Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers the Carolina Hurricanes in terms of team toughness after the departure of Micheal Ferland.
Team toughness minus Micheal Ferland
Team toughness in general is a complex topic in today’s NHL. On the one hand, it is no longer a requirement to carry an enforcer, and teams that do carry one who is sub-par in terms of hockey ability drag that is a liability. And I do not buy the argument that having a top-tier enforcer or policeman automatically makes the ice safe anyway. The vast majority of dirty hits in today’s NHL are more spur of the moment things, and in today’s NHL players are not nearly as much required to answer for them anyway.
But on the other hand, there is still an element of team toughness that is part of the game. Teams do need to push back when an opponent tries to intimidate them. And in limited instances it can be helpful to have a heavy weight at the top of the food chain who can answer any challenge. And maybe even more significant than extracurricular stuff after the whistle, I think there is very clearly value in having a player or two who makes the ice dangerous for opposing players.
We can debate to what degree different roles are necessary and how valuable they are, but what is clear is that in today’s NHL Micheal Ferland filled them all. If necessary, he could make or accept a challenge against anyone in the league. He could be a policeman if necessary when on the ice. And most significantly, his thunderous but clean hits made the ice dangerous for opposing players and could cause them to adjust how they played.
But for 2019-20 Ferland is gone, and he was not really replaced by a player who brings what he brought to the lineup. Unless another move is made to add more of a physical equivalent of Ferland, the Hurricanes will need to address this by committee. This is not an impossible task. The Hurricanes found a nice balance between sticking up for themselves and pushing back in what was arguably the most physical and heated series of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals. And that was largely without Ferland in the lineup.
But being minus Ferland could force the team to adjust and a few players to take on bigger roles in this regard. Jordan Martinook did a masterful job of playing big brother for Andrei Svechnikov. For whatever reason, Svechnikov seemed to get under people’s skin. Quite often Martinook was there to step into the fray and more than anything just defuse situations. Justin Williams is similarly a player who is not fighter/enforcer but has been around the block enough times to know how to handle himself and situations when they arise. And from the younger group, Warren Foegele and Brock McGinn will match physical inside the whistles with anyone. New addition Ryan Dzingel has also dropped the gloves a few times in his career.
The biggest challenge will be answering the rare instance where an opposing player intentionally crosses lines to see if anyone will challenge him. That could force Jordan Martinook or someone else to take a fight or two that would have been better-suited for Ferland last year.
I think where I land is that the Hurricanes did not need to directly replace Ferland in today’s NHL, but I do think the physical dynamic is something to watch how the team handles things when it gets testy on the ice.
What say you Canes fans?
1) In today’s NHL, do you think there is an absolute need for a true heavyweight/enforcer like Micheal Ferland? Or can toughness be addressed more by committee and without a true top dog?
2) Do you think the current Canes roster is adequate for addressing physicality/toughness? Or do you think the team ideally needs to add a player to replace that element of Ferland’s game?