Though it was hidden from the main page by some weird ordering logic, there was a Daily Cup of Joe article for Tuesday for those who found it through the link on Twitter or simply went into the DCoJ tab. It was ‘sneak preview’ part 1 of 2 previewing potential roster battles for the last three forward slots.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes on the somewhat more straightforward battles possible to fill out the Hurricanes blue line to start the 2017-18 NHL season.
The assumed starting point for the blue line
My math (and I think virtually everyone’s) says that Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin and Trevor van Riemsdyk are pretty much penned into the lineup. One of the big story lines to watch in preseason is how Peters decides to set his top 4 at least to start the season.
Penciled in right now
Despite not having played an NHL game yet, I am on record as thinking that Haydn Fleury enters training camp as the player hoped and expected to seize the sixth and final defense slot in the lineup.
Though Fleury will be given every opportunity to win this slot, I do not see Peters and/or Francis forcing the issue if he just is not ready yet. The goal for 2017-18 is to win, and Peters will build the lineup most capable of doing that whether it includes Fleury or not.
The potential battle for the final slot in the lineup
If Fleury does not look ready in preseason, the door cracks open for a few other players to play their way into the lineup in September. The expected fallback option right now would be Klas Dahlbeck who played better during the second half of the 2016-17 season and looked much more comfortable on his natural left side (which is where he would be if playing alongside van Riemsdyk). But if the door swings open, I would also expect Trevor Carrick to throw everything he has at finally busting through the divider between the AHL and NHL. And though Fleury surpassed him in terms of pecking order during the AHL season, Roland McKeown actually exited the 2016-17 training camp ahead of Fleury and having won the tryout only to bumped down when Francis added reinforcements via waivers. As a right shot, McKeown seems like a long shot, but I would not expect that to keep him from trying to push up into the conversation.
By virtue of being the only one of the four players on a one-way contract and also having the least to benefit from AHL ice time, Dahlbeck seems like a lock for the #7 slot if he does not steal the #6 slot. Whichever of Fleury, Carrick and McKeown does not win the #6 slot is likely destined for more seasoning in the AHL.
What does it take for each player to make it?
Haydn Fleury: If he looks reasonably comfortable and capable of playing at the NHL level, I think it is his job to lose. I think it takes Fleury clearly not looking ready for the competition to open up.
Klas Dahlbeck: I think he is the front runner for plan B if Fleury needs more time in the NHL. Dahlbeck has significant NHL experience and is a known quantity with the coaching staff after spending the 2016-17 at the NHL level.
Trevor Carrick: To make the opening day lineup (barring injuries), Fleury would need to falter and then Carrick would need to significantly outplay Dahlbeck in training camp to justify the risk of going with a lesser-known player.
Roland McKeown: His chances would improve with an injury to a right shot defenseman; otherwise he would need to play so well that Peters considered tinkering with the lineup to make room for McKeown. van Riemsdyk did play some on his off side, so there is a chance he could move over to play next to McKeown, but only if McKeown is the best tryout defenseman by a wide margin in preseason.
What say you Caniacs?
Do you agree that Haydn Fleury is the front runner to win the sixth blue line slot for opening night?
Despite having yet to play an NHL regular season game, do you think Fleury will prove ready for NHL action and make for a predictable, ho-hum training camp in terms of sorting out the defense?