With the Carolina Hurricanes laboring through a home-heavy November schedule now with a 1-4-2 record, I think we are nearing the point where it is time to make an assessment of the current lineup and adjust accordingly. I wrote a post similar to where I am headed with this recently. You can read that HERE.
I am of the mind of evaluating what is not working, making an assessment of if that is likely to change and why and making changes accordingly if there are options to do so.
My list of things that I would consider changing/trying sooner rather than later:
1) Punt on a few depth forwards and try to get better
The top forwards need to score more too, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Canes depth forwards (basically bottom 3-4 of top 9) are not good enough. In rough terms, that group has included Nathan Gerbe, Chris Terry, Elias Lindholm and some combination of Andrej Nestrasil and Riley Nash. Elias Lindholm is a more delicate case because he is a 20-year old, still with high potential who needs to somehow be put back on a better development path. I actually think both Chris Terry and Nathan Gerbe could have roles on the team but I just do not think either are true top 6 or maybe even top 9 forwards at the NHL level. If you take that assessment as correct, I think the time is now to at least try other options. Derek Ryan is 28 years old. His time is now or very soon if he is going to be an NHLer. He is scoring goals at the AHL level just like he did in Europe, so why not see if he can do it at the NHL level too? Phil Di Giuseppe is a bit younger but has a full AHL season under his belt. Regardless of if it is these 2 or a different player or 2, I would be asking Charlotte coach Mark Morris who he thinks might be ready for the NHL and give them a shot. I do not think it can hurt at this point, and at a minimum Ron Francis can start assessing what he has for going forward. I actually voted in this post last week to call up Di Giuseppe and Ryan together and to build a third line around them.
2) Turn Noah Hanifin and Ryan Murphy (when he returns) loose
With the injury to James Wisniewski, I think the Canes are right back where they started at the front part of the summer in terms of desperately needing more puck movement and distribution from the back end to boost the entire offense. As much as I hate to mess with Pesce’s situation and development thus far, I would be inclined to try some periods of Murphy with Liles and telling Murphy to dial up the pace as much as possible, and I would do similar with Hanifin and to some degree Pesce on a kid third pairing. As much as I think Liles/Pesce has been pretty safe and sound in terms of not making mistakes, they can be incredibly deliberate getting the puck going north-south with any pace. And though Hanifin and Murphy’s game should be to push the puck with pace, even that duo has been fairly buttoned down with Murphy just starting to dial up the speed and Hanifin only now showing a glimmer here and there.
Regardless of the pairings, more offense across the board comes from playing faster and attacking. Though there is some risk in doing this, I think it again falls under the category of ‘try something different at least.’
3) Give Eddie Lack a short run to see if he can find a rhythm
First, let me admit that I think this 1 is debatable. Lack has not looked great through 5 outings so far. Ward has not been great overall, but he did have a short run on the road. And overall, I would say that Ward has been the better of the 2 goalies.
But here is my thought process:
- Right or wrong, fair or unfair I just do not see Cam Ward being a big enough difference-maker based on what I have seen over the past couple years.
- From what I have seen of Eddie Lack in a Hurricanes uniform so far, I would not say different about him, but I think the difference is that he was a difference-maker just last winter/spring with Vancouver. I am inclined to at least try to see if he can find that level again with some run time.
- Ron Francis committed to Lack for 2 more years at at least a shared starter pay of $2.75 million salary. He needs to figure out if he can live up to that level because it impacts what he does with his other goalie slot for next season.
So when you net it out and try to make changes assuming no big trade to shake things up, I try something different from within the organization at forward, I try to get the defense to push pace and accept the risk/reward trade-off that comes with that and I give Eddie Lack a longer look.