The Canes impressive 6-1-0 results clearly show the Hurricanes off to a strong start which would rightly suggest that many things are working early in the season.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a quick look at the Canes forward lines from top to bottom analyzing what is working early in the season.
First line (Sebastian Aho)
Through seven games Sebastian Aho has a respectable but not eye-popping six points. But he has been better than that and could easily have a few more points. When playing on the top line with Aho (limited ice time so far), Andrei Svechnikov has been good, but then he has produced wherever he has played in the lineup. With a slow, not necessarily bad, start for Teuvo Teravainen followed by a COVID layoff, he has yet to really get going. But despite the personnel shifting and upside to be had, the Hurricanes are in good shape at the top line.
Second line (Vincent Trocheck)
Through seven games, Vincent Trocheck leads the team in scoring with five goals and seven points (tied with Svechnikov for both). Martin Necas has three points in his last four games and four points in total. At a very basic results matter level, the two core players on the second line have produced offensively. In a nitpicking kind of way, the one thing I continue to watch is if/how much they produce together as a line at even strength. Much of both players’ early scoring was apart on special teams and also with an empty-net goal included. But the two did connect on a Trocheck finish of a Necas’ pass a couple games back and Trocheck’s goal on Tuesday came at even strength with Necas on the ice. So the paranoid part of me considers the possibility of it being more Erik Haula-like early-season fool’s gold, but at the most basic level the production is good so far.
Third line (Jordan Staal)
Since returning from COVID protocol, Jordan Staal has been the team’s best offensive player. Let me say that again — Jordan Staal has been the Hurricanes’ best offensive player. He has six points in four games since his return and the assists have pretty much unanimously been pretty playmaking delights. With Staal himself out of the lineup and the wings around him moving quite a bit, it is not clear what exactly his line is, but if Staal has refound a higher gear after a ‘meh’ 2019-20 campaign, that is a great starting point to building a strong line especially if one considers it to be a third line. Who knows what happens longer-term but based on Staal’s current level play and the results on Tuesday, one would figure that Svechnikov stays with Staal for the time being.
Fourth line (Morgan Geekie)
If one counts Morgan Geekie and Jordan Martinook as the core of the fourth line, the duo has produced only a lone assist in 10 games combined. Brock McGinn who has also logged a decent amount of his ice time on that line has only a single goal on the score sheet and that actually came while playing with Staal. With Martinook out of the lineup and COVID protocol shifting taxi squad players into fourth line slots, it is not really fair to do any kind of deep evaluation, but I do thin it is fair to note that a fourth line that figured to be above average in terms of scoring production has not launched yet.
Thinking in pairs
Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour has said that he thinks of forward combinations more as pairs than full lines sometimes. Going with that line of thinking, I think you could map out the current Hurricanes duos as Aho/Teravainen, Trocheck/Necas, Staal/Svechnikov and Geekie/Martinook. Only the future knows for sure, but I could see Svechnikov being a bit of a rover throughout the year used to inject a bit more offense where needed. His game is already well-rounded enough that he can play anywhere.
Those four pairs leave Warren Foegele, Brock McGinn, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Dzingel and Jesper Fast as available wings to fill out the lineup. Balanced scoring comes from getting contributions throughout the lineup, but that said I think peak Hurricanes needs different things from the different players. I think Foegele and McGinn boost the team the most when they are effective on the forecheck which when going can have the effect of tilting the ice and generating turnover/transition chances throughout the lineup. Dzingel and Niederreiter are of to decent starts with five goals between them. Ideally one or both becomes a productive 20-30 goal finisher on one of the top two scoring lines. Fast offers less upside offensively but as a steady two-way forward, he is capable of slotting anywhere as Brind’Amour changes things over the course of the season.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you see Svechnikov/Staal as riding a hot hand in Staal right now, or do you think the duo could stick and make for three of four sets off two used to build out lines?
2) If you take my sets of two for right now at least, how would you distribute McGinn, Foegele, Niederreiter, Dzingel and Fast across those four lines?
3) What other comments do you have about the Hurricanes forward lines through seven games?