lineup focus.   The center position and Erik Haula as a key A strength of the forward group right now is the depth. Brind’Amour trusts the fourth line in pretty much all situations and the team is finding decent scoring depth across all four lines. Though injuries of any variety could upset that apple cart, I think the key could be Erik Haula. Losing any of the centers could have a negative impact, but with Haula missing time already do to his knee injury, he seems to be the biggest risk. If he were to exit the lineup, there is a domino effect. For as well as Lucas Wallmark is playing right now, I like Haula better between Ryan Dzingel and Martin Necas. Further, I think Jordan Martinook, who seems to be a preferred choice to move to center when injuries occur, is more effective at wing. Further, with Justin Williams now in the mix at the NHL level and Julien Gauthier scoring the AHL, I think the Canes have better ability to back fill an injury at the wing position.   Jake Gardiner as a key on defense At the risk of jinxing him, Jake Gardiner has recently been a regular in the top 4 next to Brett Pesce and has not stood out noticeably in doing so. After a rough start in a Hurricanes uniform, that is exactly what one would hope from Gardiner. He does not need to be spectacular defensively. He just needs to be steadier than he was early in...
Justin Williams’ return: On the ice

Justin Williams’ return: On the ice

Yesterday I wrote about Justin Williams’ return from a few angles including the transition, leadership and other things mostly off the ice. Today’s Daily Joe more so considers Justin Williams as a player and how his return could impact the lineup.   2018-19 season For as much is legitimately made about Williams’ leadership during the 2018-19 season, he was also a very productive player. His 23 goals were second on the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes behind only Sebastian Aho, and his 53 points trailed only Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. So Williams’ signing is not the case of a wily veteran who is a great addition for the locker room but is necessarily limited in terms of offensive production.   But what about his age and declining speed? Some question whether Williams has lost too much in terms of speed to be effective at the NHL level. I think that concern is overdone. Yes, Williams does have weaknesses, but he is already multiple years into being a productive player without speed as an asset. So even if he lost a tiny bit more as compared to the 2018-19, speed this is not what drives Williams’ productivity.   And what about the eight-month layoff and the risk in general? No doubt Justin Williams has some work to do to get back up to game speed quickly at a time when most players are already there. It could take awhile for him to get up to speed, but in total I think missing the first half of the 2019-20 season could be a positive too. If Williams can re-find a higher gear, he...