If you took the All-Star weekend as a break from Canes hockey, you missed an unusually busy weekend at Canes and Coffee:
Saturday: Part 2 of my 2-part series on the path forward for the Hurricanes at goalie looking at the prospect pool at post 2017-18 in net.
Saturday: Part 2 of Cory Fogg’s 2-part series on the Canes rebuilding entitled “Behind the Painful Art of the Rebuild.”
Sunday: Sunday Canes Chronicle featured links to articles on All-Stars (Justin Faulk, Ron Francis, 2011 in Raleigh) and the prospects (Sebastian Aho, Nicolas Roy, Haydn Fleury).
Sunday: Jordan Futrell did a special ‘Checking In’ to offer mini-recaps of Eddie Lack’s 2 weekend starts with the Checkers.
Also the Coffee Shop is open on Monday with a couple quick polls and a few possible discussion questions.
Starting anew post-All-Star break, today’s Daily Cup of Joe catches up on a few random notes hanging around that have yet to be written in any detail.
Without any guarantee that it will work or any commitment past a few games on term, I am ready to pair Hanifin with Faulk and give him a shot in the second pairing. I actually arrive at this from both the angle of planning for the future but also playing for 2016-17. For the latter, I just have not seen enough evidence that Hainsey/Faulk is going to work as a second pairing especially on the road where they have struggled mightily at times. Important to note is that there are no guarantees that Hanifin/Faulk will either, but my inclination is to at least try something different. I think what you are aiming for with a move like this is that a greater challenge spurs Hanifin’s play to a higher level and also that the upgrade in terms of raw skating and athletic ability pays dividends. Even if the experiment does not work out, I think there are gains to be made in terms of preparing for the future. Francis and Peters get a read on how close to ready Hanifin is for a bigger role and also a measure of how he responds to a bigger challenge. That is helpful for Hanifin’s development but also for figuring out what the team has/does not have in terms of top 4 defensemen for the 2017-18 season. If Hanifin does not prove capable of such a role in February through April, I do not see how you would count on it for next October either.
With and without Slavin/Pesce
I know we are not supposed to talk about plus/minus because of the simple statistic’s limitations and also the potential for it to be misleading if not considered with detailed context. But there is something right in a simple measurement of whether a team is winning or losing at even strength with certain players on the ice since the majority of an NHL game is played at even strength. Jaccob Slavin is plus 6 and Brett Pesce is plus 9. At a basic level those numbers are positive obviously, but when you look at the layers of context that sometimes make plus/minus misleading, I think the statistics for Slavin and Pesce become more powerful. Consider that on home ice where Peters has last change and can dictate match ups to a large degree, they are playing as many minutes as possible against the other teams’ best lines. They are generally winning (Slavin is +5 and Pesce is +4) against the other teams’ best at home which is saying something. It is also interesting to compare Slavin and Pesce to other Hurricanes’ defensemen. Plus/minus can be misleading in cases where a team is either really good or really bad, and the entire team’s stats reflect. A plus 2 on a team where the average is minus 20 could actually be pretty good. In that regard, Slavin and Pesce jump out even more. The Hurricanes 3 other regular defensemen are significantly minus players with Faulk at minus 15, Hanifin at minus 12 and Hainsey at minus 10. The other defensemen who have shuffled in and out of the lineup (Murphy, Dahlbeck, Tennyson) have similar numbers if you project them based on games played. Basically, at even strength, the Hurricanes are winning when Slavin and Pesce are on the ice and losing by a fairly significant margin when any other defensemen are on the ice.
It is just gut instinct, but I feel like he has 1 more big scoring binge in him. His pace has slowed a little bit but still projects to be a respectable low 60s total, but I just think he has another 2-week run of 7 games with 11-13 points (like he started the season with 11 points in 7 games in October). I also think this could be critical to the Canes mustering another push upward. With so many teams bunched in the Eastern Conference and battling for the final playoff spot, I think it will take a run of 7-9 consecutive wins to rise above the fray. A Skinner scoring binge that carries the team for 5-7 games could be just what the doctor ordered in this regard.
Justin Faulk on the power play
I have a half-written blog about Justin Faulk’s odd development path. In case I never finish that, let me share a snippet from that. Entering the 2016-17 season, Faulk had established himself as a top power play defenseman in the entire NHL. In 2015-16 Faulk notched 12 power play goals and was on pace for even more before injuries limited him in the second half of the season. Fast forward to 2016-17, and Faulk’s offensive numbers look decent at 21 points in 41 games. But the split is really interesting. After scoring 1 goal and collecting 2 assists on the power play in the season’s first 5 games, Faulk has 0 goals and only 2 assists in 36 games since then. But along the way his offensive completely shifted to even strength where Faulk has an impressive 8 goals and 8 assists in 41 games. Another part of my draft on Faulk talks about his start in the NHL that projected him as a sound defense-first defenseman who might be light on offense. If you pick and choose Justin Faulk’s play from different time frames, one can find stretches awhile back where he was stellar defensively (i.e. with Andrej Sekera), stretches where he was an elite power play producer and also 2016-17 when he has been a great offensive driver at even strength. The burning question is if he can at some point put all of these things together and become a truly elite Norris consideration type defenseman or if he will just continue to move through phases with different strengths exchanged out over time. As an aside on the power play note, I think a big factor in Faulk’s power play goal scoring drought is the lack of any consistent goalie screener since Bickell exited the lineup. A key component in Faulk’s power play scoring surge in 2015-16 was a noticeable and consistent effort by Eric Staal and others to screen the goalie and importantly stay there when the shot was coming instead of jumping out of the way to try for a tip.