Today’s Daily Cup of Joe catches up on a few Hurricanes news items during the off days.
Patrick Brown over ____
A couple people have asked me why the Hurricanes recalled Patrick Brown instead of someone else as the team sent Janne Kuokkanen to the AHL.
Kuokkanen looked to be competent but not a difference maker in his NHL stint collecting nothing for points in four games played. As a player just moving up to the professional ranks, Kuokkanen’s development is much better served by 18 minutes of ice time in the AHL as compared to 60 minutes in a press box in Raleigh or wherever the Hurricanes are playing. The time was right to get Kuokkanen into a run of regular playing time.
So why Patrick Brown instead of someone with more scoring upside? At a basic level, I think Peters is reasonably happy with the 12 healthy forwards he has (hence Kuokkanen’s departure), and he just needs a #13 in case someone is injured. As a veteran AHLer, Brown does not need the ice time as much as the younger players who are still developing. In addition, best bet is that if slotted into the lineup, the #13 player would play on Kruger’s checking line. Ideal for that role would be a player who is as safe and sound as possible.
If at some point, Peters wants to reach to Charlotte to jump start the languishing offense, that would be the time to consider younger players with more scoring upside.
Preparing for at least a few games of life minus Brett Pesce
For anyone who missed the news, Brett Pesce caught a puck up high in practice on Tuesday. Today it was announced that he had a concussion and was not traveling with the team for its upcoming two-game road trip.
The hockey gods have a wicked sense of humor again creating an injury on the right side of the defense where the Hurricanes are thin and #7 Klas Dahlbeck just does not fit. Practice saw Dahlbeck playing on that same right side with Jaccob Slavin.
Today the Hurricanes recalled Roland McKeown who is a right shot and therefore slots naturally into the right side slot that Pesce departed. If it was me, I would give McKeown a shot on Thursday knowing that I could lean really heavily on the top 5 coming off of a three-day layoff.
Regardless of how they build the lineup, Bill Peters and Steve Smith have their work cut out for them. The blue line has struggled of late below the Slavin/Pesce pairing and now half of that is out of the lineup.
A potential silver lining is that Noah Hanifin seems to dial it up when pressed to take on a bigger role, so just maybe Pesce’s injury is just the spark needed to help him find a higher gear.
Regardless, the blue line minus Pesce will factor heavily in ‘what I’m watching’ for the two-game road trip. I also think that if the teams struggles and if Dahlbeck looks uncomfortable on his off side (hard to think that will not be the case at this point), Francis might be prompted to shop for the blue line depth that I clamored for this summer though the number of available options is smaller and potentially more expensive.
The importance of November
The Hurricanes emerged from October with a 4-4-2 mark. The start leans slight to the ‘half full’ variety with a big emphasis on “half.” The 82-point pace is not good enough to make the playoffs, but the hole dug thus far is minimal compared to recent years.
The break even record teeters on the fence of being good with a couple wins added or too much like the past couple seasons if a couple losses are added and sets up a big November. The Hurricanes recent failures have been in part because of slow starts in October but also because of continued struggles in November. In each of the past two seasons, the Hurricanes seemed to get their feet under them, figure things out and start winning in early December. That has proven to be too late.
With a schedule that follows four home games over Thanksgiving week with a run of 10 games out of 12 on the road before also being home for the Christmas and New Year holidays, waiting until early December to figure things out is dangerous. Much better would be to climb a couple games above .500 in November to build at least a modest cushion in case the December road schedule proves challenging.
Derek Ryan and Sebastian Aho
Through 10 games, Derek Ryan has only a single even strength point and only three points total. Sitting in the “offense-leaning center” slot that was not filled during the offseason, he is off to a slow start.
Through 10 games, Sebastian Aho is goal-less and has only a depth scorer type five assists.
I continue to think that trying Aho with different line mates at a minimum and possibly at the center position makes a ton of sense. The downside of shuffling a couple offensive players who are sputtering offensively is incredibly tiny. I also think we are approaching the time when if Peters does move Aho to center and it clicks even modestly, it could show unfavorably on Peters for not figuring out what looks like an obvious thing to try to boost the lagging offense.
I am not advocating pairing Aho with Jeff Skinner. I would rather see Aho on a line where he can handle and distribute the puck more.