After a day off for the Fourth of July holiday, Daily Cup of Joe returns with a short set of notes identifying question marks and watch points for the current Carolina Hurricanes roster. The first part starts with the goalies and the blue line.
The goalie position
As detailed in my article on the Petr Mrazek re-signing, I think the Hurricanes are set in net with the possible exception of pruning to get from four goalies to three. To say the team is set is not to say that the position is without risk.
Some may forget that Petr Mrazek actually started slow in 2018-19 and that it was actually Curtis McElhinney who carried the crease early in the season. That could be worth watching. Though the Hurricanes did rebound and push up into the playoffs, much preferred would be to start better and require less heroics once the calendar flips to the new year.
If James Reimer is traded and Alex Nedeljkovic pushes up into the backup role at the NHL level, he would be another big question mark. My unscientific math says that the hit rate for successful transitions to the NHL level for even good AHLers is probably a 50/50 proposition. Even if Mrazek carries the load, the Hurricanes will still need 20-30 games of decent netminding from the backup.
If instead, James Reimer stays, he too is a bit of a question mark as a proven NHLer but coming off a down 2018-19 campaign.
Watch points/question marks: How Mrazek starts and the level of play from the NHL backup.
The blue line
The trade of Calvin de Haan with no new additions significantly decreases the depth on the blue line. The team still has four capable top 4 defensemen and three decent options to fill out the third pairing. So at a 50,000 foot level, the Hurricanes have enough players and more depth than many teams in the NHL.
But the big question is whether the Hurricanes have the right mix. Some may forget that Justin Faulk’s 2018-19 rebound came with the stability of Calvin de Haan next to him. It was only later in the season when some shuffling occurred that he played with Brett Pesce. I am not as big of a fan as Pesce/Faulk as some. The duo had issues at times in the playoffs, especially against Washington, and I still think that Faulk can still be on the edge of the cut line for quickness in today’s NHL.
In addition, Dougie Hamilton ultimately had a strong season and brought a ton to the table offensively from the back end, but he started slow and struggled early in the season. Part of this might be the transition to the new team, but Hamilton does also have a history of starting slowly.
As for the third pairing, I like the options with Trevor van Riemsdyk as a steady veteran, Haydn Fleury now with a decent run of NHL games under his belt and Jake Bean having offensive upside. In my mind, two questions exist. First, if van Riemsdyk is not ready for the start of the season, can an inexperienced pairing of Fleury and Bean hold its own early in the season. Maybe more significantly, without an extra top 4 defenseman, could the Hurricanes cover for an injury in the top 4?
Watch points/question marks: If van Riemsdyk is not ready for opening night, the third pairing is a question mark. Can Dougie Hamilton start faster? Can Justin Faulk repeat his improved 2018-19 season?
What say you Canes fans?
1) Compared to last summer, do you think the Hurricanes goalie situation is currently more or less of a question mark entering the season?
2) Do you agree with the question marks/watch points that I identified?
3) Do you have other question marks/watch points for the current Carolina Hurricanes goalies and defensemen?