Chronological Blog List

First impressions on the Discover Central Division competition

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe shares my first impressions (and somewhat updated expectations) for the Canes’ Central Division competition and opens the floor for everyone else to bandy around the same topic. By no means is 2-4 games enough to draw any final conclusions for how a 56-game season will play out, but we do have now seen some real hockey that offers on-ice insight to be considered.   Tampa Bay Lightning I am not sure the limited 2020-21 play offers much insight here. The Lightning smoked a young, Toews-less Blackhawk team twice and has not played since. One thing that continues to stand out about the Lightning is their strong combination of depth but also high-end talent…even without Nikita Kucherov. They should collect as many easy wins as any team in hockey courtesy of an offense that can pile up 4-6 goals quickly some nights. But they also have a trophy-winning defenseman and goalie to go with a decent two-way team such that they can grind out 2-1 wins on occasion if necessary. Adjustment: I still just think the Lightning are built to excel during the regular season collecting more than their share of easy wins but also being built to win ugly when needed.   Florida Panthers Like Tampa Bay, Florida has played only two games with both being against the Blackhawks. The Panthers have been a bit of an enigma for a few years. The Panthers have enough top-end young talent that they could hang with anyone. But some combination of goaltending and depth seemed to hold them back. With Bobrovsky’s struggles in his first season...

Carolina Hurricanes: The NHL’s depth center factory

Here we are only three games into the Hurricanes 2020-21 season and COVID has struck. With a few players officially in COVID protocol and Tuesday’s game canceled, the path forward is uncertain. Anything I have to say about whether the team will play Thursday and the chance that this becomes a longer layoff would just be guessing, so I will instead go a different direction for today’s Daily Cup of Joe. Without preseason games and training camps, the start of the season was the first real read on where former Canes stood in their new organizations. Aside from checking in on the bigger name former Hurricanes, one thing that jumps out at me is how many recent prospects are filling depth roles, especially at the center position, for other teams. Here is a quick rundown.   Nicolas Roy After being traded for Erik Haula before the start of the 2019-20, Roy has settled in nicely as a cap-friendly depth center. He split the 2019-20 season between the NHL and AHL but played well in the playoffs and has started the 2020-21 season at the NHL level in a regular role. His offensive production has been modest thus far potentially limiting his ceiling, but Roy seems to be establishing himself as a bottom 6 center.   Lucas Wallmark After a short stint in Florida after being part of the Vincent Trocheck trade, Wallmark has moved on to Chicago. Reusing a page from the playbook that got him into the NHL when Victor Rask was injured, Wallmark has bumped up to third line center with Jonathan Toews out. With Chicago having...

Gm3 @Nas: Canes ride couple big plays from Svech and better 3rd period to 4-2 win

Those with short memories will wake up on Tuesday morning remembering a fun win that saw the Canes notch four goals courtesy of a couple pretty hockey plays from the team’s stars. While that may be the ending, it is not the full story of the Canes 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Monday night. The first two periods were more like a slog through the mud. In the first period, the Canes mustered only seven shots on net and by my count two decent not great scoring chances. The second period was mostly the same with limited shots on goal and not much for real scoring chances. But then a single good play by Andrei Svechnikov, a laser labeled for the twine from the top of the face-off circle on the power play, staked the Canes to a 1-0 lead late in the second period. As I said on Twitter: And there is difference between old @Canes and new Canes… Game has been largely 'meh' or worse, but this team has high-end players. Svechnikov with bit of help from Aho makes couple big plays such that scoreboard looks different than overall quality of play. — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) January 19, 2021 The Hurricanes gave the goal back only 46 seconds later when Brady Skjei seemed to lose track of the fact that he and Brett Pesce had switched sides. When he drifted to his usual left side, there was no one behind him when a long pass sprung the Predators for a breakaway goal. But courtesy of strong netminding by James Reimer and a single great...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm3 @Nas: Canes seek quick rebound from first loss

Happy Martin Luther King day! If ever there was a time for our country to follow his lead in righting wrongs and doing so in a way that is peaceful and with a goal of making our country better and pulling everyone together, the time is now.   After a sluggish and sloppy 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday that left the Hurricanes with a 1-1 split to start the season, the Hurricanes are now set to play a quick back-to-back set in Nashville against the Predators. Most significant will be just finding a higher gear. The Canes pace was ‘meh’ out of the gate in game 2, and the team’s ability to move the puck from stick to stick was much worse than that. The result was a sloppy game that saw the Canes completely lacking cohesiveness through two periods before an up and down third period that was still not great. Minus Jordan Staal on Saturday and with some tinkering as Brind’Amour tries to find combinations he likes, chemistry across lines possibly also played a role. Seeing how the Hurricanes respond after their first bad outing of the 2020-21 season features heavily in my watch points for tonight’s game.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators 1) Jump and pace Playing fast is not a remedy for all problems, but in general the Hurricanes are usually at their best when they are pushing pace both advancing the puck up the ice and also forechecking aggressively when without the puck. After a sluggish start on Saturday, I will be watching to...

Avoiding contract pitfalls

When people evaluate general managers, the focus is most often on players added and how they have worked out. Less front and center is evaluating moves to either intentionally let players go or players lost unintentionally. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a brief step away from the here and now of the current season and offers a less common but in my opinion important evaluation point for Canes management. Cutting the chase, the returns are early and not final, but the Hurricanes have been incredibly good at making decisions to part ways with players. Consider the track record below since Don Waddell took over as General Manager.   Jeff Skinner Arguably the biggest and most controversial move made in the past couple years was to part ways with Jeff Skinner prior to his contract ending despite getting very little in return because of Skinner’s leverage with a full no-trade clause. Skinner was an elite offensive player pretty much from day one as an 18-year old rookie, but even years later he never really rounded out his game past putting the puck in the net. He was a plus player at even strength by a modest three-goal margin in his rookie season, but in nine seasons since then, his team has never outscored the opponent with him on the ice at even strength. His trade was a controversial one because he was an affable fan favorite and also because the Hurricanes received very little in return for him. As I said on Twitter recently, the win in that trade was avoiding Skinner’s next contract. He hit the ground running...

Gm2 @Det: Sloppy game dooms Canes in 4-2 loss to the Red Wings

After what was mostly a good game in a season-opening win against the Red Wings, the second game of the set was a step backwards for the Hurricanes. The first two periods were rough to say the least. I think the root cause of all that failed the Hurricanes through two periods and in general the game was just sloppiness. The game very much looked like the bad version of a fairly common preseason game where the ability to move the puck from stick to stick just was not there. The result was mostly a disjointed effort to move the puck out of the defensive zone or through the neutral zone with any pace or cohesion.   Skjei/Pesce Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei generally defended okay in their own end, but the two seem to be out of sync in terms of know where to be and how to support each other when the other has the puck. Skjei has multiple times eaten pucks on the boards behind the net in the defensive zone. And Pesce has uncharacteristically been using risky outlets to get the puck moving north/south including a turnover to the middle of the ice on Saturday.   Fleury/Gardiner After a generally solid game on Thursday, Jake Gardiner and Haydn Fleury had a tough night on Saturday. The Red Wings first goal saw both of them sort of in the right place to defend a pass from behind the end line to right between the circles. But both seemed a bit lost in terms of taking away the passing lane to the front of the net that...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm2 @Det: And so IT (COVID season 2020-21) begins

The latest news heading into the second of two games against the Detroit Red Wings is that Jordan Staal is out of the lineup in COVID protocol. Here is hoping that Jordan is healthy and back soon. Every time this happens, it will feel like waiting for the other shoe to drop seeing if the Canes situation goes the same route as the Dallas Stars who are now scheduled to start their season on January 22 after a delay because 17 players tested positive. The most immediate effect of Jordan Staal being out of the lineup will likely be that Morgan Geekie draws into the lineup. Coming out of the 3-0 win over the Red Wings on Thursday, the Hurricanes are mostly looking for more of the same. The game was tight well into it, but I still think the Hurricanes had the upper hand by enough. A bounce here or there, and the score would have been 3-0 earlier in a game in which the Hurricanes out-shot and out-chanced the Red Wings by a significant margin. The biggest thing is collecting the two points, but still early in the season, it is also a good opportunity to continue evaluating the Hurricanes players and combinations. My watch points for Saturday night’s match up follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Detroit Red Wings 1) Top of the lineup The Hurricanes first line of Niederreiter/Aho/Teravainen was very good on Thursday and could easily have collected more points. Aho and Teravainen were great at both ends of the ice, and Niederreiter got his 2020-21 season off to...

First impressions

Piggy-backing on my game recap article, today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers some quick hitter first impressions after the season opener. I generally liked the defense pairings and would push forward with those for some time. Petr Mrazek looked sharp. He was not tested a ton, but seemed to be tracking the puck well and did have to make a couple tricky saves with no margin for error. Jesper Fast reminds me of Joakim Nordstrom in his constant to effort to engage the puck defensively and often run into opponents as part of the process. I continue to think he would fit well next to Staal on a purpose-built checking line. Brady Skjei brings a big hit potential that the Canes do not generally get from the rest of the defense (though Fleury showed some flashes of this late in the 2019-20 season). Though they only collected a lone assist each, I really liked Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen‘s first game. Both played with pace and were decisive in taking nearly every opportunity to get the puck to the front of the net. Vincent Trocheck‘s first game was a mixed bag. By no means was he horrible, but his line was held off the score sheet and did not generate a ton of medium or better chances despite Trocheck’s five shots on net. I continue to think that Jordan Martinook is far more effective on the wing where he can just pin his ears back a bit and bang bodies. I think the team maybe loses more than Brind’Amour realizes with Geekie out of the lineup because Geekie is...

Gm1 @Det: Canes and Petr Mrazek grind out 3-0 win over Detroit to start 2020-21 season

In the team’s 2020-21 season opener, the Hurricanes won by a 3-0 margin that overestimated how safe the game was pretty late into the game but maybe actually matches the level of play. By no means did the Hurricanes have an easy time with the Red Wings. The Wings forecheck created problems intermittently, and aside from Aho’s line, the Canes chances were fairly limited. But in a shortened season where getting points early matters even more, the game was an acceptable start with two points in the standings and a number of positives. Rather than writing a recap, here are thoughts and evaluations of the game in bullet point format. Aho’s line!!! Not  counting the empty-netter by Svechnikov with part of that group on the ice, the trio of Aho, Teravainen and Niederreiter were easily the Canes best. Niederreiter generally had a strong game doing what he needs to do. He did some work winning pucks when he needed to and otherwise spent a ton of time between the face-off circles waiting for the puck to show up. His goal was a pretty one getting the goalie to move a bit and then exploiting the small opening just created. He could have had a hat trick with a couple other chances and a couple other pucks that nearly found him near the crease, but the fact that he was active and did score is a positive first step for the season. Aho and Teravainen who was unusually trigger happy (in a good way) also had strong games.   Little else offensively The downside was that there was little else...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm1 @Det: And so it begins (better late than never)

For those still catching up for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, part 2 of my season preview is HERE. And polls for fan predictions for the 2020-21 season is HERE.   The 2020-21 will start (at least mostly) without fans in attendance, about three months late and with the schedule already shortened by 26 games and with COVID-19 still lurking to shorten even that. But even with the setbacks and uncertainty, I consider it a blessing to have Canes hockey on my TV screen tonight. The game sees the Hurricanes playing a Red Wings team that was the worst in the NHL in 2019-20 by a wide margin. The team made some changes during the off-season but still figures to be in rebuilding. If the Blackhawks continue to be without Jonathan Toews and yesterday’s thrashing at the hands of the Lightning was any indication, racking up points against Chicago and Detroit could be critical to success in the Discover Central Division for the 2020-21 season. And sure enough the Hurricanes get the first two cracks at capitalizing on the expectation that Detroit is still a year or more away. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Detroit Red Wings 1) The lines and their effectiveness Without preseason games to experiment and try different combinations, I think line combinations and defense pairings are likely to be more fluid (not just for Canes; for entire NHL) early in the season as coaches try things and settle on what they like. In his two years as a head coach, Rod Brind’Amour has shown...

Thursday Coffee Shop: 2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes predictions (polls and discussion questions)

Canes hockey is back!!!!! Check out also part 2 of 2 for our Canes season preview HERE. With the start of the 2020-21 season now only hours away, today’s Coffee Shop polls and questions ask for your predictions for the Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 season.   Carolina Hurricanes polls Remember to click ‘vote’ for each individual poll.   In what place will the Hurricanes finish in the regular season? 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th View Results  Loading ...   How far will the Hurricanes advance in the 2021 NHL Playoffs? Will not make the playoffs Will lose in the first round. Will win one round. Will win 2 rounds and emerge from the Central Division Will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Will win the Stanley Cup. View Results  Loading ...   Which (relative) newcomer to the lineup will have the biggest impact? Jake Bean Jesper Fast Morgan Geekie Alex Nedeljkovic Brady Skjei Vincent Trocheck Other (add in comments) View Results  Loading ...   Who will be the Hurricanes 2020-21 most valuable player? Sebastian Aho Dougie Hamilton Petr Mrazek Brett Pesce James Reimer Jaccob Slavin Jordan Staal Andrei Svechnikov Teuvo Teravainen Vincent Trocheck Other (add in comments) View Results  Loading ...   Which player will have the biggest rebound in 2020-21? Ryan Dzingel Jake Gardiner Nino Niederreiter None of the above View Results  Loading ...   Carolina Hurricanes discussion questions   1) What do you predict for the 2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes as a team?   2) Pick a couple players and share your predictions?   3) What is one longshot prediction for the Hurricanes 2020-21 season?  ...

Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 Season Preview: Part 2 of 2 — Predictions and watch points

In case you missed, part 1 of my 2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes season preview had team expectations and key factors for achieving those high expectations. Part 2 makes a few predictions and considers targets for a few of the Canes top players.   Predictions Sebastian Aho Aho has already established himself as a point per game player. He is already a great player and really does not to improve from their to be a bona fide centerpiece for a legitimate first scoring line. …BUT…There is another level yet within reach for Aho who is still only 23 years old. The true top tier for NHL scores is about 20-25 points higher at or slightly above 100 points or a full 82-game season. (That translates to 70 points in 56 games.) I think for Aho to find that next level would require Svechnikov to find his next level and for Svechnikov to spend the majority of the 2020-21 season on the same line and power play unit as Svechnikov. My expectation is that the two will spend a good amount of time apart at least at even strength and that Aho will have to wait another year to play a 100-point pace. Prediction: If he can avoid or minimize the slow starts that have plagued him a bit in the past, I predict that Aho finishes with 60 points.   Dougie Hamilton In my opinion, he was the team’s best offensive player through the first half of the 2019-20 season, and his ability to hang with the team’s top scorers despite being a defenseman showed it. That extra offense, especially the...

Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 Season Preview: Part 1 of 2 — Expectations and keys to achieving them

With teams busy filling rosters and taxi squads, the start of the 2020-21 NHL season will be only hours away when people read this on Wednesday morning. And the Hurricanes season opener will be only a day away. If you missed it on Tuesday, the Hurricanes had an interesting day maneuvering to finalize its opening day roster and taxi squad. In a related set of moves, the Hurricanes added goalie Anton Forsberg off waivers and then placed Alex Nedeljkovic on waivers seemingly to be placed on the taxi squad if he clears waivers. If not, Forsberg appears to be plan B. I wrote about the set of transactions in some detail HERE. Today’s daily post is part 1 of 2 previewing the Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 season.   Goals/expectations If the team fails to make the 2021 NHL Playoffs, the season will be a significant disappointment. Now a couple years deep in at reasonable success under Rod Brind’Amour, that statement is not something that Canes fans should breeze past. The team and its hockey community are only two years removed for nine consecutive playoff misses and some challenging times. To put making the playoffs as a bare minimum starting point says a lot about how far this team has come. The question is how much more is enough. Rod Brind’Amour has been very clear from the beginning that really the only goal is to win the Stanley Cup. With a young team that is good but still with potential upside from within, I think that that goal is in range now. That said, I tend to think of measuring growth...

Anton Forsberg claimed off waivers / Alex Nedeljkovic placed on waivers

Today the Hurricanes announced that they had claimed Anton Forsberg off of waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. Forsberg was with the Canes primarily in the AHL in 2019-20 before signing with the Oilers as a free agent this off-season. In a related move, the Hurricanes placed goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on waivers possibly to be claimed by this time tomorrow effectively making this a trade.   Anton Forsberg Forsberg is a fairly well-known commodity in these parts having spent the 2019-20 season in the Hurricanes organization primarily at the AHL level. He did play three games for the Hurricanes when Reimer and Mrazek were both injured late in the season. Forsberg is 28 years old and has a decent amount of NHL experience with 48 games at the NHL level spanning five seasons. His most significant evaluation point for being an NHL regular or late bloomer as a starter came in 2017-18 when he played 35 games for the Blackhawks. In that season, he posted a modest .908 save percentage with a 2.97 save percentage and was not re-signed by the Blackhawks. Based on his age and track record, I view Forsberg as a high-end #3 goalie. In today’s NHL, teams are increasingly paying a third goalie with NHL experience to have depth and stocking them in the AHL when possible. The challenge is waivers. The Hurricanes obtained Curtis McElhinney in a similar situation. So putting the machinations of NHL waiver/roster/salary cap rules to the side, I like Forsberg as a proven and capable #3 NHL goalie, but importantly I do not think he has much upside from there at...

Where is the ceiling for the Canes big 5 offensively?

As noted in previous articles leading up to the start of the 2020-21 season which is now only two days away for the Hurricanes, the upside for the Hurricanes rests not with off-season additions but rather with young players continue to reach higher levels. In that vein, today’s Daily Cup of Joe asks what the ceiling might be for some of the Canes rising stars.   Sebastian Aho When the 2019-20 season was cut short, Sebastian Aho was only two goals away from reaching 40 with 14 games remaining, and he was on pace for his second point per game season by the age of 22. The most significant number might be that last one — Aho is still only 23 years old and could still have upside. The next step for him would be to truly join the elite players like McDavid, MacKinnon, Draisaitl and maybe a couple others who are the most dominant players in the NHL. That next level is roughly a 100-point pace over 82 games. The difference between where Aho is now and that level is pretty small and could just come down to a faster start. Aho has traditionally started slow and tallied only six points in the 12 games played in October in 2019-20. A full season of Svechnikov on his wing could also help though that seems unlikely to happen.   Andrei Svechnikov This might sound crazy, but I actually think Svechnikov’s ceiling is slightly higher than Aho’s. Whatever small amount he gives up in playmaking, he makes up for by having a couple extra options for finishing as a power...
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