Chronological Blog List

NHL trade deadline day musings for the Carolina Hurricanes

After a short hiatus, Canes and Coffee returns today with the intent to resume steady coverage on an almost everyday basis. Thanks to those who reached out. Nothing is wrong or bad; just hit a busy patch of life that seemed to keep stretching out. I have a mental backlog of things I hope to write about in the coming days, but of course the focus of today’s Daily Cup of Joe is Monday’s NHL trade deadline from an eclectic set of angles.   What should the Hurricanes do? The burning question for a team like the Hurricanes is what should it do. By virtue of battling for the top spot in its division and also the entire NHL, the Hurricanes have risen quickly to become a legitimate Cup contender. For teams in this category, it can make sense even to pay high trade prices for rentals if it can push the team over the top in the playoffs. In Hurricanes context, no doubt the Hurricanes paid a hefty price for Doug Weight and Mark Recchi leading up to the 2006 NHL trade deadline, but after hoisting the Stanley Cup a few months later, no one even cared what the price was. So on the one hand, the Hurricanes are legitimately in the group of teams that should consider spending a bit of futures to upgrade if it thinks it can address a significant weakness. But the burning question is if/what the Hurricanes could add to improve a team that is pretty good. At least within the lineup, the team is deep on the blue line, and at least...

Random Canes musings — The importance of buy in, the rise of Necas and the silver lining in Svechnikov’s slowed scoring

After a solid win on Monday in Columbus that was one of the team’s soundest of the season even if not as spectacular as a few other wins, all seems right in the Caniac Nation again. The dip was overstated anyway with only three losses and two of those being decent or better efforts that netted an overtime loss point. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers an eclectic set of musings on the current state of the Canes.   The importance of buy in from young players Getting young offensive players up to at least a competent level in terms of defense and attention to detail is critical to a team’s success. Jeff Skinner is the textbook example of a player who enters the NHL at a young age at an incredibly advanced level offensively but deficient defensively. Not all players like that are destined to round into near-Selke form defensively, but at the same time it is absolutely critical that players like that make steady progress defensively. If they do not, it is completely possible (and happens regularly) that high end scorers can still manage to be a negative in terms of winning hockey games. In that regard, I think Brind’Amour’s single greatest strength as a coach is getting talented young players to buy in. Each of Sebastian Aho, Andei Svechnikov and Martin Necas entered the NHL with exactly the imbalance I mentioned above where they were NHL-ready offensively almost out of the chute but were nowhere close to that same level defensively. The early version of Aho had a tendency to float a bit in the defensive...

Canes roster situations — Mrazek/Nedeljkovic/Reimer and Jake Gardiner

In my most recent Daily Cup of Joe, I wrote about the possibility of adding the current roster in the form of fomer Cane Eric Staal. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe covers a two different situations with the current roster including the impending goalie situation and Jake Gardiner’s flight across the waiver wire last week.   Petr Mrazek / James Reimer / Alex Nedeljkovic With Alex Nedeljkovic settling in and playing better than James Reimer right now and Petr Mrazek inching closer to return, the Hurricanes suddenly have the three-headed goalie problem in terms of who gets (how many) starts, who (if anyone) finds their way to the waiver wire (or does not because they do not clear waivers) and what the path forward is.   #1 or #1A With the Hurricanes winning seemingly regardless of who is in net or even how well they play, there is no incredible rush to get Petr Mrazek back in the mix. Priority one is to err on the side of caution in terms of making sure his thumb is 110 percent healed with no need to push timeline. Even when does return, there is no need to ride Mrazek for a bunch of games. The Hurricanes have an odd luxury of not being at the playoff cut line, and as already noted, they are winning regardless of netminding right now. Further, even if 100 percent healthy and with the team needing the win, it has never in two plus years been Brind’Amour’s goalie management style to really ride a hot hand. Back-to-backs get split with only one exception over two and...

Considering Eric Staal

With the Carolina Hurricanes flying high in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, pretty much everything is going well. Even minus a couple players out with injuries, the team is winning and often doing it by a wide margin. Were the team to ride the current roster into the playoffs, it would have a good chance to beat everyone. And success in the playoffs is almost unanimously driven by a first and foremost by a team’s core not players added at the trade deadline. But at the same time, the playoffs are a long grind and quality depth helps. No doubt the full-year players like Brind’Amour, Staal and Stillman drove the bus offensively when the Hurricanes hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2006. But veteran additions Mark Recchi and Doug Weight made the team more competitive from top to bottom and played a role in surviving the grind at times and hanging round in range for heroics to win the day. There is still a lot of hockey to play and inevitably some ups and downs to come, but the 2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes are very much a team within range of competing for the 2021 Stanley Cup. And though the current roster is very good, there is still room to both improve and become deeper. Also consider that to even make the semifinals, the Hurricanes will likely have to beat a Lightning team that has beaten them three out of four times (the Canes 3-on-3 overtime win is basically a tie as far as playoff games go) and should add 2019 Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov in time for...

Gm26 Vs. Nas: Canes ride another scoring outburst to seventh straight win, besting Preds 5-1

Anyone else just pinch themselves sometimes because they're not sure it is real how @Canes can just score goals in bunches sometimes regardless of how game is going, if they are playing particularly well or whatever else? — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) March 12, 2021 Thursday’s game against the Predators started normally enough. The game was fairly even with Nashville even having the upper hand early by a modest margin. But the Predators did not score on a couple decent early chances. And then it happened. In a span of barely over two minutes, the Hurricanes scored three quick goals. First, Morgan Geekie deftly tipped a Jake Bean point shot/pass on the power play. Next, the Canes won a puck on the forecheck resulting in a Warren Foegele pass across to Brock McGinn who sniped a shot into an open chunk of net. Then Andrei Svechnikov made a pretty pass to Dougie Hamilton who finished to put the Hurricanes up 3-0. The first period would end with the play somewhere close to 50-50 in many ways, the Predators having a wide 15 to 6 shot advantage, but the Hurricanes posting a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard. The second period was more of the same. The game was fairly even, but Nashville struggled to beat James Reimer for a goal, and Morgan Geekie struck again on a lucky goal that went off the goalie, off a defense and behind the goalie for a 4-0 lead. Again, Nashville collected shots, but only the Hurricanes scored. The third period saw Martin Necas score from right out front on the power play when...

The foundation of Canes 2020-21 success — Strength down the middle

Ask and you shall receive.   Pre 2020-21 season concerns A regular theme of my pre-season writing about the Canes was for the team’s middle centers to find a higher gear than in 2019-20. On September 4, I wrote this article entitled, “Questions down the middle.”  And on December 30, I pegged the second line center slot that Vincent Trocheck is in as one of “The two most critical slots in the Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 lineup.”   Expectations I figured Sebastian Aho for a near certainty to produce in the neighborhood of a point per game for a floor and therefore be a bona fide first line scoring center. He has a higher gear yet but is in the neighborhood of that level of production. Then past that I had Vincent Trocheck and Jordan Staal as keys to the team’s success. Staal started slow in 2019-20 and had a ‘meh’ season overall even defensively and dipped to a new low offensively. The question of whether he was fading in the second part of his career was legitimate. Vincent Trocheck’s situation was an odd one in that he played a few games after arriving via trade, then went on COVID hiatus with the league for four months and then played another few games in the playoffs. By no means was the separated, small sample size enough to make any final declarations on Trocheck as a Hurricane, but it was fair to say that his production out of the gate (twice) was not at the level hoped for when he was obtained.   10x expectations so far Fast forward to 2020-21...

Gm25 Vs. Nas: Canes ride special teams and overtime invincibility to 3-2 win over Predators

What a time to be alive as a Hurricanes fan. Even when the team puts forward a B effort, the result is still regularly an exciting win. The Hurricanes were not horrible on Thursday night, but it was far from their best effort. The team had stretches where it had the upper hand territorially and/or in terms of possession but did not do enough to generate grade A chances. Coupled with a couple net front presence goals by the Predators and the Hurricanes were down 2-0 late in the second period and seemingly destined for a loss. But a series of a mini-power play-fueled scoring burst, a couple cat with nine lives near misses when Nashville hit the post late in regulation and again in overtime and the team’s usual overtime heroics converted the effort into the team’s sixth win in a row.   Player and other notes 1) Special teams The difference in the game was special teams. In a game heavy on power play time, the Hurricanes scored two goals on six tries with the man advantage, while holding the Predators scoreless on five tries. That two goal advantage was the totality of the Hurricanes regulation scoring and was enough to get the Hurricanes to overtime.   2) Jordan Staal Who is starting to believe my assertion that Jordan Staal cut a Robert Johnson-like deal with the devil during his COVID layoff likely when sneaking out late at night in Chicago to wander the streets looking for answers? Is there a better explanation for Staal’s sudden ability to pick even the tiniest of corners with sniper-like precision. He...

Revisiting the Dougie Hamilton situation

Shortly after the Canes lost in the playoffs and the team’s off-season started, I did a deep dive on the Dougie Hamilton contract situation.  Now six months later and nearly halfway through a shortened 2020-21 season, today’s Daily Cup of Joe revisits the possibility and terms for Dougie Hamilton to re-sign with the Carolina Hurricanes for the 2021-22 season. As a quick baseline, my off-season article suggested that the Hurricanes had enough depth with the addition of Brady Skjei that they could get by without re-signing Hamilton but ideally would try to do so if they could get a modest discount to push his salary to or below $7.5 million per year for 4-6 years.   What has changed? After arguably playing at his ceiling in 2019-20 with solid defense and challenging for the NHL lead in goals and scoring for a defenseman, Hamilton has taken a reasonable step down thus far in the 2020-21 season. His 17 points in 24 games is still an impressive 58-point pace over 82 games, but he has scored only one goal and has not contributed as much at even strength. Maybe more significant is the fact that Hamilton has been up and down with many more downs than in 2019-20. He is still a capable top 4 defenseman who can score. And he still easily fits into the Hurricanes top 4. But he no longer looks like Superman offensively, and sort of like when he arrived, he again is a defenseman whose defensive play can be inconsistent.   What do the Canes have in Dougie Hamilton going forward? Hamilton is big offensive...

Gm24 Vs. Fla: Canes/Panthers oddly find slower gear as Canes net 4-2 win

After a couple recent Canes/Panthers match ups that featured a torrid pace and higher-end hockey, Sunday’s game between the two teams was mostly oddly pedestrian. The first period had an odd plodding pace to it pretty much throughout the period almost like a game of ping pong with each team trading the puck back to the other after a short turn. Part of it was that both teams defended well and were well aware of the danger of its opponent at transition points, but I think there was also an element of both teams just being a bit sluggish and sloppy at times. Amidst the slow-ish first period, Vincent Trocheck continued to torment his former team with his fourth goal in four games. The power play marker came on a heady pass by Andrei Svechnikov finding him in the area at the side of the net that has become his office with the man advantage. That goal would be the only one for a ‘meh’ first period that saw only nine shots on goal between the two teams. The second period started similarly but did see the Canes find a couple bursts of more aggressive play. Nino Niederreiter would finish off the rush on another passing play made by Martin Necas to put the Hurricanes up 2-0. But the Panthers would claw back to within a goal when MacKenzie Weegar found a hole through James Reimer on a screened shot. The Hurricanes seemed to find at least intermittent bursts of energy in the second half of the period but failed to extend their lead. But the Hurricanes found yet...

Gm23 Vs. Det: Just like old times, Canes win and surge in front of home crowd with 5-2 win over Wings

The return of (attended) Canes hockey It had been more than a year since the Hurricanes last played on home ice on February 28, 2020, so that was the headline of the game. The 2,924 fans in attendance certainly enjoyed the show, but more so I think the event is another is a step toward the normalcy that everyone craves and a sign that it is moving closer. As far as headlines and hockey sugar, the game delivered. Andrei Svechnikov and older brother Evgeny Svechnikov facing each other in an NHL game for the first time made for a great game preview highlight with Jordan Staal versus Marc Staal continuing a more familiar run of sibling match ups. The Canes sprinting ahead with two early third period goals and adding an empty-netter to seal the win late made for an eventful third period and fun win. And a simple surge that pointed at the scoreboard showing the hero of the day was an apropos ending. Add in Brind’Amour’s 100th win as a coach, and the win was a fun one.   The game itself The game itself was ‘meh’ or worse in my book. Playing against a Detroit team that is bottom of the division and missing a couple key players to boot, the Hurricanes mostly ran stride for stride with the Red Wings through two periods in an error prone effort. After mostly playing reasonably clean hockey against Tampa Bay and Florida, the Hurricanes struggled both with defensemen making errors pushing forward and also more generally with rotations/adjustments to help cover. The result was a bunch of odd...

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft as relates to the Hurricanes’ future blue line

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe steps away from the here and now and jumps forward to June the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken will occur. Just like with the previous expansion draft, each team will lose exactly one player after having some exempt because of limited professional experience and others protected. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at the myriad of possibilities for that draft with a focus on the blue line where the Hurricanes are most likely to lose a player.   Rules for protection/exemption Each team will have the ability to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or one goalie and eight skaters of any position. In addition, there are requirements for making available a certain number of players with minimum NHL experience. In addition, players with two or fewer years of professional experience are exempt. On the exemption front, most notable is that Martin Necas does not need to be protected.   Who the Hurricanes would protect and potentially lose Goalie The Hurricanes can only protect one goalie and most also expose one. Best guess is that the Hurricanes will re-sign and protect Petr Mrazek, will part ways with James Reimer to free agency to salary cap space and will expose Alex Nedeljkovic with the hope/expectation that he is not selected and instead becomes a cost-effective #2 goalie. If Nedeljkovic continues to receive regular starts can play as he has for the past couple games things could change, but as of right now, I would not expect Seattle to select him. With each team being able to protect only one goalie, there will...

Assessing Alex Nedeljkovic and broader goalie situation after six starts

The Hurricanes entered the 2020-21 season with goalie prospect Alex Nedeljkovic ready for an audition at the NHL level but also with it unclear if/how that would happen with two veteran goalies on the depth chart above him. When the team took the chance sending him across waivers to reach the taxi squad versus keeping three goalies and the cap hit at the NHL level, the potential was there for Nedeljkovic’s chance never to happen in a Hurricanes uniform. But Nedeljkovic cleared waivers and Petr Mrazek’s injury created the opening for Nedeljkovic to get a run of games at the NHL level. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at Alex Nedeljkovic’s audition through six games.   Evaluation Especially if one considers the first couple games to be a tune up after not playing in a game for nearly a year and with no preseason games to get up to speed, Nedeljkovic has been good so far. Even counting the first two games that were his weakest, Nedeljkovic now sports a 2.30 goals against average and .924 save percentage to go with a 3-2-1 record. If one gives him a pass on three tune up games after a long layoff, Nedeljkovic’s save percentage in his last three starts is .959. Looking at his body of work in total, he has been good overall. Areas to watch for improvement are his ability to close out games in the third period in his first three starts, he struggled a bit late in games. The other area where he has looked to be in a bit over his head has been defending breakaways....

Gm21 @Fla: Canes extra hockey dominance continues with 3-2 overtime win over Panthers

Extra hockey goodness continues As I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended: What is this thing where overtime and shootouts end well seemingly all the time? #Canes — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) March 2, 2021 With Monday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers, the Hurricanes pushed their 2020-21 overtime record to 2-1 on the season. Combined with a perfect 4-0 mark in the shootout, the Hurricanes are an impressive 6-1 in extra hockey so far this season.   Brief recap The game started cautiously with neither team giving up much defensively early and only a handful of shots on net early in the game. But somewhere around the midway point of the first period, the pace picked up. Despite the modest 3-2 final score, there was plenty of action after that. The Hurricanes maybe had the upper hand by a small margin in the first period and were rewarded when Brett Pesce buried a Jake Bean pass on the power play through yet another Jesper Fast screen. The period would end with the Hurricanes holding a 1-0 lead and a slim 12-11 shots on goal advantage. The pace was even better in the second period, and both teams seemed dangerous at times without scoring. What stood out in both of the games versus the Panthers was how both teams could generate decent chances even in the face of decent defense and very few odd man rushes or ‘oops’-generated chances where the goalie had no chance. The result is mostly quality hockey but not a ton of scoring because both teams must earn them. Despite the potential...

Digesting the Tampa Bay Lightning series

On Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes moved on from the four-game set against Tampa Bay and picked up a needed win against the Florida Panthers to get back on track. Even with the shortened 2020-21 NHL schedule there is a lot of hockey yet to be played in the regular season. But a unique chance to square off against the reigning Stanley Cup champions offered a great evaluation point deep enough into the season to have meaning. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers the series and what it means for the 2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes from a few angles.   Are the Hurricanes at the same level? Based on the results of the series, I would say that the Hurricanes are either at that level or close. Tampa Bay deserves credit for winning three out of four and has a rightful claim to being the better team even if maybe only by a modest margin. Results do matter. If I work through the games, the Hurricanes were the better team by a wide margin in the first game which they won decisively. I thought Tampa Bay deserved their game 2 win even if only by a slight margin and were dominant in game 3. Despite the loss, I thought the Hurricanes were better in game 4. When I net it out, the series was pretty even, but I do give the edge to Tampa Bay based on results. At a bare minimum, I think it is fair to say that the Hurricanes can hang with the Lightning in a long NHL series if they play well.   Did the series uncover...

Gm19 @Tam: Canes deserve better fate in 3-1 loss to the Lightning

Shortly after the Hurricanes game ended, I said on Twitter: Disappointing result obviously, but that really was the game @Canes needed to play after 2 losses. They were better team (by modest margin)…Couple posts and the odd deflection off McGinn's stick for bar in game-winner from wide angle. Mostly shrug and move on. — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) February 26, 2021 As much as a third straight loss stings, I think this one clearly falls into the category where you just have to shrug and move on. Either of the Canes two posts could have changed things. And after seeing the replay, what looked like a great shot on the game-winner was more so a fluky deflection off a Canes’ stick that then went bar in. And more significant than the ‘bad bounces’ assertion, the Hurricanes were just the better team. It was not by a dominant margin, but as measured by scoring chances, offensive zone time or most anything else significant (except the scoreboard), the Hurricanes were the better team. My watch points looked for improvement in two broad areas. First, I wanted to see a response and push back by the Hurricanes after being outplayed by a wide margin the night before. The Hurricanes easily met this challenge. The team came out playing fast and aggressive and controlled play in the first period. The Canes hemmed the Lightning in their own end for stretches, earned some good chances from it (one of best was Svechnikov’s near miss off the bar) and gave the Lightning very little. The Hurricanes were not as dominant in the latter two periods,...
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