If you visited Canes and Coffee on Monday, you probably quickly noticed an odd deja vu feeling in seeing that the front page was filled with articles from late October.
The short version of a somewhat longer story is that a technical glitch seemed to wipe out about a month of articles that at least so far appear to be unrecoverable. Such is the challenge of running a website on a shoestring budget.
From three years of running Canes and Coffee, I have learned that the general rule of thumb is that such problems have an uncanny knack for scheduling themselves only when you have absolutely no time, energy or ability to deal with them. Put together a combination of being behind on things at work, having a touch of the flu, being buried otherwise and having a holiday weekend on that way, and for whatever reason it almost seems to trigger some variety of unpredictable and bizarre crisis to pop up out of nowhere.
The positive is that the site is up and functional such that another round of daily coverage will restart the string on Tuesday, and as long as the website gods are reasonably fair, we should be free and clear for a couple months.
My hope is to do a bit of more detailed analysis on the first quarter of the season, but with game 20 now officially in the rear view mirror, I wanted to do sort of a high level review of the first quarter of the season.
Nothing gained, nothing lost
Through 20 games the Hurricanes sit a single game above .500. That 86-point pace is well short of the 94-95 points it usually takes to make the playoffs. And it is only a single point better than the 0-0-0 .500 starting point. In that regard, the Hurricanes are underperforming at least relative to a playoff pace.
But a broader look at the competition suggests that the Hurricanes are really right where there started in terms of playoff hopes. Though the Canes have not really gained anything, the team has not really lost much either. Using points above .500 to adjust for games played, the cut line for the Eastern Conference playoffs is at three points above .500 right now. As such, the Hurricanes are two points short. That gap is small enough that I think it is simpler to say that the team must at some point find a higher gear and a win streak to rise above the fray and into the playoffs. That is not really much different than when the season was starting.
Despite the ups and downs of the season thus far and the treading water type record, I would actually rate where the Hurricanes are as a small positive right now. With a new coach, a young team, a bunch of roster changeover and an injuries to the (hopeful) starting goalie and a key forward to start the year, I think getting to the one quarter mark of the season is more positive than negative. That is not to say that the current pace is good enough or that the team does not ultimately need to find a higher gear. But if it does, the current position is not so bad that they have dug a significant hole already.
Strengths and weaknesses
At a basic level, I think the early 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes are fairly close to what I expected. Though it has been imperfect of late, the strength of the team thus far has been it’s aggressive style that drives puck possession in even strength play. When the dice come up goal which does not seem to be often enough, the results are there. In addition, though I actually think things are not really clicking yet, the depth on the blue line has also been a positive early on.
On the flip side, the team’s weaknesses are not at all unexpected. Now with three goalies in the mix, the goalie play continues to be an every-game dice roll that on average has been sub-par. In addition and also not unexpected, the team lacks raw scoring. Thus far, the rookies have been okay in terms of transitioning to the NHL but have not offered much in terms of offensive production. Foegele has not scored in forever after a fast start. The combination of Necas, Bishop, Roy and Wallmark filling two center slots have produced a meager 2 goals and 5 assists. Projected over 82 games that would be an average of 4 goals and 10 assists each for the third and fourth line centers. That is short for the fourth line and not even in the ballpark for what is needed from the third line. Andrei Svechnikov is developing nicely but his current 32-point pace is much more learning on the job than starting to drive the offense. I said in a recent article (one of the ones that disappeared) that the only true playmaker/catalyst on the team is Sebastian Aho. That makes for a lot of trying to scrape together goals here and there which at least so far has not worked out.
Reason for optimism
As noted above, where the team is exiting the first quarter of the season is not horrible. If the team can find a higher gear, anything is possible. Because team just does not have difference-maker type center help from the youth yet, I think Victor Rask’s ability to be a difference-maker when he returns in early December is underrated. And though I am not overly optimistic, the potential is still there for one of the goalies to find a rhythm and be the positive that the team needs. Finally, with a young team it is reasonable to suggest that they will get better as the season progresses.
Reason for pessimism
I have beaten the drum that says that there really is just no way without improved goaltending. Thus far, the Hurricanes are still short on goaltending, and the probability of better suddenly materializing seems to decrease as the season plays out and goalie play mostly offers the same level of inconsistent that recent history would have predicted. ‘Iffy’ netminding combined with scoring difficulties has the potential to be a deadly combination that results in more ups and downs and arounds on a roller coaster ride that ultimately ends right around .500.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you rate the first quarter of the season as half full or half empty?
2) If asked to assess the team’s play in the first quarter what would you say?
3) What has most surprised you during the first quarter of the season?
4) If you wrote anything brilliant in the comments during the past 3-4 weeks that you want officially logged, here is your chance to re-add what was lost.