With a number of changes both on and off the ice, Hurricanes fans will tune in starting this week for training camp and preseason trying to assess the new team and what the changes mean for the 2018-19.
I think there are number of things that training camp and preseason action will be useful for assessing or reassessing. I think preseason games will be helpful for gauging where Andrei Svechnikov is at this early stage of his development. I also think that preseason action can be useful for an early gauge for chemistry for line mates. And preseason action should also be useful for at least early indications on three other things.
But I actually think that preseason will be of minimal if any use for evaluating a couple keys for the 2018-19 season.
After yet another sub-par season in net in 2017-18 and a decision to give it a go again with Scott Darling and another player looking to rebound in Petr Mrazek, an early positive sign on goaltending could be top of a Hurricanes fan wish list entering training camp. As such, everyone will be watching Scott Darling and to some degree Petr Mrazek closely. Does Darling look quicker, more confident, sharper or whatever else? Does Mrazek look like the starter he was a few years back? Etc., etc. But if Hurricanes history over the past long run of playoff misses teaches the Caniac Nation anything it is that preseason offers very little in terms of gauging regular season performance. The Hurricanes have generally been decent or better in net in preseason only to repeatedly stumble out of the game.
Unfortunately, I think the first meaningful read on 2018-19 goaltending does not come until at least a couple games into the regular season probably more likely when the first bump in the road is hit, and we get to see how Darling and/or Mrazek respond when the mental part of the position becomes a bit harder.
2) Rod Brind’Amour as head coach
Many might deny it, but the first impressions for both Kirk Muller and Bill Peters were positive. Both had their own way of doing things and their own vibe that came with them. And for a fan base desperately wanting to see positive, it was easy enough to find that before the shift to more objective evaluation based on results. No doubt, those who want to find it will be able to find early positives in Rod Brind’Amour’s approach and what will certainly be a positive vibe around him. But just like with those who preceded him, the real measure of comes later when the results roll in. Like everyone else, I will be eagerly looking for signs that Brind’Amour can do as a coach what he did as a player, but some biased read of positive energy in practice and/or a few wins in preseason will offer very little in terms of assessing Brind’Amour as a head coach. The measure will come initially with results in October and longer term from seeing how this team compares to previous teams in terms of avoiding the energy-sucking flat losses that have plagued recent seasons and being able to find sustainable intensity. On the more tactical side of the ledger, I do not think preseason will tell much in terms of the effectiveness of Brind’Amour’s system changes.
3) The required change in culture, character or whatever you want to call it
Those who witnessed and have unable to wipe from their memory the team’s collapse in early spring last season will also be watching attentively to see if they can see a change in attitude or culture driven by the roster turnover, Brind’Amour as coach or new players in leadership positions. Many will jump to conclusions based on new captains or whatever else, but the real test for this team in terms of effecting a culture change will not come until it faces adversity during the regular season. When the team has a bad loss, how does it respond? If the team hits a losing streak, does it double down on determination and effort to grind out a return to positive? Or does it muddle along for awhile like in years past and give up a chunk of points in the standings?
I will be curious to revisit these three items toward the end of preseason to see if I still believe that very little can be gathered on these three items in preseason. I will also be curious to see even later if any changes I make prove to be real or just fool’s gold.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you agree that preseason play will offer very little in meaningful assessment of these three items? If not, which do you think preseason can provide a meaningful read on?
2) What other important aspects of the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes do you think you can get a read on in preseason?