Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has notes on a couple players
With Dougie Hamilton out of the lineup, Haydn Fleury is set to receive an extended run in the lineup. The next couple months could be pivotal for Fleury’s career. Fleury is now 23 years old, in his third season at the NHL level (with AHL stints in both of the first two seasons) and has logged 113 games in the NHL. If he has a next level up, he should be making the transition from acclimating to the NHL to finding a higher gear.
His second half of the season will likely determine where he slots for 2020-21. With Trevor van Riemsdyk and Joel Edmundson set to become unrestricted free agents this summer, strong play could put Fleury at #5 on the depth chart heading into the off-season and have the team only looking for a depth defenseman complement. If instead Fleury struggles down the stretch, he likely gets pegged as a #6/#7 defenseman again, and the team could add a player or two to slot above him.
His play has been good in both games since Hamilton’s injury. Hopefully, that is Fleury seizing the opportunity and not just a short upswing that is part of the ups and downs of a long season. That said, I still see the same couple limitations with his game. He still has too great of a propensity to make simple plays to get the puck off his stick. No doubt there are times when chipping the puck off the boards to the neutral zone is the best play, but I think Fleury too quickly settles for safe and simple such that he avoids big errors but also gives the puck away a ton too. At some point, he needs to gain the ability to slow the game down and know when he can take a bit more time to move the puck to a team mate instead of just safety. I also think he can still be too passive defending the puck. If one watches Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, one thing that jumps out is how aggressive they are taking away time and space and engaging the puck. Against good NHL forwards, if a defenseman gives them time, they tend to capitalize regardless of if the defense is in position.
So my primary watch points for Haydn Fleury are threefold:
1) Can he improve by less frequently settling for chipping pucks to space for turnovers versus having the patience when appropriate to hold long enough to find a passing option?
2) Can he become a bit more aggressive defending the puck a la Jaccob Slavin without being beaten or being caught out of position too often?
3) In making these adjustments which can be riskier and require great judgment, can he keep ‘big oopses’ to a minimum?
If he gets the start on Tuesday for his third straight, it seems fair to at least temporarily call him the team’s starting goalie. Certainly it is possible that Petr Mrazek regains the starting role and steams through the latter half of the 2019-20 season. That is exactly what he did at about this time last season.
But is it also possible that James Reimer is the Petr Mrazek of 2019-20? Like Mrazek last year, Reimer entered the season as a veteran who had at one point proven himself capable of being a decent or better NHL starter. But also like Mrazek, Reimer was coming off a tough season and looking for a rebound. And interestingly, both players down seasons came on teams that struggled mightily and offered minimal help. Simultaneously maybe having something to prove but not with all of the pressure of an anointed #1 goalie has worked well for Reimer so far. Reimer’s save percentage is up to an impressive .921, and his record is 11-6-1 despite taking more than his fair share of road starts against tough opponents. Could he be veteran just starting to take advantage of his fresh start on the way to a strong season?
What say you Canes fans?
1) After a good amount of NHL games to get acclimated, is Haydn Fleury primed to take advantage of the opportunity he has? What do you see as his ceiling as an NHLer — the #6/#7 defenseman he has been thus far? Or something more?
2) What do you make of James Reimer’s strong play of late and his seeming position as the #1 goalie right now? Is he just doing an admirable job as a backup spelling Mrazek until he gets hot? Or is Reimer destined to remain the starting goalie for the remainder of the 2019-20 season?