Since the impressive 5-1 win over Minnesota on March 23, the Carolina Hurricanes are 2-3 and have scored only eight goals in regulation (not counting empty-netters) in five games. The team has been lackluster offensively on multiple fronts in recent games.
True to form, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour has been patient with his current lines thus far, but one has to wonder if we will see a change or two heading into the last week of the season. I would not expect wholesale changes, but perhaps Brind’Amour makes a targeted change or two with the aim of sparking a couple players.
I touched on Sebastian Aho and Micheal Ferland in yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe. Today’s entry does a deeper dive on the forward lines.
Priority #1 if possible – restarting Sebastian Aho
My first priority would be trying to get Sebastian Aho going again. As noted yesterday, changes to his style of play suggest that he might be limited by some kind of injury not a random scoring slump. If that is the case, maneuvering personnel around him might not have much effect.
Possible move: Reuniting Aho and Teravainen makes the team a bit more top heavy offensively, but perhaps that is better than just a balanced version of lackluster.
Reigniting Micheal Ferland
As note in yesterday’s article, it seems like a distant memory, but Micheal Ferland was actually Nino Niederreiter before Nino Niederreiter arrived. Through most of the first half of the season, Ferland added a nice mix of power forward crease crashing and receive/finish ability to Aho and Teravainen’s skill. He has had a few short bursts of offense here and there but has mostly just been wandering since then. Right now, I think he is the forward who is most suffering from just not receiving enough good scoring chances to maximize his production. I just do not think Lucas Wallmark brings enough as a playmaker to boost his wings’ scoring.
Possible move: Putting Ferland with a playmaker, Aho or Ferland should increase his chances and with it hopefully his scoring. His most recent burst of goodness was when he was playing with Staal and Teravainen before Svechnikov was elevated to that slot. Full 2018-19 retro would be to reunite Aho, Teravainen and Ferland but maybe just hooking up Teravainen and Ferland can boost scoring and maintain balance.
Flanking Greg McKegg with a bit of finishing
Greg McKegg burst onto the 2018-19 Hurricanes scene with a couple big games offensively. He has had a couple other great games offensively too. But in total, his six goals and five assists in 39 games is very fourth-line-ish. He has had an extended run playing almost exclusively between Warren Foegele and Saku Maenalanen. Neither of those players is a natural finisher/goal scorer. Might he be the center who has more to give with a bit more finishing help?
Possible move: I would consider flip-flopping McKegg and Wallmark. Wallmark’s strength this season has been his steady two-way play, so he could be a decent fit for Foegele and Maenalanen as a checking line center. There are no guarantees, but I think it could be worth a look with McKegg with some combination of Ferland, Svechnikov or Martinook on his wings.
Where I ultimately land
For now, I would leave the first line of Niederreiter/Aho/Williams together. Niederreiter is still getting a good number of scoring chances, and if it is correct that Aho is ailing a bit, his boost is more likely to come from health than line shuffling.
I would bump Ferland back up onto the line with Staal and Teravainen. I thought that line looked very good, and I also think that Teravainen as a playmaking wing complements Ferland’s ability to finish.
I would swap Wallmark and McKegg, so that would mean a line of Martinook or McGinn/McKegg/Svechnikov. There are no guarantees, but I would at least take a short look at McKegg with more offensive help.
If the team is sluggish offensively in any game, I would consider putting Teravainen and Aho together again to try to spark things by going back to top-heavy.
That makes for a solid two-way fourth line of McGinn or Martinook/Wallmark/Foegele or Maenalanen.
The hoped for outcome is to spark Ferland and also piece together another line with more scoring around McKegg.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who is in the Rod Brind’Amour camp of erring on the side of caution with regard to line juggling?
2) Which, if any, of my proposed moves do you agree with/disagree with and why?
3) If you were at the helm, what changes (if any) would you make to start the last week of the season?