Lee Stempniak activated from injured reserve – Thoughts on where he fits

Lee Stempniak activated from injured reserve – Thoughts on where he fits

Today the Carolina Hurricanes announced that Lee Stempniak had been activated from injured reserve. With recent call ups Lucas Wallmark and Aleksi Saarela back with the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes rosters stands at 23 players including 14 forwards. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a reasonably deep dive at considering where Lee Stempniak fits into the current equation.   Where Lee Stempniak left off exiting the 2016-17 season It has been so long since the Caniac nation has seen Lee Stempniak in action, I think an important starting point is revisiting his role and level of play during the 2016-17 season. Coming off a strong 2015-16 season that saw Stempniak finish with 19 goals and 51 points, the Hurricanes signed Stempniak to a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per season. Stempniak showed chemistry in preseason with Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner, and the trio started hot. But as the season wore on, Stempniak bounced around lines, provided decent depth scoring but never really found a higher gear or a permanent slot in the lineup. His 16 goals and 40 points in 82 games were what I would term decent depth scoring. My end of season evaluation for Stempniak’s 2016-17 campaign is HERE. With the addition of Justin Williams during the offseason, Stempniak figured to slot as the third right wing behind Williams and Elias Lindholm. With his injury to start the season, Peters adjusted and moved flexible forward Teuvo Teravainen into the slot vacated by Stempniak to have three top 9 right wings.   Lee Stempniak’s transition phase After missing exactly half of the season and not starting with...
Victor Rask and Justin Williams as potential keys to the last step in the transition at forward

Victor Rask and Justin Williams as potential keys to the last step in the transition at forward

The recent history under Bill Peters After a 2016-17 season that saw Coach Bill Peters challenged to find combinations and rotations of forward lines that worked on the road. The formula at home for Peters has generally been pretty simple. Jordan Staal’s line, often with Slavin/Pesce, generally marks the other teams’ best lines. In 2015-16, Staal found chemistry with depth forwards Joakim Nordstrom and Andrej Nestrasil and the trio was the cornerstone of a too little too late surge from December through the end of February when Nestrasil was lost to a season-ending injury and trade deadline departures by notables including Eric Staal upset the team’s rhythm. In 2016-17, Staal played with wider variety of line mates, especially early, but again settled into a rhythm that boosted the team starting about mid-season. Staal spent time with Sebastian Aho and Teravainen and also had a long run with Elias Lindholm on his right side. But the formula did not translate to the road. When away from home, opposing coaches with the last change could easily steer scoring lines away from Staal’s line and instead force them to muck and grind with offsetting checking lines. And in 2016-17 specifically, the Hurricanes’ combinations behind Staal were full of holes. Peters tries supporting the Hainsey/Faulk pairing that struggled on the road with Staal’s line and then using Slavin/Pesce to help the other forward lines who had to play against other teams’ scoring lines. Peters really did not have a second set defensively either in terms of forward lines or defense pairings. The result was a porous defense on the road especially during the...
Was Thursday’s win in Pittsburgh a potential turning point? I think it is at least a possibility

Was Thursday’s win in Pittsburgh a potential turning point? I think it is at least a possibility

On Thursday night, the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh and in resounding fashion by a 4-0 margin. Not surprisingly based on the score, the game was an impressive one in many ways and had virtually nothing that one could even try to nitpick as a negative. But over the course of a long NHL season in a league with parity and also weird single game swings based on scheduling, backup goalies, injuries and the general ups and downs of each and every team, more often than not a win is just a win and two points which is a good thing obviously. But rarely does it represent much more than that. Based on that, I try (and I think generally do a decent job) of not overreacting to single games no matter how horrible (the recent 8-1 loss the Maple Leafs) or how tremendous (yesterday’s 4-0 whooping of the Penguins on the road). But as I already talked about briefly in the game recap which you can find HERE, I think this game has the potential to mean more and represent another key milestone and turning point in the Hurricanes in-process transformation from regular NHL draft lottery participant to regular NHL playoff competitor. I say that because I think the game was a significant departure from the team’s struggles in recent years such that it represents a change in mentality, confidence and a bunch of other hard to measure but incredibly important intangible qualities that winning teams always seem to possess in some weird, fuzzy, hard to put a finger on aura of a way.   The...
Carolina Hurricanes players who have exceeded my preseason expectations

Carolina Hurricanes players who have exceeded my preseason expectations

Only two games from the midway point of the 2017-18 season, timing is right to start doing assessments for the halfway point of the season. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe lists players who have exceeded my preseason expectations.   Brock McGinn His scoring pace has slowed a bit, but he has still been impressive in 2017-18 relative to my preseason expectations. I had him pegged as a depth forward likely to slot at #12 or #13 and not do much offensively. Instead he has been what I would call the #9 forward for most of the 2017-18 season and more significantly has provided decent depth scoring. McGinn is on pace for 12 goals and 31 points which is solid considering that he averages only 13:15 of ice time and has received minimal power play time.   Noah Hanifin’s offense Noah Hanifin’s game is still a work in progress defensively especially in terms of every game consistency. As I said to someone yesterday, Hanifin seems to be making progress in terms of how frequently he has a tough night defensively, but when he does, the volume of badness still seems similar to his rookie year. But in total, I would say that Hanifin is making gradual strides defensively. But what has been very impressive and has far exceeded optimistic preseason hopes is the growth in his game offensively. The skating, puck carrying, Joni Pitkanen dynamic of Hanifin’s game has appeared more regularly and generally been positive and productive when it appears. Hanifin has always had the wheels to join the rush offensively from behind but only this year has he...
A deeper look into the Carolina Hurricanes penalty kill

A deeper look into the Carolina Hurricanes penalty kill

In a recent ‘random notes’ post for my Daily Cup of Joe, I wrote about the fourth line, the possibility that the positive eye test did not necessarily line up with results and also touched on the fact that Marcus Kruger and Joakim Nordstrom were surprisingly not faring that well on the penalty kill. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a deeper dive into the Carolina Hurricanes penalty kill with what I think are some surprising results.   Recent history of the Carolina Hurricanes’ penalty kill under Steve Smith In recent years, the Carolina Hurricanes penalty kill has been a strength even during a couple down seasons. The Hurricanes have finished fourth, sixth and sixth in the entire NHL in penalty kill proficiency for both 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 respectively since Steve Smith joined the coaching staff (along with Bill Peters of course) and took the lead on the penalty kill. The rankings are even more impressive when you consider that the down days for the team have forced significant changeover in personnel both to start the season and also at the trade deadline. Basically, Steve Smith was able to build a top six penalty kill for three consecutive years despite having to change out personnel regularly. That is impressive. The 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes’ penalty kill nearing the halfway point In familiar fashion, Coach Steve Smith entered the 2017-18 season needing to reconstruct the penalty kill. Lost at the trade deadline were key players Viktor Stalberg, Jay McClement and Ron Hainsey. Hainsey and McClement in particular had been regulars over the entire three-year run with Smith at the helm....
Early shopping list from teams currently slated to be sellers (Eastern Conference teams below .500)

Early shopping list from teams currently slated to be sellers (Eastern Conference teams below .500)

On January 2, 2017, I started into a short series of articles identifying trade targets heading into last winter. Part 2 assessed options and named Matt Duchene as a top target. That deal obviously did not come through, but boy did the debate about a trade for Duchene have legs once everyone else started writing trade deadline articles in the weeks that followed and the extending all the way into the offseason. With Matt Duchene now in Ottawa and struggling thus far to adjust (6 points in 23 games), Francis so far won by losing that deal. Following last year’s theme, today’s Daily Cup of Joe cuts straight to the chase and takes a look at the handful of teams in the Eastern Conference who are currently below .500 and therefore likely to be considering trades either now to shake things up or in late February as trade deadline sellers and compiles a short list of seven players who could be of interest to the Hurricanes. My hope is to write a similar article for potential Western Conference sellers in the next few days. Especially with Lee Stempniak nearing his return and adding forward depth for the Hurricanes, there is no guarantee that the Hurricanes will do anything, but with it nearing that time of year, it is at least worth exploring possibilities.     Buffalo Sabres Shortly into the 2017-18 season, rumblings of the possible availability of Evander Kane, who is in a contract year, surfaced. With the Sabres struggling, he figures to be one of the top rental trades at the 2017 NHL trade deadline. Evander Kane...