Chronological Blog List

Assessing the Carolina Hurricanes at the quarter mark of the 2019-20 NHL season

With the completion of Tuesday’s game, the Carolina Hurricanes are suddenly 21 games into the 2019-20 season. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers an assessment of the team so far   Results matter Through 21 games, the team has 27 points. That 105-point pace should easily be good enough for the playoffs.  The Canes sit in third place in the competitive Metropolitan Division and adjusted for games played have a four-point cushion above the #9 team in the Eastern Conference and the playoff cut line. Put simply, that is good. Very good. I will of course go on to evaluate the team’s play in detail below and offer cons to go with pros, but it should not be lost that the Hurricanes are in a very good place through 21 games.   Offense/scoring There have been ebbs and flows, but in total I think the team’s offense has been a plus. Erik Haula’s absence significantly changes things heading into the second quarter of the season, but for the first quarter being evaluated Dzingel/Haula/Necas adding some scoring punch in the bottom part of the lineup and equally significantly all contributed on the power play. That makes for three players who were not even in the mix in 2018-19 who have made significant scoring contributions in 2019-20. Haula has been a key component as a net front presence and finisher on the power play. Dzingel has actually impressed more with his playmaking than his goal scoring. And Necas is growing as an offensive player at the NHL level. Dougie Hamilton has contributed at the level of a goal-scoring forward which is...

Gm21 @Chi: Canes upswing continues with 4-2 win over Blackhawks

The Hurricanes roller coaster of a November continued its upswing on Tuesday. The Hurricanes played their best game in the current three-game road winning streak (with four in a row overall) in a collecting a solid win in Chicago. The first period had good pace in both directions early but the Hurricanes had the better of scoring chances. The Blackhawks had one good chance go over the net, but on the Hurricanes side, Aho had a couple good chances, Foegele a couple more and Staal another early. The Hurricanes were finally rewarded when the team created a turnover at the defensive blue line that sprung Nino Niederreiter and Martin Necas for a pretty passing play 2-on-0 and a Necas goal. The Hurricanes exited the first period with a 1-0 lead, a solid showing defensively and the upper hand overall. The second period was mostly more of the same. The Hurricanes added to the lead when for the second consecutive game Andrei Svechnikov flat beat a goalie without a screen from a ways out. His ability to just beat a goalie without any help is that of the pure goal scorers like the Steven Stamkos of the world. Then Niederreiter would find himself in the middle of another scoring play when Wallmark sprung him for a breakaway that he finished. Through two periods the game was all one could ask for from a Hurricanes standpoint with the 3-0 lead. After two periods, the Hurricanes were on the way to the team’s most complete game in some time. That path held for about two-thirds of the final period. I actually liked...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm21 @Chi: Canes aim for 3rd straight win in road finale against the Blackhawks

Thus far, November has been a roller coaster. The team started the month by ending a nice home stand with a disappointing loss to the Devils. That loss was the start of a four-game losing streak. Since then the Hurricanes have rebounded to win three straight mostly in thrilling fashion. The win streak has the Hurricanes back above the cut line at the one-quarter mark of the 2019-20 season which is obviously a good place to be. Tuesday’s road finale is against a Blackhawks team that the Hurricanes beat soundly in a matinee at PNC Arena a couple weeks back. But the Blackhawks enter with a bit more mojo having injected more youth into the lineup and riding a 5-0-1 stretch. The game will be a chance to see the young future of the Blackhawks still with some holdovers from the previous winning era. On the Hurricanes side, the big news is that Erik Haula will again be out of the lineup and seemingly for an extended run this time. That bumps Lucas Wallmark into a third-line role and returns Eetu Luostarinen to the lineup. I wrote about the significance of this changeover in some detail in today’s Daily Cup of Joe. For the Hurricanes, I think the conflicting themes right now are just trying to ride the current rhythm to any kind of win but at the same time realizing that the team ultimately needs to find a cleaner brand of hockey. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Chicago Blackhawks 1) Jordan Staal’s line Jordan Staal is off to a bit...

Erik Haula out; Eetu Luostarinen recalled; Lucas Wallmark at a cross roads

During the weekend, the Hurricanes recalled Eetu Luostarinen from the AHL. Today as expected, the other shoe dropped when Sara Civian from The Athletic quoted Rod Brind’Amour as saying that Erik Haula who is now out would not be back “any time soon.” The news bumps Lucas Wallmark back up into Haula’s third line slot and back fills the fourth line center slot with Luostarinen though I think that is subject to change based on play. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at the new center situation from multiple angles.   Erik Haula No doubt losing Erik Haula for an extended period team is a big deal. Haula helped make the team team three lines deep at even strength, and he was playing a vital role on the power play. The Hurricanes do not have another player who can do what Haula does on the power play. Jordan Staal has an even bigger body but has just never had a knack for when to screen versus when to slide out for a pass and just does not have the finishing hands of a true goal scorer. Replacing Haula will have to be by committee. The power play may need to adjust a bit with his absence. And at even strength, Wallmark pushes into a bigger role. The big question there is if he has a higher gear offensively.   Lucas Wallmark Trajectory If Haula is out for an extended period of time, I think this next stretch could be a fork in the road for Wallmark’s NHL career. As a rookie in 2018-19, Wallmark made two sizable steps forward....

Canes tidbits — Brett Pesce, Ryan Dzingel and Brian Gibbons

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a set of random Canes tidbits.   Brian Gibbons/future AHL help With Martinook out first and then Haula for a few games, Brian Gibbons logged 11 games at the NHL level before being returned to the AHL late last week. Interestingly, the Hurricanes recalled Eetu Luostarinen from the AHL after Saturday’s game. That could mean that Erik Haula is again a question mark. More significant would be if Luostarinen slotted in as a wing which would suggest that his short audition bumped him above Gibbons. I would rate Gibbons as adequate but not better in any way. He gets what he needs to do on the forecheck for his role, but he did not register a single point in 11 games and does not have the size to be a physical disruptor. Another interesting thing is that the math on Gibbons’ $200,000 salary guarantee has built in payment for about 13 games at the NHL level. So up to 13 games, the Hurricanes were going to have to pay that much more salary regardless. But once he surpasses 13 games, his increase to play at the NHL level is no longer free/built in which makes the finances pretty similar for recalling someone else. Some are suggesting that the Hurricanes odd 11 forward / 8 defenseman lineup and not usually carrying extras is to try to preserve salary cap for later. But from watching the team do similar in 2018-19 when salary cap was a non-issue, there is also an element of expense management.   Ryan Dzingel I touched on this in my game...

Gm20 @Min: Canes win another Wild one in Minnesota in overtime

One can easily nitpick the Hurricanes 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild for its many imperfections just like was possible with Thursday’s overtime win in Buffalo. Especially in Saturday’s game, I do not think the Hurricanes were the better team. There again were break downs that led directly to goals against. And the Canes again blew a lead on the way to overtime. But for anyone who has been a Hurricanes fan for a few years or longer, one has to love what this team is capable of in terms of just outscoring their mistakes some nights. Gone are the days, actually years, when overtime was something to dread. And gone are the days when there is always an ominous feeling of what could go wrong. No doubt the Hurricanes have had some poor games in 2019-20 just like every other team, but I think the ship has turned in terms of being able to easily muster optimism. As I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended: Wooooo!!!!!!!! More than anything lately, I think @Canes are just better at scoring goals than the other team. Sure some things need to be cleaned up, but how fun is this after a decade of struggling to score!?!?!?! #LetsGoCanes — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) November 16, 2019   Quick game recap The game started with another defensive miscue off the opening face-off, but goalie James Reimer had the answer as he did on a few other grade A chances in the first stanza. Reimer’s early play bought time for the Hurricanes offense to rev up even if only intermittently. Four...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm20 @Min: Canes aim for third straight win in Minnesota matinee

After a tough 1-4 start to the month of November, the Hurricanes have won two straight and have a chance to pull back to .500 at 4-4 with a win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Treading water is not ideal, but it sure beats drowning and is a necessary evil for some stretches over the course of a long 82-game NHL season. The Wild enter the game sitting in last place in the Central Division but have won three of their last five games. Recent Canes history suggests that strength of opponent can be overrated in the NHL. On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, Jordan Martinook has been reactivated. If he returns, the team will have its entire opening day roster available again. The Hurricanes have consecutive wins entering the game, but I think the results inflate the level of the rebound so far. The team is still a bit loose defensively but has been able to outscore that deficiency in consecutive games. My watch points for Saturday’s afternoon match up follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Minnesota Wild 1) More of the same offensively In the past two games, the Hurricanes have found their scoring mojo from early in the season. Sebastian Aho has been atop the score sheet which is encouraging, and more generally the team has been scoring in bunches. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if the recent run leads to a rhythm and confidence that breeds more of the same on Saturday.   2) The lineup Will Jordan Martinook draw immediately into the lineup? If...

Analyzing the Carolina Hurricanes goalie depth chart

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes an in-depth look at the Carolina Hurricanes depth chart.   A critical but tricky position The goalie position in today’s NHL is easily the trickiest to manage. On the one hand, the position is critical and with only one in net, one would figure that the goalie position would be one to invest significant assets in terms of salary budget and draft choices. But the problem is that the position is so fickle that it is not clear that making big investments often gains anything. Even very good goalies seem to wander off track. And generally speaking selecting goalies high in the draft does not significantly increase the probability of success for a position where many of those players are five or more years away from being NHL-ready.   Quantity over quality approach and its ice time challenges So a common approach to the goalie position in terms of drafting and development is to regularly draft goalies mostly with mid or late-round picks with the theory that quantity beats quality (as measured by draft level) in terms of finding an occasional winner. But with quantity the challenge then becomes having enough ice time to evaluate and develop goalie prospects. Teams have at most 3 spots to develop goalies at the professional level, and the current trend in the NHL is to go 3 or even 4 goalies deep with players who could potentially help at the NHL level. That strategy of having NHL-capable depth at the AHL level can steal another spot. The result is less than ideal for ice time for professional...

Gm19 @Buf: Canes emerge from up and down battle with 5-4 overtime win over the Sabres

At the beginning of the month, I noted that the stretch of schedule was generally very favorable. The Canes had a run of 13 straight games against teams that missed the playoffs last season. With a 1-3 start to that stretch, the Hurricanes demonstrated how little schedule matters when a team is not playing well. But I think on Thursday, the schedule did provide a bit of a boost. The spirited but messy effort that the Hurricanes put forward would not likely have been enough against a good team having a good night. But some combination of timely scoring and resiliency were enough to climb to a 5-4 overtime win and push the current streak to two wins.   Recap for the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres With both teams needing points, Thursday’s match up between the Hurricanes and Sabres had a tentative start. Both teams made safe plays and were sound defensively leading to a game of ping pong early. The Sabres had the better of it early drawing and early penalty and having Jack Eichel shake free of Sebastian Aho for a point blank chance that Petr Mrazek snagged with his glove. But not too much later, the Sabres broke through first when Lucas Wallmark lost track of Jeff Skinner out in front of the net. The former Cane made no mistake labeling a shot for the back of the net. The first period was tilted in the Sabres favor when a deflected Jordan Staal shot floated softly into the net behind Carter Hutton courtesy of a Warren Foegele screen. The Hurricanes would...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm19 @Buf: Canes seek to build on Monday’s win in match up against the Sabres

Thursday’s match up between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres pairs two teams in somewhat similar situations. Both teams started red hot and were atop the Eastern Conference standings. Both teams have also stumbled of late and are trying to re-find a rhythm that wins games on a regular basis. One key difference is that the Hurricanes are a team that faced this challenge last year and ultimately emerged and made the playoffs. The Sabres are a still a team that is trying to figure out what it takes to do that. The Sabres have picked up only a single overtime loss point in their last five outings, so they should enter the game hungry. The Hurricanes will need to match that. On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, another round of bounce after bounce like Monday’s win would be much-appreciated, but it is not something to count on. Key for the Hurricanes is not to exhale after relieving pressure with Monday’s win but instead to double down on intensity and determination to earn a win on Thursday. With Eetu Luostarinen sent down and Erik Haula skating, there seems to be potential for reinforcements. But more so than any individual player, the Hurricanes as a group need to be better defensively and find a complete 60 minutes of pace, pressure and focus. My watch points for Thursday’s game against former-Cane Jeff Skinner and the Buffalo Sabres follows.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Buffalo Sabres 1) Intensity out of the gate As noted above, a risk for Thursday is that the Hurricanes exhale a...

Seeking more

The Hurricanes started the season red hot scoring 22 goals in the first five games for an average of 4.4 goals per game. The early surge seemed to suggest that the team had finally found ever-elusive depth scoring. But two factors maybe made this a bit overstated. First, the scoring was driven by huge, realistically unsustainable, contributions from the blue line, with eight goals in the first five games. Dougie Hamilton has continued his torrid pace, but even with that included the blue line has scored the same eight goals over the next 13 games. Second, measuring scoring during a short burst when a team is red hot is always going to be overstated. The Hurricanes three goals per game since the 5-0 start looks decent, but it features sporadic outbursts that inflate the average. In 13 games since hot start, the Hurricanes have scored two or fewer goals in eight of those 13 games. But I think there is plenty of room for upside and still hope that the team is in fact improved in terms of depth scoring. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers areas for potential gains in goal scoring as the season progresses.   Last year’s leaders With a couple empty-netters and a couple multi-goal games, Sebastian Aho has actually boosted his pace despite his up and down play, but 2018-19 line mates Teuvo Teravainen and Nino Niederreiter are on pace for only 18 and 9 goals respectively. I actually think that Teravainen’s play has been strong. His scoring will likely be based on whether he stays on Staal’s line which tamps down production. Niederreiter...

Checking In with Brandon Stanley — 10/18 – 11/10 plus player spotlight on Alex Nedeljkovic

Up and down we go, friends. The Charlotte Checker roller coaster is riding right along.  The Checkers, through the first month+ of the year, have looked about like what they are: a young team with a lot of new faces trying to find their identity. I headlined when the season started that they lost a 30-goal scorer, one of their best two-way centers, all three of their captains, and a few other important, ultra-talented others from their championship run that have graduated to the Canes. One night they’ll have a great showing and fill the net up, showcasing a steady defense and solid goaltending, the next they’ll look lost in their own end, hanging their goalies out to dry with odd-man rush after odd-man rush (hmmm… That sounds kind of familiar, actually). So, with three weeks’ worth of games to cover (eight games) and a player spotlight featuring a player that I think a lot of people are asking questions about at the moment, we’ll jump right in.   Charlotte Checkers 2, Utica Comets 8 So, yeah, this happened a couple weeks ago. We won’t dwell here long. The Checkers got punched in the mouth early and never recovered. Alex Nedeljkovic was pulled with about five minutes to go in the first period, with a sweet save percentage of .400 (three goals allowed on five shots), and Forsberg didn’t fare much better allowing the five more on 24 shots. Utica is a good team with some really nice young prospects, and they showcased their skill on this night. This was actually part of a month of October that saw...

Current unappealing Canes truths (each with potential for positive resolution)

As a fan, one’s viewpoint on things can be clouded by many things. Optimism for the future and accomplishments in the past probably rank near the top of the list for painting a picture that is rosier than reality. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers up a few unappealing Canes truths that likely do not match with how many view a Canes reality.   Sebastian Aho He really has not been close to elite for half of a season. Somewhere around two-thirds through the 2018-19 season, Aho peaked at being very close to the elite level both in terms of measurable statistics but also just being able to be a noticeable difference-maker game in and game out. But with whispers that maybe he was not healthy down the stretch, he really was not great as the Canes pushed up into the playoffs in the final month. He finished the season with 0 goals and 6 assists in the final 14 regular season game. And while he did contribute in the playoffs, I think it is fair to say that he was outdone by a fairly wide margin by Ovechkin’s line in the Caps series and Bergeron’s line in the Bruins series. And though he has had some bursts of late, his start to the 2019-20 campaign has seen as many downs as ups thus far. If one excludes empty-netters, he ran his regular season goal-less streak to 23 games before scoring on a goalie in 2019-20. I think that Aho will rise again. He is too talented not to. But at the same time, I do think he may...

Difficult Carolina Hurricanes’ lineup decisions

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a quick look at difficult lineup decisions stemming from a couple different sources.   In goal Petr Mrazek remains the #1, but as the season wears on the organization could have some difficult decisions with regard to who gets the #2 starts. James Reimer was strong in his first two starts but has sputtered a bit in four straight now. I think ideally the team wants Reimer to at least play his way up to a level where he can be traded at some point even if it is just part of a bigger deal. The situation in Charlotte further complicates things. Ideally, the Hurricanes need to get Alex Nedeljkovic a trial at the NHL level to see if he is ready/capable to at least be a competent backup. The issue there is NHL ice time but also the fact that Nedeljkovic is off to a poor start in the AHL. At least for now, it seems that the organization needs to give him time to reestablish himself. In fact, if the team needed to recall an AHL goalie with the objective of winning the next game, Anton Forsberg, who has been the better AHL goalie, would be the obvious choice. So as the season wears on, the team could have some weird balance between planning for the future, winning now and boosting Reimer’s trade value.   On the blue line The ongoing decision is who to slot into the third defense pairing. Haydn Fleury returned to the lineup on Monday and played well. With the win, I would expect Trevor van Riemsdyk...

Gm18 Vs. Ott: Canes pick up pace, get bunch of bounces and run to 8-2 win over Sens

The Canes desperately needed a win on Monday night. They were the better team and earned a win.   Hockey, the crazy game But at the same time, hockey is a crazy game sometimes… Warren Foegele’s goal was an odd carom off a defenseman’s skate from an odd angle that found a tiny opening. A point shot on the power play was blocked by a Sens defenseman and could not have been a better pass into Martin Necas’ wheelhouse for a shot into a half-open net. Sebastian Aho chopped a player’s stick in half somehow without a slashing penalty and then ends up with a breakaway goal the other way on the same shift. Haydn Fleury has a pass, not even a shot, deflect off of a Sens defenseman and find the exact corner of the net behind the goalie. Joel Edmundson’s misses high by a wide margin and has the shot carom off the boards back to the front of the net where Sebastian Aho finishes. The crazy bounces posted the Canes to a 4-0 lead and five of their 8 goals. When it rains it pours.   Player and other notes 1) Credit where it is due The magnitude of the win was definitely influenced by the series of favorable bounces above, but to be clear, the Hurricanes were the better team and did deserve to win. So in terms of collecting a much-needed win, the Canes got what they deserved.   2) Sebastian Aho More so than any other player, Sebastian Aho needs to be better for this team to find a higher gear. The good...
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