In yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe, I listed some crazy stats resulting from the Hurricanes 5-1 start. The most improbable of them all might well be the team’s ability to go 5-1 with virtually nothing for scoring from a few of the team’s top offensive players.
In six games Sebastian Aho has zero assists and a lone empty net goal to his credit on the score sheet.
Nino Niederreiter has a few assists but is without a goal.
Teuvo Teravainen is actually off to a strong start offensively with two goals and four assists in six games, but all four of assists are on the power play.
The Hurricanes’ ability to win without production from its top line is a strong testament to the depth of the team at forward and maybe even more so how incredibly good the defense has been in contributing offense. But winning without help from Aho’s line will not be sustainable over the course of the full season.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe explores options to try to jump start Sebastian Aho and the first line that he leads.
The current trio of Teravainen, Aho and Niederreiter have produced before and the Aho/Niederreiter duo that is sputtering right now was among the team’s best during the winter surge last year. In addition, there have been signs of life of late. Niederreiter’s volume of scoring chances has been higher recently which suggests he could break through and also that Aho is generating some offense even if the results are sparse. And in terms of trying to give Aho and Niederreiter all of the support possible, Teravainen is a good option to add another capable offensive player to that line. So there is a good argument to be made for just being patient and trusting that ability with eventually win out.
The risk: The risk is that shackling two struggling players together in Aho and Niederreiter just makes it worse. As noted, Niederreiter has been unable to finish thus far which maybe just adds to the pressure on Aho. In addition, there is some chance that Teravainen catches the virus.
Svechnikov’s scoring line is another early season oddity. His only goal is an empty-netter. For a player who theoretically entered the season as one of the team’s top finishers and with a 30-40 goal potential, his current goal scoring pace is meager. But on the other side of the ledger, Svechnikov has seven assists in only six games with many being of the skilled and pretty variety. In terms of trying to jump start Aho by virtue of changing his line mates, Svechnikov is easily the most intriguing possibility. He is finisher who has not put the puck in the net yet, so perhaps he can get Aho going in the assist column. And his assist total shows that he could also provide a boost in terms of generating scoring chances for his line mates.
The risk: The risk is upsetting Svechnikov’s current trajectory which is very good despite his assist-heavy scoring totals.
Separating Sebastian Aho and Nino Niederreiter
Either with or without pulling Svechnikov into the mix, separating Aho and Niederreiter could help both players who are no doubt pressing and squeezing the stick a little tight. I would not mess with Dzingel/Haula/Necas who are developing into a decent attacking third line. But the potential could be there to bump Niederreiter down to another line and give Aho a different mix on his wings.
The risk: I think the biggest risk with this is that Niederreiter heads deeper into the rut even if it helps Aho. My opinion of Niederreiter is that he is a capable complementary player with finishing ability but not so much the ability to create his own. As such, I think he more than any other player gets a boost from playing with Aho or other playmaking ability. It would be a shame to see Niederreiter continue to struggle and play his way permanently down the depth chart when better is possible.
Where I land
My inclination would be to tinker some with line combinations. Brind’Amour has had success with a style that mostly leans toward patience and riding slumps out, but personally I would be a bit more proactive with this situation. My first try would be to insert Svechnikov into Teravainen’s slot to see if make he can help get Aho and Niederreiter going at once. I like Svechnikov’s potential to be both a finisher for Aho and a scoring chance generator for Niederreiter.
What say you Canes fans?
1) To what degree do you attribute Aho and Niederreiter’s slow starts to simply being a small sample size early in the season versus legitimately being something to be concerned about?
2) Which of the three options above or something else would you try to get Aho and Niedderreiter going?