Originally expected to rejoin the team vaguely in early December, Victor Rask is now participating as a regular in practice and should make his 2018-19 debut well ahead of the original schedule. I see Victor Rask as being a significant addition given the team’s inability to generate enough depth scoring from the bottom half of the lineup right now.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers Victor Rask’s return and his role with the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes.
Heading into the 2018-19 season
Even before the start of the season, I extolled the virtues of Victor Rask as part of the 2018-19 Hurricanes. At the time, it was much more trendy to talk about the upside of Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov offensively and just chuck Rask into a random slot on the fourth line, I thought higher of his role in the 2018-19 lineup.
After his injury was announced, I wrote an article entitled, “The impact and upshot of Victor Rask’s injury.”
In that article, I wrote:
But I think that overly simplistic analysis that slots him as a fourth line center and then jumps to the conclusion that he is easily replaceable fails to consider the more detailed structure of the Carolina Hurricanes projected 2018-19 lineup. In an article on August 29 entitled, “Three players who I am higher on than the consensus”, I talked about Rask’s importance and role despite his challenging 2017-18 season.
Even before the injury, I had Rask on a short list of players who expected more from than most. In that article from August 29 entitled, “Three players who I am higher on than the consensus”, I wrote:
My best guess is that the team’s centers on opening night will be Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Martin Necas and Victor Rask. In such a scenario, Rask maybe slots as the fourth center, but I think it is an important role. If the lineup shakes out like that, Jordan Staal takes as many of the tough match up minutes as possible, but especially on the road, the team needs a line to slot behind his for when teams steer their scorers away from Staal. The inability of Kruger and company to do exactly that in 2017-18 was one of a few Achilles’ heels that the team had. Rather than a fourth line that sees limited ice time, I think Brind’Amour could deploy a Rask-centered fourth line more as a defensive 2B behind Staal.
But those plans were dashed before the season even began when it was learned that Victor Rask would be out for an extended period of time with an injured hand from a kitchen accident.
The here and now
Fast forward to today, and the Carolina Hurricanes have ridden a roller coaster up and down before ultimately ending up pretty close to where they started at the quarter point with record that is one game above .500.
As relates to Victor Rask, he could figure prominently in a couple of the team’s struggles:
Depth scoring: The Hurricanes are currently 27th in the league in scoring. Even the struggling 2017-18 version of Rask finished with 14 goals and 31 points in 71 games. Even that pace which figures to be the low bar betters the current pace of Lucas Wallmark (4 goals, 20 points) and the slot currently occupied by Clark Bishop (4 goals, 8 points). Even the ‘meh’ version of Rask is an offensive upgrade right now.
A boost for two wings: Playmaking is not a strength of Rask’s game, but I still think he could prove to be an upgrade for whoever plays on his line. Simply because I think he has more to give in the goal scoring department, I would like to see Rask start with Svechnikov on his wing. Again, I would not say that generating offense is one of Rask’s strengths, but I still think he could be an upgrade to the current lineup.
Another veteran down the middle: At the most basic level, I think if Rask can quickly round into form at least in terms of being a sound two-way center then the forward depth improves to some degree and in the process makes the team better.
Best case scenario
The best case scenario is that Rask finds chemistry with Svechnikov or another wing or two and can help boost scoring for his line. The current formula of relying heavily on Aho’s line, finding intermittent power play scoring and then scraping for another goal here or there will not cut it over the course of an 82-game season. If Rask can boost a line up to at least third line depth scoring, that is a step forward for this team right now in terms of being able to score enough to win regularly.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you think I overestimate Victor Rask’s ability to boost the team’s fortunes?
2) If you were the head coach, where would you insert Victor Rask into the current lineup?
3) In terms of improving the team heading into to December what, within reason, would you hope/expect Victor Rask to contribute near-term?