Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a shot at grading the Hurricanes for the first half of the 2018-19 season starting with the goalies and defensemen.
Important to note is that players are graded based on their expected role. So top 4 defensemen like Slavin and Hamilton are held to a higher standard than third pairing defensemen like Fleury and van Riemsdyk.
Curtis McElhinney A
He was not even on the opening day roster and was added only as an injury fill in when Darling was out to start the season. Three months later he is among the NHL’s leaders at second in Goals Against Average and tied or seventh in Save Percentage. His 9-5-1 record projects to a whopping 104 points if projected over an 82-game season. There is nothing more one could ask from McElhinney’s first half season in a Hurricanes uniform.
Petr Mrazek B-
Mrazek’s season through 41 games has been a bit more up and down. He started slowly but has been mostly better of late. His .900 Save Percentage is not great, but he has been better than that in most of his recent outings. Even with the ups and downs he has been at least an adequate backup. The burning question with Mrazek is whether his rising level of play is a trend that will continue of just a blip over the course of a long season.
It just did not work from the beginning. After a better summer conditioning/training-wise and a decent preseason, Darling was about to enter the 2018-19 season with as much steam as possible given his tough previous season. But the upward trajectory was derailed by an injury and his 2018-19 season looked too much like his 2017-18 season. I will be shocked if he is not traded as part of a bigger deal or more likely bought out this summer. If bought out this summer as I expect, Darling will leave the organization with $14.2 million for two years of service and 15 wins. Best for both parties is that if Darling gets a fresh start next season.
Justin Faulk B+
After deterioration of his defensive play over the course of a couple seasons, Justin Faulk has rebounded in a big way in 2018-19. How divide the credit between a new coach, new defense partner Calvin de Haan and just a Faulk rebound is open to debate, but Faulk is again a capable top 4 defenseman. In a complete reversal of fortune, the biggest rap on Faulk’s season thus far is his lack of offensive production. Despite a heavy helping of power play time and much higher scoring in recent years, Faulk is on target for only 30 points right now. That is light for a defenseman who sees as much power play ice time as Faulk does.
Calvin de Haan A-
Given de Haan’s role, I am not sure one could ask for much more. Most significantly, he deserves at least some credit for Faulk’s rebound which gives them team two top 4 pairings. De Haan’s modest 20-point scoring pace is not overly impressive, but as a player who does not receive power play ice time, his role is different from Faulk’s and others’, and he has performed well in that role.
Jaccob Slavin B-
Slavin’s 2018-19 season has been a mixed bag so far. He never really meshed with Dougie Hamilton, and his defensive play deteriorated a bit with Brind’Amour’s patience (or stubbornness?) leaving the duo together for so long. The team’s minus 14 goal differential with Slavin on the ice is tied or last (with original partner Hamilton) on the team’s blue line. In addition, Slavin is still feeling his way on the power play with only three points despite being a regular on the power play. In addition, his 30-point pace with power play time is also a bit light. The positive is that Slavin has started to settle in since being reunited with Brett Pesce.
Brett Pesce A-
Pesce’s 2018-19 campaign thus far very much reminds me of de Haan’s. His season has been interrupted with injuries, but when in the lineup Pesce has been steady defensively even if unspectacular offensively. Initally, Pesce was part of a solid third pairing. More recently he is back in the top 4 with Slavin. In his defense-first role, he has been steady all season.
Dougie Hamilton C
Hamilton has possibly started to rise up after being slow transitioning to the Hurricanes early on. He has a goal in each of his last three games and though his decision-making/coverage continue to be a work in progress, two developments look encouraging for the second half of the season. First, he has recently dialed up his physical play Second, he will enter Tuesday’s game with goals in three straight.
Trevor van Riemsdyk B
As a third pairing defenseman, van Riemsdyk can be underappreciated at times. He has been about what one would hope in a depth defenseman. Maybe most significantly, he seems to have an uncanny ability to boost his defense partner. In 2017-18, he played a role in Haydn Fleury’s acclimation to the NHL. Then when Fleury moved up and Hanifin down, van Riemsdyk was Hanifin’s partner when Hanifin surged offensively and settled down a bit defensively. In 2018-19, van Riemsdyk was part of a strong third pairing with Pesce early in the season. More recently, he has played alongside Hamilton during his best stretch of the season. Minus much for flashiness, van Riemsdyk is a capable third pairing defenseman.
Haydn Fleury B-
In an injury-marred 2018-19 season, Haydn Fleury has no goals and a lone assist in ten games. The offensive part of Fleury’s game has yet to blossom. I recently described him as ‘serviceable’. I think that is a about right. Fleury is capable of stepping onto the third defense pairing or possibly even higher.
What say you Canes fans?
What do you think of my grades for the defensemen and goalies?