Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a random set of Canes notes.
His development in 2020-21 combined with seeing him play reasonably extended runs in different roles has been interesting. I am on record as thinking that his ceiling is highest as a playmaking center, but at the same time I think it also makes sense to just let him keep growing as a wing with a bit less responsibility for the time being.
Playing with Aho, Necas was able to play with the puck on his stick more almost as a center and it was eye-opening. His ability to skate and create jumped out. No doubt there was an element of Aho just making everyone better, but I also think the run of him playing with a wing like Aho who is as comfortable with or without the puck raised another possibility.
I think Necas is more prone to hit some quieter stretches playing with Trocheck in a more typical winger role where he plays a bit less with the puck on his stick.
Another huge positive of Necas’ play in 2020-21 is his commitment to using his speed to skate back into play defensively even in cases where he starts from well back of the play. The Hurricanes are incredibly luck (or smart drafting-wise? …or both) to have young offensive stars who buy in defensively. Svechnikov and Necas do still have some lapses defensively, but is not because of willingness or effort level.
The fourth line when healthy
Quality play by fill ins will make for some tough decisions if he has the full set of forwards healthy for the playoffs. My starting point is assuming the top 9 stays the way it is which leaves Steven Lorentz, Morgan Geekie, Brock McGinn, Cedric Paquette, Jordan Martinook and Max McCormick fighting for three slots on the fourth line. For the playoffs, my hunch is that Brind’Amour will lean toward using veterans. McGinn, if healthy, would probably be a sure thing. My guess is that Brind’Amour would want one of Martinook or Paquette in the lineup. And then the question could be whether Brind’Amour wants more experience such that he shifts Martinook or Paquette to the center position.
My wild guess for Brind’Amour’s choice to start the series is McGinn-Lorentz-Martinook.
My preference would be McGinn-Lorentz-Geekie aiming for a bit more offense.
What to do in net
The time is quickly approaching when Brind’Amour needs to make a decision on who to start in net for the playoffs. Petr Mrazek was shaky in his first start back which makes the next three games interesting. With Nedeljkovic playing well and having officially reached the 27 games needed to be a restricted not restricted free agent in the off-season, my guess is that Brind’Amour gives Mrazek two of the remaining starts and Nedeljkovic one. Lost in the fits and starts of two injury layoffs is the fact that Mrazek has been every bit as good as Nedeljkovic which puts the team in a great spot. And if Mrazek looks good heading into the playoffs, I think simplest and smartest is to go with the veteran to start. By no means is any playoff series a sure thing, but if the Hurricanes can net three more points either themselves or with the Lightning losing points to win the division, a match up against a #4 seed would offer a tiny bit more margin for error. Where it gets interesting is if Mrazek struggles in the last couple games of the regular season. That would put things back in play and force Brind’Amour to consider Nedeljkovic. As far as James Reimer goes, I do think he is clearly the #3 goalie at the point, but he is a very good one for that role that can go quickly from being irrelevant to absolutely critical. As a veteran, he would not be in over his head under the brightest of lights which is a great starting point for a third goalie if pressed into action cold in the middle of the playoffs.
How do I think it shakes out? I think Mrazek will rebound in the final couple games and be the playoff starter, but I also think that if Mrazek falters either in the last couple regular season games or in the playoffs, that Brind’Amour will be quick to make a change.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Thoughts/comments on Martin Necas and his development in 2020-21 and where he fits best skill set-wise?
2) What would you do for a fourth line for the playoffs if everyone is available?
3) What would you do in net to start the playoffs assuming Mrazek finishes the regular season strong or assuming he is still a bit shaky?