After a weekend that demoralizing losses that could not more emphatically have pointed the way to another playoff miss, the Carolina Hurricanes organization will wake up Monday morning and have to ask itself, “What now?”
Perhaps the most bizarre thing of all is that the Hurricanes will wake up Monday morning still very much in a playoff chase.
The Hurricanes are only a single point behind the Philadelphia Flyers who are struggling just as much with an 0-3-1 mark in their last four and two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets who are 0-2-1 in their last three points. But at the same time that the Hurricanes are close to a playoff spot in the standings, the current trajectory suggests that they are miles away from finding the higher gear necessary to actually make it happen.
It is not inevitable, but it sure feels like it right now.
This might sound odd, but the one thing that I do not think I can take is another March surge if it is over at the end of February.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) January 24, 2018
The pattern for the team continues to be to find a short burst of solid hockey and/or a few wins and then have that build into the bad kind of confidence that breeds complacency and ultimately results in relapses in terms of intensity level and attention to detail. Then the proverbial s___ hits the fan which at some point seems to generate some hunger and intensity which starts the cycle again. Rinse, wash, repeat.
The team that seems to be in a continuous cycle that repeatedly finds its leaders uttering the exact same dejected “we need to be better”, “we didn’t play a full 60 minutes”, “we didn’t play our game”, etc. platitudes every 3-4 weeks for two seasons needs some kind of shock to the system to break the pattern.
In an ideal world, positive reinforcement would get it done, but sometimes it just does not. For as much as I do think Jordan Staal plays the right way and is capable of being a good player on a good hockey team, I increasingly question whether he is the kind of leader who is capable of getting the same out of other players. Justin Faulk is an even trickier situation in that I just continue to hope that he has a higher gear in him defensively that makes him at least be capable of being a key player on a good team like Staal.
The same goes for Bill Peters. We can slice and dice the roster and the talent level of the team 100 ways and no doubt make a case that the roster could be better. But in a league where half of the teams make the playoffs and each and every year a handful of Cinderellas rise up from nowhere with seemingly not enough talent and play postseason hockey, to say that it is in no way possible to win with this roster is simply not true.
When I net it out, something significant must change and with it change the trajectory of this team right now.
Per my comments on Twitter shortly after Sunday’s loss, I do not think some of the usual minor roster maneuvering cuts it.
1/2 I think if Peters really wants to make a statement, it's Hanifin and Skinner. Hanifin was worst D on Sunday & with nothing else working maybe shock paddles from a game out of lineup can help Skinner find next scoring burst BEFORE season is over. https://t.co/79RO1ul2xA
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) February 4, 2018
2/2 Swapping in Di Giuseppe & Jooris for 4th line & Dahlbeck for Fleury and aiming for 5-7% better fails to leverage situation to SIGNIFICANTLY shake the core with aim of jolting intensity to a completely different level.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) February 4, 2018
At this point, I think the Carolina Hurricane 2017-18 season needs shock paddles.
Would Ron Francis showing up in the locker room before practice and completely out of character hurling a few sticks around the room and breaking a few things dial up the intensity level? And if so, what does it take to then sustain it?
Same for Bill Peters. Would a bag skate followed by a day in the press box for two key players like possibly Jeff Skinner and Noah Hanifin help the team snap out of it? And again, if so, what does it take to sustain it?
With the team mired in more mediocrity with the same leadership, would the unpleasant event of stripping the ‘C’ from Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk and giving it to Justin Williams fire everyone up and at the same time at least try something different than what has not worked in terms of who is first?
Is it time for Ron Francis to make his first real with risk hockey trade that ships out a core player and tries to change the chemistry in the lineup and in the locker room?
As noted above, the 2017-18 is actually not over, but it has never been more clear that the current trajectory very directly leads to a ninth straight playoff miss. There is not obvious answer on what would work and no guarantees that anything will actually. But standing pat and passively and patiently hoping for something better reeks of another year of rebuilding on a slow and increasingly uncertain path back to the playoffs.
If I were some combination of Ron Francis and Bill Peters I would take the unpleasant tact that the time to make changes is now.
As much as it might ruffle feathers, I would reverse course and make Justin Williams the captain.
I would bench Jeff Skinner and Noah Hanifin who in my opinion rated lowest among core players at their respective position in Sunday’s loss, and I would leave each out of the lineup at least until the team loses again.
And I would give one or two Charlotte Checkers a tryout. With a fourth line that has contributed almost nothing offensively and has not been great in penalty kill roles either, the risk that Warren Foegele and his high energy game and his 21 goals in 44 games in the AHL this season could be significantly worse seems incredibly low right now. I would then also look to insert one of Aleksi Saarela or Valentin Zykov into the lineup.
Finally, without making a bad deal out of desperation, I would be working the phone lines trying to make a trade deadline deal early before it is too late. Preference would be another player who adds leadership and is not necessarily a short-term rental.
I fear that the alternative to rocking the boat right now is to ride it to another playoff miss and then trying again in the offseason.
What say you Canes fans?
The Monday Coffee Shop will probably have a similar theme, but since this article is going up first, what are your thoughts on the following questions?
1) Is it possible that it is just time to mostly blow up the top of the lineup?
2) Is there any chance at all that thoughts like this will prove to be an overreaction when the team bounces back into the win column with a big win on Tuesday that could push the Hurricanes back into playoff position?
3) If you were the Hurricanes general manager and/or coach, what would you do right now with the aim getting the 2017-18 season on the right track?