I will obviously discuss this topic in more detail and hopefully in a more organized way over the summer, but as 2015-16 draws to a close, here are a few random 2016-17 lineup thoughts:
I am okay with his play as a center in his limited end of year audition, but I just do not think he fits there based on the Canes personnel. Both Victor Rask and Jordan Staal are locked in at center, and while both do produce some offense, neither are pure scoring/playmaking centers. Both are more of the balanced 2-way type. McClement is even more limited as a fourth line only center. I view Lindholm as being another decent 2-way type center somewhat similar to JStaal and Rask. That is not a bad thing and would fit well if the team had a couple pure scoring top lines and needed to balance it out with a decent checking line. That just is not the case with the Canes who need to find more goals from somewhere and therefore I think will be better served trying to fill the last center slot with more of a pure playmaker.
I continue to really like his play down the stretch, his versatility and also his fit for Peters’ system. The key thing is to say that I like him does not mean I boost him up the lineup. I think is exactly the kind of player that the Canes need to push down to the fourth line but just have not been able to (think Patrick Dwyer and Chad LaRose). On a fourth line even 20-25 points from someone like Nash would be solid depth scoring especially if coupled with solid defensive play.
Nathan Gerbe, Brad Malone and Chris Terry
Ironically, I have great respect for all 3 players but would part ways with all 3 this summer. Gerbe continues to be as consistent as ever in terms of bringing effort and intensity every night, but somewhere along the depth scoring that was his value add dried up. I actually think that Brad Malone had a solid 2015-16 season in his role as a new NHL physical force, but with the Canes desperately needing scoring, I just do not see the Canes dedicating a specific roster spot to this diminishing NHL role. And though it took a couple tries, I think Chris Terry has bought in and molded his game to be the best NHL player he can be. The issue is that with his modest speed/mobility, I just do not see him being a regular in the top 9 where he could play with enough talent to help his style of play, and there are better options that might better fit the tempo that Peters wants from his system and provide more scoring upside to boot. Depending on what Terry’s other options are, I would be happy to have him back on a 2-way deal such that he is a #14 or #15 forward whose primary place is Charlotte but is available as deep depth with NHL experience if injuries pile up.
I have him right where I did awhile back which is about the same as Terry. If he can be signed/kept on a 2-way contract such that he becomes a #8 or #9 defensemen projected to play in Charlotte and provide deep help, I would be happy to have him back. If he can get a 1-way deal (doubtful) or wants a change of scenery to a new organization, then I pass on re-signing him.
He is already signed for next season. Per my comments above, I would actually slot McClement at #13 (a veteran extra) and boost Nash above him into the fourth line center slot. I think Nash is actually better defensively, has experience in the important penalty killing role that McClement filled and just brings so much more upside offensively from the fourth line both in terms of scoring some himself but also in terms of driving pace through the neutral zone and on the forecheck such that his line mates would also see a few more chances.
The need for more scoring-capable forwards
As much as I like the idea of promoting from within, Ron Francis desperately needs to add some 50-60 point potential forwards. I wrote this up in more detail HERE recently. While there is a chance that Sebastian Aho jumps straight from Finland into the top 9 in the NHL and is immediately productive it is a possibility and far from a sure thing. It is also possible that Elias Lindholm suddenly finds a higher gear offensively, but it is also possible that he just is not going to suddenly become a top 6 type scorer. Jordan Staal had a great 2015-16 but was still light on offense at least for a top 6 forward. Might he find more now that he is settling into a role and has found chemistry with line mates? Sure. But it is again a maybe. And so on…The point is that the 7-8 forwards that the Canes have right now are a little bit on the light side offensively. In a perfect storm of upside, there might be enough there. But betting on everything to go perfect with the current group and putting a group of more depth skill set players from the system below them is a dangerous recipe with a high potential to again produce too little offensively. Francis really needs to go find or trade for 2-3 forwards who at least have the potential to put up 50-60 points. That provides more options to boost scoring and more depth even if they do not. And if players like Aho, a 2016 first round pick or someone else seize roster spots and make the added players extra, all is not lost. They represent an insurance policy for injuries and the deeper lineup that the Canes have not had in forever.