What decides Canes’ playoff fate? (part 2)

What decides Canes’ playoff fate? (part 2)

In yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe, I first called out the two factors that can decide any playoff series (goaltending and special teams scoring) and followed up by saying that I thought that past those two automatics the single biggest factor in the Canes’ playoff success would be if/how well at least two of Martin Necas, Seth Jarvis, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and/or Max Domi could provide scoring in top 6 slots. I believe that another top factor will be Jaccob Slavin’s defense pairing. The off-season saw the departure of Slavin’s 2020-21 defense partner Dougie Hamilton and the addition of a group of players to theoretically replace what he brings with a committee. Ethan Bear figured to be a steady even if unspectacular capable top 4 defenseman defensively. Tony DeAngelo figured to take Hamilton’s slot on the power play and also pick up at least some of the slack from the blue line scoring lost with Hamilton’s departure. And Ian Cole and Brendan Smith brought experienced depth if needed to fill gaps. In general, the Canes blue line has worked out reasonably well even if maybe not how originally envisioned. Brady Skjei has had a strong year and coupled with Brett Pesce’s steadiness, that duo has been solid. Jaccob Slavin has been his usual self and helped boost whoever has played next to him. And Tony DeAngelo has had a strong season offensively and more or less filled the offensive gap created by Hamilton’s departure. But then the script takes a bit of a turn. Bear has been up and down and also in and out of the lineup with 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...
Both sides of the Jesperi Kotkaniemi deal

Both sides of the Jesperi Kotkaniemi deal

Amidst a busy off-season with a couple high stakes moves, arguably the most interesting was the Hurricanes’ aggressive move to offer sheet Jesperi Kotkaniemi and ultimately add him to the roster when Montreal decided not to match the offer. The deal was a costly one costing a first round and third round draft pick as compensation and also requiring a $6.1 million one-year contract that was at a significant premium to Kotkaniemi’s level of play in 2020-21. The range of possible outcomes on this deal is incredibly wide, so I will write up both ends of the spectrum with time of course being the ultimate arbiter on if whether the actual result is one or the other or somewhere in the middle.   Jesperi Kotkaniemi Being selected third in the 2018 NHL draft right behind behind Andrei Svechnikov, the young Finnish player comes with high draft pedigree and potential. He is 21 years old with a ton of upside. But a significant difference between he and Svechnikov is level of development/proven production so far. In my opinion Svechnikov’s 2020-21 campaign was moderately disappointing and a small step backward for him, but he still finished with 15 goals and 42 points in 55 games which makes for a 22-goal and 63-point pace over an 82-game season. That is maybe a bit short of a point per target but still legitimate top half of the roster scoring. In 56 games, Kotkaniemi collected 5 goals and 20 points for a 9-goal and 29-point pace over 82 games. While the potential is definitely there Kotkaniemi has not yet proven that he can produce...
Re-sign or replace Brock McGinn?

Re-sign or replace Brock McGinn?

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe continues a series of posts considering options for re-signing or letting go the team’s group of players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this off-season. First up was Dougie Hamilton. Yesterday was Jordan Martinook.   Comparing/contrasting McGinn and Martinook Up next is Brock McGinn. If one starts from an assumption that improving the team requires keeping some but letting some go from the middle/bottom half of the roster players with unrestricted free agents the easiest to move on, I think it is interesting to compare Jordan Martinook and Brock McGinn. Both players are coming off $2 million contracts. Both players have mostly slotted in the bottom half of the forward group but also been bumped up to higher lines when Brind’Amour shuffles the lineup a bit. And both score high marks for their every shift intensity that can be helpful when when the team is flat and needs a lift. But despite the similarities, I see two significant differences. First, I think McGinn brings more in terms of scoring upside and ability to slot even if only intermittently on a scoring line. In 2020-21, McGinn had eight goals in only 37 games for an 18-goal pace over a full 82-game season. The peak was the burst he had catching fire on a lower line and then riding it for awhile longer on Aho’s line. In terms of raw production, I think McGinn brings more. Like Martinook, McGinn is a good locker room presence, but I think the difference, per the post on Martinook, is that McGinn is more of a lead by example foot...
Hurricanes versus Predators: Xs and Os

Hurricanes versus Predators: Xs and Os

With the NHL still dragging its feet on releasing, we are another day closer to the start of the first round of the NHL playoffs for the Hurricanes but still without knowing when that is. Based on nothing but gut feel and my thoughts on NHL priorities, I predicted on Twitter yesterday that the Hurricanes playoff opener would be slotted for 3pm on Sunday or otherwise a normal 7 or 7:30pm start time on Monday. Here is hoping we get news one way or another today. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at the series from a tactical angle. The Hurricanes were dominant through six games in the season series before falling in the last two. The question is whether the Predators found some new tactics/strategies in the last two games, if the results were at least partly because the Hurricanes had little to play for or if maybe the Predators were just overdue. I think it was mostly a combination of the circumstances, especially for the last game, and maybe a little bit of the Predators just being due to finally win a game or two. That said, I do think a couple carry overs could affect the playoff series. What follows are a list of things to watch as the series progresses.   1) Canes determination to play inside the dots On a good night, the current iteration of the Predators reminds me a bit of the good version of the Columbus Blue Jackets that the Canes have struggled with in past years. The Predators are maybe light on high-end scoring but are built to fare well...
Assessing Alex Nedeljkovic and broader goalie situation after six starts

Assessing Alex Nedeljkovic and broader goalie situation after six starts

The Hurricanes entered the 2020-21 season with goalie prospect Alex Nedeljkovic ready for an audition at the NHL level but also with it unclear if/how that would happen with two veteran goalies on the depth chart above him. When the team took the chance sending him across waivers to reach the taxi squad versus keeping three goalies and the cap hit at the NHL level, the potential was there for Nedeljkovic’s chance never to happen in a Hurricanes uniform. But Nedeljkovic cleared waivers and Petr Mrazek’s injury created the opening for Nedeljkovic to get a run of games at the NHL level. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at Alex Nedeljkovic’s audition through six games.   Evaluation Especially if one considers the first couple games to be a tune up after not playing in a game for nearly a year and with no preseason games to get up to speed, Nedeljkovic has been good so far. Even counting the first two games that were his weakest, Nedeljkovic now sports a 2.30 goals against average and .924 save percentage to go with a 3-2-1 record. If one gives him a pass on three tune up games after a long layoff, Nedeljkovic’s save percentage in his last three starts is .959. Looking at his body of work in total, he has been good overall. Areas to watch for improvement are his ability to close out games in the third period in his first three starts, he struggled a bit late in games. The other area where he has looked to be in a bit over his head has been defending breakaways....