The 2020 NHL Playoffs will represent a fresh start for players across the league in a few ways. First, after a long layoff the games will present the same challenge to get up to speed quickly like at the beginning of the season but with much higher stakes. In addition, for players whose 2019-20 campaign was not going as desired, the August playoffs represent a chance to start anew after an extended reset.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at a few Canes players who could benefit from the reset.
After bursting on the scene in 2018-19 after being acquired via trade and playing a significant role in the team’s playoff push, Nino Niederreiter had mostly struggled to find his way in 2019-20. For a player whose strength can be his ability to produce offensively, 11 goals and 29 points for a 35-point pace for an 82-game season was underwhelming. Possibly trying to do too much, Niederreiter also accumulated 42 penalty minutes with too many of the unnecessary variety. Can some time off and a fresh start be just what the doctor ordered to get Niederreiter on track?
After consecutive 20-goal seasons before joining the Hurricanes, Ryan Dzingel has struggled at least in terms of potting goals a pace that would yield 10 goals over a full 82-game season. Dzingel has had some nice playmaking plays setting up line mates on the way to 29 points in 64 games and has contributed in other ways, but like Niederreiter, Dzingel should have a higher gear in terms of goal scoring. He will get a chance to try to boot it up for the playoffs.
Put bluntly, Jake Gardiner struggled mightily trying to acclimate to a new team and a new role with the Hurricanes. He is one player with upside over his regular season performance who probably did not need the reset. His game had been better once the calendar flipped to 2020. On a team where the majority of the regulars are plus players because the Canes were generally winning at even strength, Gardiner’s minus 24 stands out. I get that plus/minus is imperfect but when you have commonality of the same team and a sample size that is the majority of the season, being minus 17 worse than the next worst defenseman is not random. The eye test also suggests that he earned it. But he was playing better in 2020, and the playoffs represent the chance to show that he just needed some time to settle in and adjust.
Trocheck logged only seven games after being acquired from Florida and did not look bad. But at the same time, for a player who figured to slot as a second threat at center offensively, Trocheck’s start was slow on the score sheet. August represents a chance to make a bigger contribution at a time when the stakes are much higher.
Jordan Staal’s primary strength has never been his scoring ability, but to match or better other teams’ top players is not possibly 100 percent by shutting them down. There must also be some scoring. In recent years Staal consistently played at a mid-40s scoring pace but was on pace for only 33 points when the season was abruptly halted. Maybe more significantly, he just did not look as dominant in his normal shutdown role. He looked a half step slow at times and that seemed to manifest itself in uncharacteristic obstruction type penalties. But Staal historically gets stronger when others are wearing down. With everyone entering the playoffs fresh, can Staal still find that higher gear for the playoffs and be exactly the type of rugged two-way center that a team needs to advance in the playoffs?
What say you Canes fans?
1) Would you include any other players who could benefit from the restart to reach a higher gear?
2) Of the players listed, which do you expect to find that higher gear in the playoffs?