The articles for the past few days have been heavy on player by player content. Monday’s Daily Cup of Joe had preseason assessments and ‘readiness ratings’ for the goalies and defensemen. Tuesday’s Daily Cup of Joe followed up with similar for the forwards. And Tuesday night, Canes and Coffee kicked off a season preview series with part 1 which identified four players as foundational pillars who will hopefully be able to match their 2016-17 seasons and also 6 more who could be keys to improving upon 2016-17.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will follow on the player by player theme by offering a few snippets on individual players.
Noah Hanifin needs to stick with the more assertive and aggressive brand of hockey he brought in preseason. The regular season will certainly feature more pace and pressure and therefore a few more mistakes here and there, but I have said since the beginning that Noah Hanifin’s ceiling lies in a game that is aggressive and attacking. The biggest test for Hanifin early in 2017-18 might not be playing well but actually how he reacts when he has a short stretch when he doesn’t.
Elias Lindholm must avoid falling in love with his hockey skill. Though he may have had an intermittent pretty play here and there in his first three plus years with the Hurricanes, those years were largely without Lindholm being a difference-maker for anything more than a game at a time. The critical ingredient in Lindholm’s sudden step forward in 2016-17 was dialing up his level of engagement and physical play by a factor of five. With the lighter intensity of preseason over, Lindholm needs to find his hard hat and get back to the puck engaging core of 2016-17.
Justin Williams will prove to be a tremendous signing if he can play well and produce offensively but more significantly if he can help a younger line mate or two reach a higher level of play too. That plus leadership are the difference between being a good top 6 forward that adds to the team’s scoring and level of play versus more of a multiplier effect if he can help boost other players too. My preference is to pair Williams with Teuvo Teravainen out of the gate in hopes that Williams can help Teravainen bridge the gap between his current level of play as an intermittent skilled depth scorer and his potential ceiling as a more consistent top 6 offensive weapon.
Cam Ward has a significant transition in front of him. I think people sometimes underestimate how challenging it is to be a backup goalie in the NHL. Though they sometimes go a full week without playing, they need to somehow stay sharp and be ready to perform a high level oftentimes in one off starts. This is uncharted territory for Ward and a significant adjustment.
Scott Darling is going to present an adjustment for the defense in terms of moving pucks off the walls and transitioning quickly up the ice. For all of Darling’s strengths, one thing that jumped out about his game relative to Ward was his puckhandling behind the net. He showed a much greater preference to just allow defensemen to retrieve pucks themselves if they were going to be the first player in. Especially with defensemen who can skate, retrievals and quick passes from the goalie can result in quick transitions to offense and speed exiting the defensive zone that quickly backs up any forecheck. My early read is that Darling will be a step down in this regard.
Three days until Hurricanes hockey returns!