Interesting to note is that Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters may not have even seen either Hurricanes preseason game yet, as he is still busy trying to do his part to push Team Canada to a championship in the World Cup of Hockey. But he will surely do some combination of watching tape and getting reports.
We are still early in the NHL preseason process, but at the same time things are condensed and move pretty quickly. By this time next week, the Hurricanes will have completed 6 of 7 preseason games and be barely more than a week away from the season opener in Winnipeg on October 13.
From what I have seen (and heard on Tuesday since the game was not televised), here is what I would do if I was Bill Peters:
1) Try outside the box options for the fourth line
Right now, it feels like Jay McClement is written in pen in the fourth line center slot. The Hurricanes let Riley Nash leave and then replaced him with Viktor Stalberg who is more purely a wing. And over the summer, Bill Peters expressed the intent to try Teuvo Teravainen and Elias Lindholm together on a third line with Sebastian Aho with Tervainen and Lindholm sharing and/or swapping at the center slot.
But the current line of reasoning puts Jay McClement in the top 12 forwards and in the lineup on a nightly basis. Based on his 2015-16 season, I would not write him in pen in the top 12. Instead, I would consider at least looking at either Lindholm or Teravainen in the fourth line center slot. Phil Di Giuseppe is underappreciated relative to allegedly higher ceiling young players, but I think he could be as good of an option as any playing wing on that third line. He is not a pure power forward but plays a little bit more rugged game but brings enough skating and skill to be part of a line that aims to score.
Significantly, I think there at least a chance that the fourth line improves immensely. I liked Bickell’s game in Monday’s preseason opener, but he is below average by NHL standards in terms of mobility as is Jay McClement. Having 2/3 of a line below average in terms of skating is a dicey situation in today’s NHL that forces Peters to be very careful with minutes and match ups. Why not at least try just upgrading the line instead? Whichever of Teravainen or Lindholm is going on any given night could get more shifts and ice time.
2) Look at Ron Hainsey with Brett Pesce
I would not call the 2015-16 defense pairing of Liles and Pesce dynamic. To the contrary, they created very little offensively but were still fairly effective because they also gave up very little. As a veteran who is sound defensively and still skates well, I think Hainsey has the potential to provide the same type of partner for Pesce.
As for Hanifin/Pesce as currently configured, Hanifin obviously projects into the top 4 at some point and Pesce actually played there in 2015-16. The basic concept of Hanifin/Pesce as a second pairing makes sense, but I just am not certain the time for that is 2016-17. Hanifin saw limited minutes in a top 4 role last season, and Pesce did not exhibit the same chemistry with Hanifin as compared to Lile when paired with him last season. I am a big fan of letting the young players, especially defensemen, push up in the lineup based on level of play not being forced up out of roster necessity. I am NOT saying that Hanifin/Pesce will not work or that it should not also be looked at (like it was on Tuesday against Tampa Bay), but I think exploring different options in the ‘free’ games of preseason is smart.
Based on what you have seen/heard through 2 preseason games, what might you consider changing/trying if you were Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters?