Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe worked through about half of the Carolina Hurricanes lineup offering thoughts on how/why each player could be difference-maker in the upcoming playoffs. You can find that HERE.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe continues on that path in looking at most of the remaining players likely to be in the lineup or the first men up in the event of an injury.
Aho’s line especially when it includes Teravainen and Svechnikov is a bona fide first scoring line. But behind that, Staal’s line, if considered the second line, is going to be light on scoring. That works fine if the line does it job as a shutdown but does also make it critical for the team to find depth scoring in the bottom half of the forward group. Erik Haula produced goals on the power play and at even strength but was not really a catalyst/playmaker for a second scoring line. If Trocheck can fill that role, the Hurricanes gain the scoring depth needed in the playoffs, especially when playing as the way team and forced to play match ups dictated by the opposing coach.
As a rookie it is not fair to expect Martin Necas to lead the way in the playoffs, but with a ton of skill and now 72 games of NHL experience, could he be ready to emerge as a young star. He is likely to play alongside Trocheck and could be a significant factor in determining if the Canes can find valuable depth scoring.
Brock McGinn could end up slotting anywhere in the bottom three forward lines. In what will be a weird environment with no fans or energy from the audience, players like McGinn, Martinook and Foegele could play an incredibly important role using physical play to help boost the team’s energy if it sags. McGinn is a model of consistency in terms of compete level and could be an ignition switch for the rest of the lineup if it needs it.
Ryan Dzingel collected a few nifty assists during the 2019-20 regular season, but in total he underperformed compared to reasonable hopes/expectations for goal scoring. Because of that, he figures to compete for ice time in the bottom half of the Canes roster and is a candidate to slot alongside Trocheck on what the team hopes will be a second scoring line. If Dzingel can find his scoring touch, the Canes become deeper offensively.
Though Niederreiter is a different type of play, his story is almost identical to Dzingel’s. As a player who figured to be a key scorer in the top half of the lineup, he underperformed during the regular season and added a propensity to pick up a few too many unnecessary penalties along the way (I think because he was trying to do too much). If Niederreiter can click with Trocheck and Necas, he could be a finisher on a second scoring line.
Like McGinn, Martinook could play a critical leadership role if and when the Canes hit a stretch where they are down a notch from the competition in terms of jump. As the most vocal of the captains, I look for Martinook to be a vocal leader for this group.
Projecting playoff production based on two stellar games is not fair, but Geekie has the potential to bring intriguing upside to the fourth line. If he can score and generate scoring chances for his line mates, the Canes become deeper yet in terms of scoring.
Despite having not actually played a game in a Canes uniform yet, I think Vatanen could be one of they keys to the blue line. Slavin will do his thing. Hamilton should be okay or better next to Slavin. But the Hurricanes need to ice a competent second defense pairing minus regular anchor Brett Pesce at least to start the playoffs. With some defensemen whose strengths are maybe on the offensive side of the puck, Vatanen could be the key to creating a second pairing that is sound enough defensively.
Gardiner’s story is a bit the same as Skjei’s. His start in a Hurricanes uniform for an extended period of time was a struggle. He seemed to be finding his way once the calendar flipped to 2020, so there is some hope that he can be competent defensively and a positive offensively. The Canes must get exactly that from either Gardiner or Skjei to have a capable top four on defense.
What jumped out about Brady Skjei in his short run in a Canes uniform is his skating ability. No doubt he has the wheels to excel in a top 4 role. But the red flags with his game for me (admittedly in a short sample size) was too regularly having intermittent lapses defensively or with attention to detail. He figures to get first chance next to Vatanen in the second pairing, and if he can find chemistry and sound play he makes the Canes bigger, faster and better on the back end.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
Just like Vatanen but a slot further down the right side of the blue line depth chart, van Riemsdyk’s role is to help the third pairing be steady, stable and not defensive liability. He has significant playoff experience and filled that same role well in the 2019 playoffs before being injured.
Edmundson figures to start the playoffs on the outside looking in. But whereas the players above him on the left side maybe bring more upside, I think Edmundson is a bit sounder defensively. If one of the other defenseman looks too shaky defensively, I think Brind’Amour could be quick to choose steadiness over risky upside. So along with Haydn Fleury, Edmundson presents that option.
A bit like Edmundson, Fleury makes the Canes deep with defenseman who played at least part of the 2019-20 regular season in a top 4 role. While I do slot Fleury eighth on the blue line, he could be much higher on many teams and represents capable depth if injuries or subpar play from other defensemen requires it.
If Pesce joins the group and is up to speed, he only increases the team’s blue in depth in becoming the cornerstone of a steady second defense pairing. I think he could be a critical addition adding another player like Slavin who is just sound.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Of these players from the middle/bottom portion of the lineup, which do you think will make the biggest difference?
2) Do you think that a third line featuring Trocheck and Necas can become a second scoring line? What role, if any, do you see Dzingel and/or Niederreiter playing on the third line?
3) How do you figure the second and third defense pairings shake out initially and also as the playoffs wear on (hopefully)?