After yet another ‘that can’t be topped’ loss that seems to follow a run of weekly one-upmanship that seems to just continuously find new lows, the #CanesCoaster is either at or very close to their low point for an up and down 2017-18 season.
I am on record as believing the issue(s) right now run deeper than simple personnel, roster or tactics changes. But if the team either finally believes me and gives in to Jofa helmets or otherwise figures out how to rid the demons, break the voodoo curse or otherwise address whatever is ailing it, there are a decent number of building blocks in place such that the light at the end of the tunnel might not be as far away as it seems right now.
Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen
Amidst another otherwise tough season for the Carolina Hurricanes scoring-wise, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen have emerged as a great scoring duo with the potential to be two-thirds of a legitimate top scoring line. On pace for 65 points each, they are likely only a line mate away from being point per game players. Playing much of the season centering the duo on the TSA line, Jordan Staal has a total of 5 primary assists on the combined 46 goals that Aho and Teravainen have scored this season. To be clear, Jordan Staal is a good player who has a role on a good hockey team, but that role is not to center a scoring line. He just does not have enough playmaking or finishing in his ability to maximize the scoring and as such is holding Aho and Teravainen back offensively.
Jordan Staal is a strong centerpiece for a good match up-focused second line if you can first build a true top scoring line to complement it. The issue with Jordan Staal being light on scoring for a top 6 forward is more a matter of not having enough pure offense to balance things out.
When I slotted the current Hurricanes’ forward group for a winning team in my Daily Cup of Joe on March 6, the team was not that short in terms of sheer volume of players. The challenge is that the team is not just seeking any serviceable, complementary player to fill out the group. Rather, the Hurricanes need to add at least one higher-forward with a specific skill set to achieve the needed balance in the top 6.
Young legs on the blue line
With the offensive part of their games not yet at the level of their defensive play, it is fair to debate whether Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are legitimate #1 or #2 defenders on a good team, but there is no doubt they are good enough to be part of a solid top 4. In addition, the strides that Noah Hanifin has taken offensively this season, he has grown into the role of an offensive #5 defenseman with upside from there. The development maybe slowed a bit this season, but the team is still positioned well with a young core of Jaccob Slavin (23 years old), Brett Pesce (23), Noah Hanifin (21) and Haydn Fleury (21) all growing on the job at the NHL level. Who will fill a defensively solid, legitimate second top 4 defense pairing remains an open question as of right now, but the potential of the young group remains intact even if still not fully tapped.
At a time when everything is a struggle, even the positive story of strong play at the AHL level has generated angst as fans clamor for players to be called up to replace underperforming veterans. But while there is a question on timing and the challenge of figuring out how to work young players into the mix and giving them the best chance to succeed at the NHL level, the volume and quantity of players who have the potential to be at least NHL depth continues to grow. If the Hurricanes can find a star or two in addition to serviceable depth, it could play a significant role in finally climbing up into the playoffs.
Tumultuous has become one of my favorite words to describe both some of the changes that have occurred already with new owner Tom Dundon at the helm and also what I expect lies ahead especially when the offseason arrives and provides a chance for a fresh start in many areas. And no doubt, the transition seems destined to have its share of growing pains because that is what happens when you try to make significant changes to something. But for whatever risks and even some missteps that lie ahead, the fact that the team has a new owner who is actively trying to change things for the better is 10 times better than the malaise-ridden limbo that the team had mostly been living in for a couple years prior.
What say you Caniacs?
1) What other positive building blocks would you add to the list?
2) Despite the current struggles, do you think it is possible that if the team can solve whatever curse or issue it has that perhaps the group personnel-wise is not as far off as it feels right now?