After an enjoyable but long weekend away and a few days off writing except game day stuff (wrote and shelved a bunch of stuff before leaving last week), I look forward to getting into a mid-season rhythm at Canes and Coffee starting tomorrow.
If you were away from Canes and Coffee over the weekend, please check out our exclusive coverage (hah!) of the Carolina Hurricanes Thanksgiving dinner.
Depending on what else pops up this week, I might write a more detailed assessment of the Hurricanes and individual players’ performance through the first quarter of the season, but here are some quick thoughts in that direction.
Carolina Hurricanes playoff positioning
Right now, the Hurricanes sit 3 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Many note that it is difficult for teams to make the NHL playoffs if not in such a spot at US Thanksgiving. Obviously, the Hurricanes are short in that regard, but I would still call the Hurricanes current position a modest win. The team started slow (AGAIN!) and faced some turmoil and adversity significant enough that the team seemingly teetered on the brink of early playoff hope extinction weeks ago. But the team rebounded and at least relative to the 2015-16 season which was a near miss playoff-wise and is ahead of that pace. I consider it a moderate positive.
He has a legitimate claim to being the team’s best player right now. He has built upon his 2-way play improvement from the 2015-16 season, been incredibly consistent in generating at least some offense on a nightly basis and kicking in a few huge games at key times when the team needed them. His nearly 80-point pace leads the team and would be a significant step up from the 2015-16 season.
Much to my surprise, Cam Ward is right there with Jeff Skinner. He had a rough start but he has been really good since a turning point start in the home opener. I have used terms like ‘NHL average’ and ‘good enough’ to describe what I think the Hurricanes need in terms of goaltending. He has easily bettered that for a full month now.
Jaccob Slavin/Brett Pesce
Because it happened so quickly seemingly easily, I think Hurricanes fans sometimes underappreciate what this duo has accomplished so far this season. It is challenging for a second year defenseman to step into the top 4 in the NHL. It is another thing for a second year defenseman to step into a top pairing role with the support of a proven veteran. It is a completely different and seemingly impossible thing for a pair of sophomore defensemen to play together in a top pairing and play well doing so. Impressive!
Ideally, the scoring-challenged Hurricanes need a bit more on the score sheet, but I think Jordan Staal’s game is actually ahead of where it was this time last year. He really did not get his legs under him until early December when he clicked with Nordstrom and Nestrasil. Here is hoping that he still has another gear just like in 2015-16.
Maybe buried beneath the headliners, for the third consecutive season Victor Rask has taken a base set of expectations from the previous season and significantly exceeded them. His 2016-17 campaign features him jumping into a top 6 role and the tough match ups that come with that role and not missing a beat in terms of his 2-way play. At the same time, his offensive production has also increased yet again.
What are your initial thoughts on the first 1/4 of the Carolina Hurricanes 2016-17 season?