After yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe that summarized the Hurricanes 2017-18 season in bullet points and then had the top two points feature prominently in the 8-2 drubbing from the Maple Leafs only hours later, I will try to refrain from jinxing anything else.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will offer a collection of player notes.
I hope his trial at the center position extends and finds its way into ice time when games are still on the line. I voted loudly and regularly to at least give Aho a trial at center all the way back on ____. The reason is simple — This team could greatly benefit from having an offensive catalyst type at the center position who could help boost scoring for an entire line. There is no guarantee that he is ready, but of the players currently on the roster, Aho represents the greatest chance to fill this need internally.
To be clear, I have no inside information or reported basis for this, but I am starting to think that Jaccob Slavin is playing hurt right now. He hit a rough patch a few weeks back that looked and very could just be a dip in his level of play. But in watching him closely since the dip, he seems to be less aggressive defending the puck. He had a play in the Maple Leafs game that looked like a patented situation to step up and challenge the puck and instead he seemed to sit back. While it is possible that he is just not playing as well right not and is maybe just a tad bit more indecisive than usual, I think the other possible explanation is that he just does not have his normal 1-3 stride quickness because he is ailing.
The time is now for Jeff Skinner to find his hot streak. In 2016-17, he started fast with 11 points in October which was only seven games. He then put up modest 8, 8, 9 and 4 point months in November, December, January and February while the Hurricanes were playing their way out of the playoff chase. Skinner then surged during the ‘too little too late’ phase of the 2016-17 season scoring 17 of his 37 goals in the final quarter of the season. Right now, the Hurricanes are trending toward playing more ‘too little too late’ hockey in March, and the team desperately needs Jeff Skinner to find his run before it it too late.
I voted last week to just give him a full week off to try to generate a complete reset and then let him start fresh. After Tuesday’s tough outing, the team might now be only a single solid Cam Ward start away from this happening maybe not so much out of design but instead out of necessity. Though he did play incredibly well in Saturday’s win, he just looks to be fighting the puck, the game and everything else right now. Perhaps a break can enable him to put the start behind him and start anew.
At roughly this time last year, I started harping on Justin Faulk’ growing issues defensively. At the team, he was still the glowing leader of a young blue line, and the bias clouded some people’s judgement of his play. Now a year later, there is nearly consensus that Faulk just is not getting it done defensively. What concerns me most is that I do not see this problem is something that will or could be corrected by Faulk just finding a higher gear in terms of his level of play. Rather, I think he is destined to play at pretty close to the same level until he can find another step or two of quickness and acceleration. His biggest problem right now is his lack of mobility in small spaces such that speedy or even crafty forwards are too regularly beating him right now. My hunch is that he needs to trade some amount of strength and size for acceleration and quickness to be a solid top 4 defenseman in today’s NHL.
This might sound strange, but I think right now he is the player with the greatest ability to boost the fortunes of the team. Ward did have a rough outing during Thanksgiving week against the Maple Leafs, but he has generally been pretty solid and easily the better of the two goalies. And having played in only 10 of 33 games, he should be fresh and capable of taking on a heavier workload at least for a period of time. Through 33 games in 2016-17, Ward had already played in 25 games. He should be fresh, and right now he represents the greatest possibility for providing the steady goaltending that the team needs to avoid slipping into irrelevancy.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
I have credited him a few times recently, and he is starting to get the attention he deserves more broadly, but I still think van Riemsdyk’s play thus far an be underappreciated. The only player who might rank higher than him in terms of consistency and defensive soundness is Brett Pesce. The match ups that van Riemsdyk sees in the third pairing does play a role, but it is also worth noting that he has done it all with young and still learning defense partners in Haydn Fleury and Noah Hanifin.
What say you Hurricanes fans?
1) Who else has player notes and/or observations that hopefully are not too negative after Tuesday’s bad loss?
2) Will Jeff Skinner find his next scoring binge soon enough and while the Hurricanes are still in the playoff hunt?
3) Am I nuts to believe that Cam Ward could be player with the greatest chance to boost the team’s fortunes right now?