Random notes: Debacle versus Columbus and goal scoring from the wing

Random notes: Debacle versus Columbus and goal scoring from the wing

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe starts with a few quick thoughts on the ugly 6-0 loss to the Blue Jackets on Thursday and then offers up a few other random thoughts that are a bit more positive.   Thursday’s debacle In general, I think Thursday’s 6-0 loss is just one that you flush quickly and work hard to put behind you with a better effort and a win on Saturday. The weird schedule that just included another 6-day layoff despite traveling to play a game and limited practices was bound to catch up to the team and did in a rough way. Couple that with a Columbus team that wanted to exact revenge after the humiliating Canes win in Columbus last week, and you had a perfect storm. The game was actually a bit similar to last Friday’s game against the Flames. The Hurricanes similarly came out flat but ultimately found their footing in time and won the game. The Hurricanes did push back in the second period but were not rewarded with a goal at which point things went south. As stated above, I would mostly just write this one off, but the one thing that I would watch closely as the season proceeds is how the blue line looks without Jaccob Slavin in the lineup . I finished yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe by saying: In addition, I think Slavin is required to make that second top 4 pairing go, so I question whether the Canes could survive needing to bump everyone up a slot in the event of a playoff-time injury to Slavin, Pesce or Skjei. I...
Midway point assessment for reworked Carolina Hurricanes’ blue line

Midway point assessment for reworked Carolina Hurricanes’ blue line

In general, the summer of 2021 was a busy one in terms of player additions and subtractions. Now basically at the midway point of the season if not for games canceled due to COVID, today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a look at the reworked blue line thus far and also looks forward to the playoffs.   The carry forward — Brady Skjei / Brett Pesce Admittedly, my early assessment of Brady Skjei was not positive. The circumstances were odd with a few games just prior to the COVID layoff followed by jumping straight into the playoffs after nearly a full off-season layoff, but my early read was that he just made too many errors to be a steady top 4 defenseman on a good team. But he has proceeded to settle in nicely and mesh well with regular partner Brett Pesce. A significant positive is also that his game seemed to elevate for the playoffs. With Slavin out against the Predators in the 2021 NHL Playoffs, Skjei/Pesce logged a ton of ice time and performed well before maybe running out of gas a bit in the Lightning series. His recent goal-scoring burst has also been a pleasant surprise. His current 12-goal pace is a huge contribution for a defenseman who does not see power play ice time. In short, one part of the blue line that needed to be steady in the transition has been exactly that.   The anchor for the other top pairing — Jaccob Slavin Like Pesce, Jaccob Slavin has been so consistent at what he does well that it has become boring (in a...
Five thoughts on Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Five thoughts on Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers Jesperi Kotkaniemi through 33 games from a couple different levels. Worth noting is that it is still a bit early to make any kind of final judgment on Kotkaniemi. The best recent reference point for patience with players adjusting to a new team is Dougie Hamilton. He was mostly below the ‘just bad’ line early on as a Hurricane, but at the midway point of that first season things suddenly clicked and he played at a much higher level after that. Kotkaniemi is just approaching that 40-game mark, so assessing him based on what we have seen so far has a good chance to be premature. Disclaimer aside, below is an eclectic set of thoughts on Kotkaniemi so far.   1) Wing or center The starting point for Kotkaniemi was that the team hoped he could move to wing and add another finisher ideally to the top 6. He started the year on Aho’s line but was ‘meh’ at best in that audition. He did not produce much offensively and looked disinterested at times in terms of doing the lunch pail kind of work winning/keeping pucks on the boards. The result was some bouncing around the lineup. He seemed to finally gain his footing when demoted to the fourth line but moved back to his natural center position. He looked much more capable with the puck on his stick a bit more and functioning in more of a playmaker’s role. He collected a few assists, scored some too and could have hit the scoresheet a bit more if the fourth line was stocked...
What and why for Hurricanes signing 2016 draftee, goalie Jack LaFontaine

What and why for Hurricanes signing 2016 draftee, goalie Jack LaFontaine

Thanks to those who reached out to make sure I am okay during my writing hiatus. I am fine; just hit a combination of a couple things taking a lot of energy and a couple others taking a lot of time and not with flexibility for the after midnight writing that I have relied on at times to get through busy stretches in the past. Hope is to get into a regular rhythm for writing about Canes and hockey on a steady basis even if not daily, so check in here and there, and you should find something to read most times.   Jack LaFontaine overcomes setbacks on path to NHL contract As a starting point, Jack LaFontaine’s path to his first NHL contract is a great story. As a rising 18-year old prospect, he was drafted by the Hurricanes in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft. Slotted to play for a top-tier NCAA program at the University of Michigan, there were no guarantees, but he clearly had a direct path to an NHL contract a couple years down the road. And like most athletes of his caliber at his age, I would be shocked if he did not have a bunch of people telling him how great he was and was going to be. And that is about when the train to the NHL was completely derailed. LaFontaine entered a crowded crease with a couple veterans in the mix and struggled to find his footing. In his freshman year at Michigan, he finished with a 1-7-1 record and 3.34 goals against average. His .911 save percentage...
The possible interplay between Seth Jarvis and Jesperi Kotkaniemi

The possible interplay between Seth Jarvis and Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Right now, the Hurricanes have two young players new to the roster in 2021-22 who have the potential to add higher-end scoring depth to the top half of the lineup. Jesperi Kotkaniemi was acquired with the hope and to some degree expectation that he could be exactly that when the Hurricanes gave up first and third round draft picks and also ponied up a $6.1 million salary that spent most of what was left in the salary cap budget. Seth Jarvis, on the other hand, was projected to be back in juniors by now, but a good training camp/preseason and an auspicious start to his NHL career has him still at least potentially in the mix for a longer-term stay in Raleigh. On the surface, these two situations might appear to be separate, but I actually think they are very much intertwined. If you consider Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast to be a pair for a third checking/match up line (that is also scoring at a decent clip) and also like what Niederreiter brought to that line as another big body who could play a heavy, cycling game in the offensive zone, then that really only leaves five players to build out the top two scoring lines — Aho, Svechnikov, Teravainen, Trocheck and Necas. Especially if the Hurricanes want to improve from last season, the team really needs one more player who can score at a top six forward pace and not just be a low-scoring complementary player. At a basic level, I think the point of parting ways with solid depth players McGinn and Foegele was to try...
Should Canes try true ‘new NHL’ with fourth line?

Should Canes try true ‘new NHL’ with fourth line?

Many moons ago, the fourth lines of NHL hockey teams were stocked with one or more players whose primary job was to skate just enough to find someone to fight. That transitioned to teams maybe having a single player of that mold but also players with utility often as penalty killers on the fourth line. Then finally teams started trying to gain an advantage by having a fourth line that could play regular shifts and hold their own. The path seemed to be headed toward teams icing a fourth line with as much scoring talent as possible. While fourth line players are leaps and bounds better than years past, fourth lines that score at a decent clip are still a rarity. I think the primary cause for that is a combination of the salary cap with escalating salaries even for young players still in the restricted free agency phase and maybe some lack of guts to take on the risk of stocking a fourth line with young skill players who may be prone to learning curve errors. But is it possible for a team to have enough salary balance and young scoring depth to ice a fourth line that is the best it can in terms of offensive upside? Seemingly, this would require young players on entry-level contracts because very few teams can afford signing/keeping a collection of scorers in the #10 to #12 slots. And if it is possible and someone tried it, what would be the results? In general, I think coaches are risk averse at the bottom of the lineup with the mentality being to aim...