Chronological Blog List

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm63 Vs. Clr: Second try for new look Canes comes against Avalanche

After a 4-1 loss the day after the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, the Hurricanes have had a couple days to practice with the group that includes two trade additions (with Sami Vatanen still incoming once he returns from injury) and also two AHL call up goalies. With the Rangers surging from below,  the Canes now looking up at the playoff cut line and only 20 games remaining, urgency is increasing. ‘Must win’ is an overstatement at this early juncture of the stretch run, but I do think the Hurricanes need to win at least one of the weekend back-to-back set to avoid a bout with adversity and a ratcheting up of urgency. After Saturday’s game, the Hurricanes have an odd four-day layoff which could be well-timed for some systems work with the new players and if needed to buy time for Mrazek or Reimer to recover from injury. But in the last quarter of the NHL season for teams at the playoff cut line, it is very much about the here and now. The here and now is a tough match up against a Colorado Avalanche team that is surging with four straight wins in trying to catch the Blues for the top record in the Western Conference. The Avalanche boast speed, skill and depth on offense which makes for a tough out for a Canes team that is trying to sort things out defensively after two key injuries on the blue line and two more in goal. On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, today’s game is equal parts trying to figure out the new lineup quickly and...

Revisiting the Metropolitan Division playoff chase

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has an updated look at the Eastern Conference playoff race. The short version is that it is a dog fight, and with the New York Rangers climbing up into the fray, it feels like someone with 105 point is somehow going to miss the playoffs. As I said on Twitter today: Not likely but it's not impossible that team could finish 7th in Metropolitan but good enough to win the Pacific Division. Gap is only 6 points right now with 3 games in hand. — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) February 27, 2020 Below is a quick try at handicapping the race with my ‘subject to change’ in three days prediction for how it ends. In the Metropolitan Division, I am giving only the Washington Capitals a bye for being free and clear of the dog fight for a playoff spot.   Pittsburgh Penguins At 80 points in second place and with a six-point gap above the playoff cut line, the Penguins seem to be a reasonably safe bet to emerge as a playoff team even with a slip or two down the stretch. But the Penguins has lost four straight and are trending downward right now. My bet: The Pens have a cushion and some high-end leaders who have been there a time or two. Not sure if they finish weak or strong, but I do think they at least make the playoffs.   Philadelphia Flyers Of the teams in playoff position, the Flyers are a team that surprises me a bit. The Flyers have risen to third place and their 7-3-0 mark in...

Carolina Hurricanes risk mitigation

In a game with significant long-term financial commitments without much for an out or any requirement for expected performance to be met and a salary cap that limits flexibility if things do not work out as planned, a significant part of roster building is or at least should be risk management. There are many different types of risk that come into play with contracts. Simple performance risk comes into to play for both young players who maybe take a step back and also older players who fade. Some players have injury risk. And there is simple risk from term with things being increasingly less predictable the farther you go into the future. Under the management that took the helm with the arrival of Tom Dundon, the Carolina Hurricanes very clearly get the need to consider this. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at how the Hurricanes have managed and in many cases passed on taking on risk with players/contracts.   Term and age risk In consecutive summers, the Hurricanes chose to part ways with a top half of the roster player because management decided not to re-up for a long contract at top dollar for a player who would be into his mid-30s for the final years of the deal. Two summers ago, the Hurricanes parted ways with Jeff Skinner in a trade that netted only a collection of mid to low futures. Then this past summer, the team traded Justin Faulk again because it did not want to commit to seven years at top dollar for a contract that would stretch to Faulk’s mid-30s. It is too early...

Playing Rod Brind’Amour: Tinkering with the lineup

With a bunch of personnel changeover with injuries, AHL call ups and trades, today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a shot at playing Rod Brind’Amour for building out the lineup.   In goal I would not make rash decisions on Nedeljkovic based on a single start, but I would get Anton Forsberg into the net for one of the back-to-back games this weekend. Right now, the goal is to find a hot goalie that the team can ride for a little while until Reimer or Mrazek return. I think Brind’Amour needs to give Forsberg a chance to be that guy.That the team disappointingly failed to play sound hockey early to help Alex Nedeljkovic ease into his first NHL start of the season does completely exempt him for the results on Tuesday. Yes, he was put in a bad spot a few too many times, but decent or better NHL goalies need to do more than stop the easy ones. Nedeljkovic allowed four goals on only 16 shots and had another leak through him and into the net luckily be waived off as the net was knocked off.   On defense One of the challenges right now is that the Canes have five left shot defensemen out of six. That drives my thoughts on how to optimize the defense in a few ways. I do not like Haydn Fleury playing with a defenseman on his off side, especially one who strength is not advancing the puck. One of the continued limitations of Fleury’s game is his lack of patience and/or ability to move the puck with possession. He too regularly...

Gm62 @Dal: New look Canes falter in 4-1 loss to the Stars

In the aftermath of a wild Saturday win with an EBUG goalie and then a crazy three-trade deadline day, the Canes took back to the ice with a squad that looked significantly different than just a few days ago. In net was Alex Nedeljkovic and in front of him were newcomers Vincent Trocheck and Brady Skjei. And also significantly, every man hero David Ayres who was the winning goalie in Saturday’s game was in the house to sound the siren.   Recap of Hurricanes 4-1 loss to the Stars The hope going into the game had to be that the Canes would ride the momentum from a fun but also strong game on Saturday. But against a difficult team to play against, any momentum ended quickly. Sebastian Aho played a puck around the wall in the defensive zone to Brady Skjei. Skjei whiffed on it which resulted in a rapid transition with no time to cover and a quick pass to the front of the net. Nedeljkovic made a good save on the initial chance but spit out  a rebound that was quickly behind him. In terms of volume of time, the first period was actually a decent one for the Hurricanes. The new third line centered by Trocheck posted a few good chances and the Hurricanes won the shot and possession time battle. But playing against a good defensive team, the Canes were beaten by a limited number of high-grade counter punches caused by short to significant lapses. Two more came late. First, Hintz blew right through Edmundson and Fleury off the rush for a solo effort goal....

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm62 Vs. Dal: New look Canes start the final quarter playoff chase against the Stars

After a trio of injuries on Saturday and a wild trade deadline Monday, the Hurricanes will start the last quarter of the 2019-20 season with a lineup featuring five new players counting Ryan Dzingel coming back in from being a healthy scratch. That does not even count Sami Vatanen who was also acquired but is out injured. If you were away from Canes hockey for the past couple days and missed the wild flurry of activity, you can find articles on the three players acquired via trade (Vincent Trocheck, Brady, Skjei and Sami Vatanen) HERE. And today’s Daily Cup of Joe offered watch points for both of the goalies (Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg) HERE. With 21 games to and the Hurricanes sitting right at the playoff cut line, the team’s ability to assimilate new personnel, find some rhythm and chart a positive course forward could determine the team’s playoff fate. Obviously there is a ton to watch and consider on the Hurricanes side with new players, goalies, key players out of the lineup and all of the combinations that go with that. But the game is also an interesting measuring stick in terms of opponent. On the last road trip in Dallas, the Hurricanes were completely stymied by a stingy Dallas defense to the tune of a 4-1 loss that was at least as lopsided as the score indicated. The game represents a chance to see if the Hurricanes offense can push through against a strong defensive team and at the same time if the Canes can be tight enough defensively to hang with a team like this in a...

Goalie watch points: Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg

The past few days have seen a massive 25 percent of the Hurricanes roster changeover. Out are regular goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek to injury and in are AHL call ups Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg. Gone to trade are forwards Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula with Vincent Trocheck in return. And finally on defense, out is Brett Pesce to injury and in are Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen (after he returns from injury). Needless to say, that is a lot of change in a short period of time during the season. I detailed each of Monday’s three trades separately: Trade for Vincent Trocheck is HERE. Trade for Brady Skjei is HERE. And trade for Sami Vatanen is HERE. The roster changeover makes for many watch points for Tuesday’s game and the ones that follow. The ability to quickly assimilate and make gains from the new players will likely play a significant role in whether the Hurricanes make the playoffs or not. Front and center this time of year is goaltending which can make or break a team on any given night. The timing is such that even a short NHL adjustment period and a short run of 4-5 losses could doom the Canes playoff chances. The team needs one or both of Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg to hit the ground running and provide at least competent goaltending. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has watch points for each of the two goalie options.   Alex Nedeljkovic For me, Alex Nedeljkovic has always been a prospect that has a wide range of possible outcomes. On the one hand,...

Hurricanes acquire defenseman Brady Skjei from Rangers for 2020 1st round draft pick

See also initial thoughts on Canes obtaining defenseman Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils for prospect Janne Kuokkanen and a conditional fourth-round pick. See also initial thoughts on the Hurricanes acquisition of center Vincent Trocheck from Florida for Lucas Wallmark, Erik Haula, Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen.   The Carolina Hurricanes’ final move on a busy 2020 NHL trade deadline day was perhaps the most surprising. Shortly after it was announced that the team had added a defenseman as many including myself expected, word came that the Hurricanes had also landed New York Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei in return for the lower of the Hurricanes’ two 2020 first-round draft picks. I was skeptical, but the initial report proved to be true.   The key terms For the trade itself, the Hurricanes will give up the lower of its two first-round picks. Brady Skjei arrives with a contract that lasts four years after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5.25 million per year. As such, Skjei is not signed solely as short-term help for the Hurricanes injury woes but rather as a longer-term addition to the core of the blue line.   Brady Skjei Skjei is an interesting case. The positive on him is that he brings great size and skating ability and a skill set that is every bit top 4-capable. He played his way up to that level by the completion of his entry-level contract which earned his current contract. And as a 25-year old, he is theoretically just entering his prime. So if one considers him to be a legitimate top 4 defenseman...

Hurricanes acquire Sami Vatanen from New Jersey for prospect Janne Kuokkanen plus conditional 4th-round draft pick

See also initial thoughts on the Hurricanes acquisition of center Vincent Trocheck from Florida for Lucas Wallmark, Erik Haula, Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen. See also initial thoughts on Hurricanes acquisition of defenseman Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers for a 2020 first-round draft pick.   In the waning moments before the doors closed on the 2020 NHL trade deadline, the Carolina Hurricanes made not one but two deals to add defensemen.   The trade details for Sami Vatanen The Hurricanes traded forward prospect Janne Kuokkanen, depth AHL defenseman Fredrick Claesson and a conditional 2020 fourth-round draft pick to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Sami Vatanen. The Devils also retained half of Vatanen’s prorated $4.8 million salary which will save the Hurriacanes about $600,000 in real cash down the stretch. More significantly, the move helped make the salary cap math work to add another defenseman. Finally, the condition on the draft pick is that it is a fourth-round pick if Vatanen plays five or more regular season games and becomes a third-round pick if he plays 12 or more regular season games or 70 percent of playoff games. That clause is significant because Vatanen has been out of the lineup for a few weeks and is not scheduled to return for another week or so.   Sami Vatanen Vatanen is signed only through the 2019-20 season and as such is a rental intended to help fill gaps caused by injuries. Best bet is that the Hurricanes will not re-sign him for next season. Vatanen is a solid veteran right shot defenseman. As such, he fits into one...

Hurricanes acquire center Vincent Trocheck from Florida for Lucas Wallmark, Erik Haula, Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen

See also initial thoughts on Canes obtaining defenseman Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils for prospect Janne Kuokkanen and a conditional fourth-round pick. See also initial thoughts on Hurricanes acquisition of defenseman Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers for a 2020 first-round draft pick.   Late morning, the Canes jumped in with both feet into the 2020 NHL trade deadline frenzy when they acquired center Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers in exchange for NHLers Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula and prospects Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen.   Filling a need In Vincent Trocheck, the Hurricanes filled a need that has existed for literally a decade. With Jordan Staal as a defense-leaning top 6 center whose strength is not scoring or playmaking, a balanced scoring lineup for the Hurricanes requires the team to have a higher-end scoring first line but equally importantly a third line that leans offense and can generate scoring chances. With Sebastian Aho anchoring the top line, the first line objective has been achieved, and as we have seen recently when the team goes top-heavy for the first line with Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov, it can be lights out. But as has been the case in many games since that line was put together, the Hurricanes have been a bit of a one-headed monster. To make the model work, the team needs a third line that can also drive offense. And in today’s NHL, a consistent scoring line generally needs two things. First and foremost, the line needs a playmaker who can on a consistent basis generate scoring chances for his two line mates....

Revisiting the Carolina Hurricanes for the 2020 NHL trade deadline given injury concerns

Saturday was an absolutely magical game with emergency backup goalie David Ayres stepping into the Canes’ crease and picking up the victory. The story itself was straight from a story book, and winning without goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek and also key defenseman Brett Pesce was quite the feat. But with that crazy night gradually fading into the background, the team awoke on Sunday without a healthy NHL goalie and now down two top 4 defensemen with the trade deadline just over 24 hours away. With no practice on Sunday, we do not yet have an update on the three injured players, but Brind’Amour’s comments after the game suggested that all three could be out for awhile. Needless to say, the ball has very clearly entered Don Waddell’s court with some big decisions to make. Obviously, the situation has changed a bit, but the starting point for the trade deadline still starts with my original need assessments. On February 4, I laid out the case for the Hurricanes seeking additions with term, preferably one additional year, instead of 2019-20 rentals. On February 14, I took a shot at playing Don Waddell and identifying potential acquisition targets. And on February 20, I provided an update on the trade market after an initial flurry of moves for defensemen, many of whom were on the list to consider for the Hurricanes. The big change is the loss of two goalies and another top 4 defenseman. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe expounds upon my comments on Twitter earlier today for how I think the team should and/or will respond.   Reaction to...

Gm61 @Tor: Zamboni driver David Ayres leads Canes to Miracle on Ice in Toronto

Where to even begin. As I said on Twitter shortly after Saturday’s game ended: Guess I have to write a recap, but it was definitely one of those nights when you had to be there. — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) February 23, 2020 Forty years to the from the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid, New York in 1980, Saturday’s game offered another hockey miracle of epic proportions. The game started as a hard-fought game between two teams needing points to make the playoffs and had a bit of extra rough and tumble. That rough and tumble ultimately made for a night to go down in not just Hurricanes but NHL history. James Reimer left the game in the first period after Jaccob Slavin was plowed into him for a goalie interference penalty. Then Petr Mrazek inexplicably went to play a puck way out of net and toward the side boards. With his head down trying to play the puck, Kyle Clifford hit an oncoming Mrazek like a truck. Mrazek, his helmet and his stick all went flying and Mrazek landed head first on the ice. And that is when the story begins. Emergency backup goalie David Ayres took the net for the Canes midway through the third period. Suddenly, the Hurricanes 3-1 lead did not look so good. The Hurricanes tacked on another goal to go up 4-1, but when John Tavares and Pierre Engvall beat Ayres like the rec league goalie that he is, this game seemed certain to tilt in the Maple Leafs favor in the final period plus. But the Hurricanes dialed up their compete...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm61 @Tor: Canes seek quick rebound versus Maple Leafs

After failing to exorcise the demons versus the Rangers on Friday night and losing the fourth of four in that season series, the Hurricanes are quickly back in action versus the Maple Leafs on Saturday night in Toronto. With Friday’s loss pushing the Canes back below the playoff cut line (though with games in hand), Saturday’s game has a bit of extra urgency. In each of the last seven weekends of the season starting this one, the Hurricanes will play a back-to-back set with the second game on the road with travel. That can be challenging physically, but I think equally significant will be the mental resiliency required if the Canes lose the first game. The pressure is gradually ramping up this time of year anyway. When a win in the second game is needed just to salvage a split and avoid a losing streak, it can be even harder. The opponent is a Maple Leafs team that also needs every point it can get. Partly due to a recent Panthers’ slide, the Leafs enter the game sitting in the third playoff slot in the Atlantic Division with a small two-point gap that has them still in fray. After consecutive losses and being challenged by their coach, the Leafs rebounded on Thursday with an impressive 4-0 win over a Penguins team that is among the NHL’s best right now. On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, I think this game is about converting Friday’s loss into an extra dose of determination and hunger and not self-doubt or questioning. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina...

Gm60 Vs. NYR: Canes woes versus Rangers continue in 5-2 loss

Arguably the best news coming out of Friday’s match up against the Rangers was the fact that the the Hurricanes are not scheduled to play them again during the 2019-20 season. The 5-2 thrashing on Friday at PNC Arena pushed the Canes record against the Blue Shirts to an unceremonious 0-4. Though the level of play was maybe not up to quite the same level as the win in Nashville on Tuesday, the Hurricanes again started okay. The game was reasonably even early on with the first turning point in the game coming 12 minutes into the first period. On the first power play of the game, the Hurricanes mustered a series of good chances on four shots on net only to be stymied by rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin. Less than three minutes later while cycling back to fill in at the point, Jordan Staal fired off of a challenging Mika Zibanejad spring him for a breakaway and the game’s first goal. The period was pretty even overall, but the Hurricanes emerged with an unfair 1-0 deficit. Playing in his 300th game, Brock McGinn scored on a heady, patient play. With the puck on his stick and room/time to chuck a harmless shot at the net from an odd angle, McGinn instead showed patience and navigated open ice right across the top of the circles before finally turning to shoot against and beat a moving Shesterkin. The rest of the second period is mostly about how you want to spin it. On the one hand, the Rangers scored twice on unlucky bounces off of Canes’ defensemen’s skates. Mrazek had no...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm60 Vs. NYR: Canes try to keep climbing versus the Rangers

After 4-1 win over the Predators on Tuesday that was probably the most complete effort since the start of 2020 and one of the best games of the entire season, the Hurricanes return home with the goal of starting to climb the standings. The standings show the Hurricanes tied for fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and the final wild card slot, but closer inspection shows the team with a chance to rise. The Canes are only one point behind a falling Columbus team and with three games in hand are only three points behind Philadelphia with two games in hand. Climbing the standings only requires converting games in hand into points. With only the Islanders in action tonight, the game is a chance to win and climb. Like the standings, the opponent is one that looks different from deeper consideration than first glance. At first glance, the Rangers are a team that is currently a step or two out of the playoff fray. So they in theory are a lesser team and maybe one with less to play for. But as a young team that is playing well (7-3 in last 10 games is better than teams they are chasing), the Rangers are playing playoff games right now trying to catch the teams in front of them somewhat like the Hurricanes at this time last year. On top of that, Henrik Lundqvist (not sure if he will start) and the Rangers seem to have some strange curse over the Hurricanes of late. On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, this game is about trying to repeat the effort...
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