Every hockey team has its fan favorites, leaders and superstars that mostly deservedly garner the majority of the headlines and attention. But in hockey maybe more than any other sport, every player plays a significant role. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe identifies a few unsung heroes on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
Van Riemsdyk is that extra after the list of five top 4 defensemen that the Hurricanes currently have in their lineup. De Haan and Hamilton are the newest defensemen, and Hamilton also receives attention for his offensive ability which has been on display recently. Faulk is a multi-time All-Star and also has an offensive streak. Slavin and maybe to a lesser degree Pesce receive attention for their roles in the top 4. Then there is Trevor van Riemsdyk who is mostly off the radar as a third pairing defenseman in terms of press coverage. But his run of boosting line mates is interesting. When Haydn Fleury broke into the NHL playing his first games at the NHL level, van Riemsdyk was the steadying presence that helped his acclimation go well. Then when Hanifin stumbled a bit and was maybe in over his head in a top 4 role early in 2017-18, van Riemsdyk was Hanifin’s partner when he slipped to the bottom pairing, got his feet under him and surged offensively in the middle part of the season. Now in 2018-19, van Riemsdyk maybe not coincidentally has been Hamilton’s partner when he finally put things together and burst out offensively. When a defenseman consistently boosts the level of play of his partner, I think it says something about his ability to mesh with a variety of players. Especially in a third pairing role that can see a rotation of partners with injuries and roster juggling, this understated skill set should not be underestimated.
Is he just a capable depth defenseman who could reasonably easily be replaced? Or is he an under the radar chameleon and mentor/booster who is helping other players find a higher gear?
Brett Pesce (reference also Calvin de Haan whose story is similar)
Maybe not as unsung on the blue line as van Riemsdyk but unsung nonetheless is Brett Pesce. Pesce and/or de Haan would theoretically rate the lowest in terms of offensive upside, but much of that has to do with his role that does not include power play ice time. But while other players might score more or be a bit more dynamic, I would argue that Brett Pesce has been the team’s steadiest defenseman defensively since the start of the 2017-18 season. Pesce’s consistency is such that he really does not have highs and lows like many players. As such, he is a glue type of player defensively who can log as many minutes as needed in any type of role while other players maybe ride through some ups and downs.
In discussing the Hurricanes blue line which is finally becoming the strength it was projected to become a couple years back, Brett Pesce almost always takes a back seat to more exciting players and even prospects. But is it possible that he is a critical glue player? And in terms of rating defensemen for defensive play, does he have as much of a claim to being the team’s best defensive defenseman as anyone else?
This would likely not have been the case before the start of the 2018-19 season, but with his absence from the lineup right now, the team’s success without him and his modest scoring production thus far in 2018-19, I think Staal has fallen to the point where he is underappreciated. In addition, the fact that everyone (including myself) always wishes that Staal could do just a bit more offensively shifts attention away from what he does do well which is eat up hard minutes against other teams’ best players. The Hurricanes deserve credit for forging forward with success recently without him, but I still think the team is better with Staal in the lineup. Because of that, I think Staal has reached the point where he could qualify as an unsung hero.
If the Hurricanes continue on their current trend and play playoff type games in late March, is there really a player you would rather put on the ice for a defensive zone draw late in the third period of a tie game? Is there really anyone else that you want to load a ton of defensive pressure on to hold down other teams’ top scorers in games that matter?
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who, if anyone else, do you see as an unsung hero on the Carolina Hurricanes?
2) Who would you rank as the team’s top unsung hero?