End of offseason / Beginning of new season coffee drive
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With preseason underway, Canes and Coffee is officially starting its fourth year covering Carolina Hurricanes hockey. The site runs on a lean budget and is founded based on a love of our hockey team, but there are still bills and expenses.
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Canes and Coffee is rounding into regular season form. Today you can find the official reopening of The Coffee Shop with polls and discussion questions on the 2018-19 season at a team level. You can also find Part 1 of a 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes season preview series.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe is part 2 of 2 with quick hitter comments on all 23 players on the opening day roster. Part 1 can be found HERE.
Scott Darling (confidence as a starting point)
Per news today, Darling’s 2018-19 debut now figures to be out a couple weeks as he recovers from a hamstring injury. But when he does take the ice, I think above all else that building confidence will be critical. A huge fuss has been made about Darling reporting for training camp in better shape. That is significant, but that is a prerequisite for success, not a guarantee. And though his physical readiness is a positive, I think much more significant is his ability to quickly rebound mentally and not let a bad game or two snowball. My early watch point for Darling when he returns is how he looks in game action but more significantly how well he rebounds after a loss and/or tough outing.
Calvin de Haan (a quiet steadying force)
Rivaled maybe only by Brett Pesce, newcomer Calvin de Haan could compete for being the least exciting of the Hurricanes’ top defensemen, but he could actually prove to be one of the most important. The team needs to improve its penalty kill where de Haan will be a factor. And the team desperately needs more steady and sound even if unspectacular in its second pairing. Again, de Haan is front and center. So while players like Faulk, Slavin and Hamilton grab more scoring points and headlines, do not underestimate the quiet importance of de Haan.
Phil Di Giuseppe (seeking a higher gear offensively)
The front part of this season is critical for di Giuseppe. Brind’Amour showed a trust in Di Giuseppe in Sunday’s preseason finale when he used him as an injury substitution on the penalty kill and power play in succession. But for Di Giuseppe to carve out more than a depth, possibly #13 role, he will need find a higher gear offensively. He had one mighty burst of scoring late in the 2017-18 season. Can he find that gear again, or was it just an anomaly? I will be watching for offense.
Dougie Hamilton (seeking an offensive catalyst)
Hamilton will be asked to do a lot including playing a top role defensively. But equally importantly, Hamilton is the type of player who has the capability of boosting the entire offense from the back end partly from scoring goals but also just from advancing the puck to generate offensive zone time and even better transition scoring chances. The forward group playing in front of him has some offensive ability, so hopefully Hamilton can help generate scoring chances for the group.
Jordan Martinook (carving out an important niche)
Somewhat like Di Giuseppe, Martinook is a veteran at risk of being made obsolete by younger players with more offensive upside. I think the key to ice time for Martinook is establishing himself as a key part of a successful penalty kill and also bringing some rough and tumble to the lineup on a consistent basis. He and Foegele have been phenomenal forechecking on the penalty kill such that they play more offense than defense when shorthanded. The duo figures to start the regular season together, so key for Martinook’s ice time and role is carrying that success over into real hockey.
Curtis McElhinney (a ready replacement)
With the news that Scott Darling would be on the shelf for awhile, the Hurricanes claimed veteran backup goalie Curtis McElhinney who was waived by the Toronto Maple Leafs. McElhinney provides veteran help at least until Darling returns. The veteran had a stellar .934 Save Percentage in 2017-18 and a still solid .917 Save Percentage in 2016-17. If he can make the transition to a new team quickly, McElhinney could help provide some stability to the goalie position. I will be watching in his first start if he looks comfortable despite the change of scenery.
Brock McGinn (looking to post a few more goals)
After a solid 2017-18 season scoring-wise, Brock McGinn will look to pick up where he left off. McGinn’s 16 goals do not look overly impressive until once considers that he did it with 14:30 of ice time, minimal power play shifts and a league-leading number of shots off the goal posts. Players like McGinn and Foegele have the potential to boost team scoring even if their totals are modest because they will be contributing almost exclusively with even strength scoring. If McGinn can pick up where he left off in 2017-18, he figures to be an important source of depth scoring.
Brett Pesce (more steady glue)
With his delayed entry into preseason game action, Pesce fell in the bottom part of the defense pairings. Justin Faulk paired with Calvin de Haan to fill out the second pairing. But longer-term, I think Pesce’s role will be similar to de Haan’s as a sound and steady defenseman who has a calming influence on the team defensively.
Jaccob Slavin (seeking the next gear)
Slavin emerged from the 2016-17 season having established himself as a legitimate top 4 defenseman who had held his own in a top pairing defenseman in only his second season in the NHL. Slavin was decent in 2017-18 but did not really take another step forward. With additional veteran fire power added to the mix, can Slavin take one more step forward and become an elite NHL defenseman?
Andrei Svechnikov (early read is learning over dominating)
As an 18-year old with a high draft pedigree and ceiling, Svechnikov’s development has the potential to be rapid. That said, my early impression on Svechnikov is that his skill set will enable him to contribute offensively, but at the same time his game is still raw. At least initially, I see him as more of a depth scoring option than a player who drives success and wins. Aho scored 49 points as a rookie (a year older at 19), so that might be an interesting benchkmark to track against for Svechnikov.
Teuvo Teravainen (an important role as Robin)
If the Hurricanes are to make up for the scoring lost with Jeff Skinner’s departure and also boost scoring from 2017-18, the team will need to have some semblance of a top scoring line. That line figures to include Aho and Teravainen. As such, Teravainen is in an important role as a scorer and also complementary player who helps Aho score as well.
Trevor van Riemsdyk (steady depth as necessary)
Van Riemsdyk could easily qualify as a forgotten man right now. With additions to the blue line he is pushed even further down the depth chart. And with Fleury having a strong preseason, the potential exists for van Riemsdyk to be the odd man out in terms of ice time. But van Riemsdyk was solid in 2017-18 and should hopefully be ready to pick up where he left off at the end of the 2017-18 season.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of these player watch points would you consider most critical out of the gate to start the season?
2) Would you add other watch points for this list of players?