Entering the dog days of the hockey summer where new news is rare, today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers up a short collection of player notes with a higher or lower theme. Though the baseline is arbitrary, the idea is to comment on whether I am higher or lower on certain Canes players or aspects of their game compared to what I perceive the average (hence arbitrary) being. If my memory is correct, there is probably some partially borrowed material on Fleury and Wallmark. Sorry, we are approaching mid-July when some amount of repeats is unavoidable if the goal is daily Canes content and discussions.
Haydn Fleury – Potential for a higher ceiling – Higher
I think I am higher on Haydn Fleury than many. My assessment of his 2018-19 season is that he established himself as a competent bottom pairing forward who was light offensively even for that role and really did not bring much for upside past being serviceable. In short, I think that makes him a #6/#7 defenseman which is not great for a #5 overall draft pick who is now 23 years old. But I think where I am higher on him than most is the potential for upside. As a big kid who skates pretty well, the basic physical tools are there. And only 87 games into his NHL career, I think it is premature to declare that Fleury has for certain reached his ceiling and just is what he is at this point. Finally, even if Fleury does not take another significant step development-wise, his low scoring ways should keep his salary in line with his role as a depth defenseman. Again, that was not the hope when he was drafted, but it is still a useful role.
Lucas Wallmark – Offensive upside – Lower
Using the 2018-19 season as a starting point just like for Fleury, Wallmark had a very strong season when you consider his starting point. He entered the season as a player with 19 games of NHL experience and by winter had grown to become a player who filled Jordan Staal’s challenging role as a match up center against the league’s best while the team was surging up the standings. That is an impressive rise in the course of three months and is legitimately a great starting point for building a great case for more yet to come from Wallmark entering only his second full season in the NHL. I know that many of the regulars are high on Wallmark, and I look forward to the great two-sided debate that will inevitably follow below.
As much as I like what Wallmark did in 2018-19 establishing himself as a heady two-way center, I question whether he maybe is a player who just hit his ceiling as a solid checking line center quickly maybe somewhat like Josef Vasicek years ago or countryman Victor Rask more recently. My skepticism on Wallmark having significant upside offensively going forward comes from consideration of his skill set. Though Wallmark is well-rounded, I just do not see enough dynamic in his skill set for more than a modest step-wise improvement scoring-wise. He lacks a quick burst of speed, shifty agility or raw straight line speed that could enable him to generate offense with his skates, and while I do think his smarts are an advantage, I just do not see the ceiling as being that high. The counter point is that he does have a history a getting his feet under him and making gains from there. Here is hoping that that is exactly what happens, and that I will have to eat crow if we revisit this next summer.
Justin Williams – Leadership – Higher
I do not so much think that many people who followed the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes closely underestimate what Williams did as a leader in a transformation in culture and attitude, but I do think that some might underestimate the team’s readiness to carry forward from there without him. No doubt the team in total benefited from Williams’ leadership. His role as the captain of the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes will pay dividends into the future. And the team will eventually transition to a next captain, but my opinion is that the team would greatly benefit from one more year of Justin Williams wearing the ‘C’. My concerns about a hasty Justin Williams departure after only one year as captain are twofold. First, I am not sure the captain is ready yet because my thinking is that the next long-term captain is not Justin Faulk or Jordan Staal but rather someone from the next wave of younger players. As such, I think another year or so of watching and learning would be beneficial. Second, I think 2019-20 could represent a challenging transition during with the team must go from being an underdog with mostly upside and no expectations to being a team that needs to return to the playoffs to have a successful year. If that gets coupled with injuries or other adversity, I think a veteran leader could be critical in navigating this new challenge.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of my three ‘higher or lowers’ for Haydn Fleury, Lucas Wallmark and Justin Williams do you agree with? Which do you disagree with?
2) Who has other opinions on other players that they as being higher or lower than what the consensus might be?