Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe started to look forward to the start and eventual results for the Carolina Hurricanes 2018-19 season in asking 10 questions. If you missed it, the questions and comments that followed are worth the read.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe similarly looks forward to the 2018-19 season, more specifically the start of it, to identify a short list of early harbingers that could provide the best clues as to the fate of the 2018-19 season.
1) A change in attitude
On the one hand, changes in team mentality and/or attitude are impossible to measure. On the other hand, when they change drastically, they are unmistakable. The change in attitude, approach and swagger when Peter Laviolette took over was not something that could be measured, but it was also not something that could be missed. After watching a team that seemed capable of pushing up only to a certain level before whimpering backwards and oftentimes downright imploding, something needs to change. Whether a coaching change does it, a new captain, personnel changeover or random good fortune, the team needs to look different. Again, it is not something easy to measure, but my watch points will be how the team reacts to adversity and its demeanor on the ice.
2) Hope in net
Let me start by saying that I put absolutely zero stock in preseason play. There really has not been much of a canary in the coal mine in preseason, but without fail once the regular season starts, the Canes have struggled out of the gate for the most part and never really recovered. With two goalies looking for rebound seasons over sub-par 2017-18 campaigns, as soon as the calendar flips to regular season, I will be watching closely for early signs that at least one of the two netminders will prove capable as a starter. I am seeking sound and confident play, again at the start of the regular season and offering almost zero credence for preseason play even though I will certainly use it for optimism if it occurs.
3) Signs that the kids are ready to do more than learn and develop
The potential ceiling is extremely high for Martin Necas, Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele and to some degree other Canes prospects who will battle for 2018-19 NHL ice time. But the question is to where on the spectrum, they lie in terms of ‘learning on the job’ versus ‘being ready to be difference-makers’. Both Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin stepped into the NHL as 18-year olds, and both were very clearly and purely in the category of ‘learning on the job’ at the time. Neither player was better than a replacement level veteran at the time. With the Hurricanes being light on top end scoring, the team really needs a rookie or two to not just step into the lineup but also be a difference-maker. A modest 35-40 points from players like Necas and Svechnikov could represent progress for their development, but it very likely also means that the Hurricanes are mostly in rebuilding mode, are light on current year NHL offense and are likely another year or two away. So with up to three forwards likely to push into the top 9 forwards, my watch points are twofold. First, as talented young offensive players, are Necas and Svechnikov in that unique group of players who rise to the occasion early versus needing time to develop? Second, do they look capable of going head to head against good NHL players without being overmatched initially?
4) The blue line as the driver
Canes fans are about two and a half years deep into believing that the young blue line was on its way to becoming a strength. As much as the potential has been there, that strength and potential cornerstone of the team had yet to materialize. Noah Hanifin exited after three years still as a third pairing defenseman with upside. Justin Faulk seemingly took steps backward in consecutive years. And as a result that team was unable to ice a top 4 that was truly a strength. I would actually go so far as to say it was a weakness in 2017-18. But things have changed. Noah Hanifin is gone , and if he stays Justin Faulk seems destined to slot as an offensive third pairing defenseman if the team is healthy. Two higher-end top 4 defenseman have been added to the mix with the trade for Dougie Hamilton and the free agent signing of Calvin de Haan.
Might this revamped iteration of the Carolina Hurricanes blue line be the one that makes the defense a strength? If so, the potential is there for this situation to lift the team across a number of fronts.
- If the defense is better, could that provide an improved situation that makes the goalies’ jobs easier and boosts that previous weakness?
- Can a better blue line help drive offense by creating the type of transition and rush chances that net more goals than the run of the mill ‘throw the puck at the net’ type chances that boost Corsi but not so much all-important scoring?
- Can a steady blue line provide a bit of a backstop for what will likely be a young group of forwards such there offense stands out and most defensive ‘oopses’ get snuffed out?
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of these harbingers would you look to be the single biggest sign that the 2018-19 season could end well?
2) Which are you most optimistic about? Which are you most concerned about?
3) Are there any other early signs that you will be watching for once the 2018-19 regular season starts?