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A busy week has me a bit behind in terms of posting my more formal season preview. (Hope is to get back to that Thursday or Friday.) But today’s Daily Cup of Joe has what I always think is one of the more fun themes this time of year — making the kind of long shot predictions that give you the ability to claim sheer genius if you are correct (but inevitably result in being way off).
Below is a short list of somewhat long shot predictions for the Carolina Hurricanes 2019-20 season. I would consider all of these less than 50 percent chances but also predictions that could materialize with a relatively small number of things going the right direction.
James Reimer becomes the starter for at least four weeks straight as some point
Looking fairly narrowly at the 2018-19 season, Petr Mrazek enters the 2019-20 season with a head of steam after a strong second half of the 2018-19 season and some late season and playoff heroics. On the other hand, James Reimer enters the 2019-20 season seeking a rebound after bottoming out in 2018-19. That short view paints wildly different expectations for each goalie entering the season. But if one looks back just a bit farther, Mrazek has had his share of downs to go with his recent up, and Reimer has similarly had some ups to go with his recent down trend. I am fully in the camp that says that all goalies are some combination of voodoo, snake charming, dice rolls and complete randomness. I think at some point during the season that both goalies revert back to the longer-term average which puts Reimer in the driver’s seat for an extended stretch at some point during the 2019-20 season. Though Mrazek would obviously be the odds on favorite to lead the team in wins, I do not think Reimer doing so instead would be as far-fetched as some might think. Who had Curtis McElhinney as being the Canes netminding difference-maker for the first half of the 2018-19 season? Again, something something voodoo, dice rolls, etc.
Andrei Svechnikov finishes top 10 in the NHL in goal scoring at or near 40 goals
Svechnikov’s rookie season was respectable but also in some ways underwhelming. As a highly-touted rookie and Calder front-runner entering the season, he was never in the mix. But along the way, Svechnikov put up a respectable despite quiet 20 goals. He also showed flashes of having exactly the tools that made him the top forward in the 2018 NHL draft. I think most likely is positive but modest step-wise progress for the 2019-20 season — maybe 25-29 goals and a bump up in points to at least 50? But I also think the possibility is there for Svechnikov to skip step-wise altogether and just go straight to having a break out season. I think the key ingredient for posting such a goal scoring jump would be clicking with Sebastian Aho who very much has the ability to generate enough high-quality scoring chances for a 40-goal scorer.
Julien Gauthier plays a bigger role than Martin Necas
As of right now, Julien Gauthier is an AHL player, and Martin Necas is in the opening night starting lineup at the NHL level. But I still think in the end, Gauthier could have a bigger impact this season. My reason is simply that I think Gauthier has figured out what he needs to do to stay at the NHL level and be effective such that when he gets his next chance he will seize it. For as skilled as Necas is and with his high ceiling still intact, I think he is still working to figure out what he needs to do to be effective at the NHL level. I think that current state of Necas’ game is likely to generate some ‘wow’ moments but also quite a bit of learning on the job. I am not predicting a huge season for Gauthier nor am I predicting a complete flop by Necas, but I do think Gauthier’s recent development in terms of every shift (or close) intensity bodes well for his play at the NHL level at some point during the 2019-20 season.
Jordan Martinook emerges as the closest proxy to Justin Williams for team leadership at least in terms of style
Jordan Staal was the logical choice for captain with Williams’ departure. And I think given the options, that makes some sense and is not a problem. That said, Staal’s leadership style historically has been the quiet, lead by example style. One thing that was noticeable about Williams in this role was his propensity to do a bit sword rattling here and there. He did not chuck teammates under the bus, but he did do some amount of noisy ranting and raving after unacceptable efforts and stretches. As a young group, I think the team may still need doses of noisy, passionate and ‘unquiet’ at times as it tries to make the tricky transition from being a bit of an underdog with minimal expectations to a team that will be considered a disappointment without at least repeating as a playoff entrant. Though I do think Staal has a role to play especially wearing the ‘C’, I think Martinook more so becomes the ‘noisy when needed’ leader of this group.
When venturing into the realm of long shot or at least less than 50 percent odds type predictions, I think three is enough to avoid risking being completely wrong on absolutely everything when we look back in 6-8 months.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of these three predictions is most likely to happen? Which is most likely to be way off base?
2) What long shot or at least less than 50 percent probability predictions do you have for the Canes 2019-20 season?