Final reminder that Canes and Coffee is accepting reader article submissions. I think the deadline was technically today, but if anyone still has ambitions of submitting an article, we will leave it open until end of day Sunday.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will also step outside of Raleigh but in a way that looks back inward. From my unscientific research (namely having more time to talk to more people outside of our Canes world during the off-season), I made a quick list of Hurricanes players/situations for which I think many who watch Hurricanes hockey part-time and from afar see things differently than I and many other Hurricanes fans do.
To be clear, my aim is not to belittle the broader hockey world. My level of understanding for other teams is nowhere near what it is for the Hurricanes, and most certainly I have views on other teams that do not match those of the people who track the other teams daily like I do the Hurricanes.
1) Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce
I think that Jaccob Slavin’s new contract was an eye-opener for many. I also think that the stats community is farther along in terms of understanding the reality of the Hurricanes blue line than the broader hockey community. What I saw in 2016-17 was a clear changing of the guard in terms of the top pairing with Slavin and Pesce playing in a top pairing role and excelling at it. I also still see some talk about Slavin and Pesce more like prospects in the ‘going to be good someday’ kind of tone. After the 2016-17 season that both players had in a top pairing role, that talk is already outdated for a pair of young players who have already arrived.
2) Justin Faulk as the flip side
The flip side is Justin Faulk. I still regularly read articles and have conversations that suggest many see Faulk as the cornerstone and top player on the Hurricanes defense. To be clear, Faulk is a very important part of the Hurricanes young blue line, and he is a good young defenseman. But in my mind, he enters the 2017-18 season at #3 on the Hurricanes improving blue line depth chart.
3) Jeff Skinner
To say that he is unknown or does not receive any recognition would be an overstatement. He is recognized around the league as a scorer. That said, he finished sixth in the entire NHL with 37 goals and finished ahead of Patrick Kane, Alexander Ovechkin and a number of other great offensive players. He should at least be mentioned in top 5 goal scorer conversations. Instead, I feel like he just gets lumped more loosely into a top 20 or top 25 for many people still.
4) Jordan Staal
Probably the most annoying of the misconceptions about Hurricanes hockey is the seemingly large contingent of fans around the NHL who underrate Jordan Staal. At the core of these opinions is almost always Staal’s scoring totals which are admittedly modest. The ‘he is a third line center’ opinion is a result of light viewing of Staal’s play and a superficial understanding (measured mostly by top line scoring statistics) of Staal’s level of play, role and context of his situation. I fended off Jordan Staal trade rumblings earlier this month. Worth noting is the Staal regularly centering a checking-focused line with a couple depth wingers on his sides. Arguably his best run of hockey in a Hurricanes’ uniform came during the 2015-16 season in an extended run in a shutdown role with Andrej Nestrasil and Joakim Nordstrom on his line. He was lights out, excelled defensively and scored at a reasonable clip that looked impressive if you adjusted for his defense-leaning role and also the fact that the line was light on pure offensive help. The Hurricanes are finally becoming deeper at forward which has the potential of boosting Staal’s scoring a bit, but given that he is a great player but not really a pure scorer, I figure we might just have to indefinitely endure this disconnect between broader NHL perception and reality.
5) Fallacy that the Hurricanes are still in rebuilding mode
Especially around the summer trade season, it became clear to me how many people picture the Hurricanes as still in rebuilding mode. So many trade conversations figure the Hurricanes for wanting futures (mostly draft picks) as a return for their players which would suggest a 2-4-year time horizon for being competitive. At a 50,000-foot level, it makes sense. The Hurricanes missed the playoffs again, so it looks like they are still trying to piece together the lineup for somewhere down the road. But Francis’ words and actions this summer and also the very clear tone of Justin Williams’ interviews suggest that Francis is very much targeting the 2017-18 season for a return to the playoffs.
What say you Canes fans?
Do you agree that there seems to be a disconnect between Hurricanes reality and the broader NHL viewpoint for the items detailed above?
Do you see other situations where the general perception outside of Hurricanes regulars seems disconnected from reality?