In case you missed it, after a bunch of trade rumors and rumblings on Friday but not activity through the front part of the day Saturday, the bomb dropped on Saturday afternoon when the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had traded Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to the Calgary Flames for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox.
And on the 2018 NHL Draft itself which fell into the background Saturday afternoon, Canes and Coffee compiled a reading list on #2 overall draft pick Andrei Svechnikov.
Part two has a quick update on multiple other things that follow from Saturday’s trade.
Update on Adam Fox
In doing a few check ins, Adam Fox who is the blue line prospect included in the detail is an interesting situation. The positive is that he is a much higher-end prospect than his third-round draft pedigree would indicate. When one reads articles about him, he sounds like Jake Bean on offensive steroids which is saying something since Bean is a higher-end offensive blue line prospect himself. The negative is that apparently the reason he was available is because he was not going to sign with the Flames. So when you net it out, Fox represents a high risk, high reward addition to the trade. The burning question is what was keeping him from signing with Calgary and is it something that the Canes can remedy? If he just wants to pick where he goes like a free agent, the Hurricanes might be out of luck. But if instead, he just prefers to stay on the East Coast, did not like something about the Flames organization or something else that the Hurricanes can address, he could prove to be a significant addition to the deal.
The next shoe trade-wise
As I said on Twitter shortly after the deal was announced, this trade strongly suggests that Justin Faulk could be the next to go. Dougie Hamilton is a right shot, top 4 defenseman who fits pretty much where Faulk sits on the depth chart right now. With Brett Pesce in tow already, one of Faulk or Hamilton becomes a pricey $6 million third pairing defenseman. What the Hurricanes still need in my opinion is one more capable top 4 defenseman who is left shot. If you couple that with Haydn Fleury and Trevor van Riemsdyk on the third pairing, the team projects to be sounder on the blue line in 2018-19. That in itself is significant, but even more significant could be providing a better situation for a starting goalie (PLEASE already!) to finally emerge. With right shot defenseman being scarce, there should be at least a few trade options for Faulk. He has a no-trade clause which kicks in on Sunday, so I think the odds are reasonably high that he is traded by then.
Culture change in process?
Many, including myself, have talked about the need for a change in attitude, culture and/or whatever else you want to call it. Though it is hard to say exactly what it was, those who watched the Hurricanes 2017-18 season unfold know unmistakably that something at the core of the team was horribly broken.
I think the activity so far is interesting so far in that regard. I do think that changing coaches and putting in place a proven leader whose strength will hopefully be the people side of things more than the Xs and Os could have a sizable effect. But past that is interesting at least so far. The team has already parted ways with a few players in Hanifin, Lindholm and Kruger. And a couple more could leave via free agency. But to me, I think culture and and locker start and mostly end with the leadership. Bringing in an entirely new bottom half of the roster to led the same way by the same top players and captains I think misses the significance of leadership. So while I do think new blood can help with the needed reset and transition, I still think any kind of shakeup that completely misses the leadership both sends a bad message and more importantly runs the risk of doing “Groundhog’s Day.” Per my comments above, my expectation is that Faulk will be traded which would be a step in the direction of changing out at least part of the leadership team. And Skinner’s name continues to make the rounds in the trade mills. Nonetheless, I am watching closely to see that there is actually transition at the leadership level too.
More succinctly, is it possible to effect a true culture change by changing a high volume of lesser players without touching leadership? I am skeptical.
Levels of top 4
In my Twitter comments immediately after the deal was announced, I Tweeted the following:
4/? Two questions emerge…1st question…Is Hamilton capable of anchoring/leading a 1st or 2nd pairing in which is the leader and his partner is maybe the lesser player?
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) June 23, 2018
This comment and additional details in part one raised some questions and interesting conversation.
Fans regularly refer to players by line or defense pairing. We regularly use terminology like second pairing, top 4, third pairing, #4/#5 defenseman, etc. Such terminology is helpful in terms of figuring out what role/level a player is capable of playing at. But to determine success requires another level of detail. All ‘top 4’ defensemen and/or situations are not alike.
I actually think that is where the Hurricanes got into trouble the past few years. Faulk and Sekera had chemistry, and though I am not sure either was the pure form of a top pairing defenseman, the pair played at something at least close to that level. And that duo really did not have a stronger partner who carried/led the pairing. They both played well and seemed to fit well in terms of complementary skill sets, chemistry and being on the same page. While I do think that Faulk’s game has declined significantly on the defensive side of the puck, I think part of his regression was likely due to the fact that he was pressed into a situation where he often needed to be the driver of his pairing and maybe just was not capable or ready. Hanifin is interesting in that regard too. His game clearly has a ways to go defensively, but I wonder if he was playing regularly with a really good #3 defenseman if he would look much better defensively because of it. The effect was huge when Hanifin went from playing next to a revolving door of borderline NHL defensemen in 2016-17 to the steadying presence of Trevor van Riemsdyk in 2017-18.
But getting back to the hear and now of Dougie Hamilton, he was very clearly a top 4 defenseman in Calgary. And in 2017-18, he benefited from the stability of logging the vast majority of his ice time with Mark Giordano who is a solid veteran and a pretty good defenseman in his own right. Indications are that Hamilton was actually the stronger of the two which is encouraging. The questions are to what degree his success depended on Giordano and also to what degree he is capable of playing with a lesser partner and making the pairing successful.
Is Hamilton so good that he can anchor a second pairing as a strong #3 even if his partner (Haydn Fleury?) is more of a #4/#5 defenseman?
Or does Hamilton need at least an equal partner and some chemistry to be successful in a top 4 role?
Or (doubtful) is it possible he really just is a #4 whose level of play is boosted by being in a good situation?
All indications from statistics and reports is that Hamilton is easily in the higher end of this range, but just like I said with Scott Darling last summer, I would not underestimate the ‘transition risk’ that comes with any player joining a new team and stepping into a new role.
The museum thing
Before the ink was even dry on the trade announcement, Calgary’s front office seemingly took to the media to chuck Dougie Hamilton under the bus. Specifics seem to be vague but apparently there was an incident that he passed on an informal team even to instead visit a museum by himself. That seems to be the most direct piece of evidence that is suggesting that the Flames wanted Hamilton gone because of locker room issues.
My thinking is that this is actually something to keep an eye on. On any team, there is a need to sometimes put the team above yourself, participate in stuff even if it is not your preference and generally be part of the group. So whether one wants to participate or not, some are more or less required.
But there are a couple of other angles to this. First is that way things have gone down, it very much smells like Calgary’s brass lacking class, so who knows what exactly their motive is. Second is that there is a balance to being a team but also allowing individuals to be themselves even if it does not fit into a mold. I view it as a captain’s job to help a player strike a right balance between being free to be an individual but still being attached to the group even if not in as deep of a way as others.
Becoming more difficult to play against
One of the legitimate raps on Hurricanes teams of late has been that they just are not tough to play against. The team has been light on sandpaper, grit, physical play and whatever else you want to put into the category of difficult to play against. Today’s NHL does not have a need for old school enforcers who fight well but can barely play the game. But within the boundaries of the rules and in the form of a player who can skate and play, there is an advantage for being difficult to play against. The Hurricanes lacked that, and it was something that new owner Tom Dundon picked up on and commented on quickly. So this summer, the Hurricanes have added two players in Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland who dial up that element of the game.
Interesting to watch Lindholm and Hanifin in a favorable situation
First, let me say that I wish both Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin the best in their career except when they play the Hurricanes. Both have been classy members of the Hurricanes organization and leave on good terms as people.
As players, the next steps for both could be really interesting. Elias Lindholm could potentially slot onto a first line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. As a 23-year old now with five years of NHL experience a decent balanced game, one cannot find much better of a situation for Lindholm to finally break out. By the same token, if he still looks like a 40-45-point player with that duo, even more so it could be time to just admit that Lindholm has peaked as a good depth forward. Hanifin’s situation is a bit less certain.
Similarly, if Hanifin slots into the top 4 next to Travis Hamonic, it would represent another attempt to break into the top 4 and stick there.
What say you Canes fans?
1) How optimistic are you that Adam Fox’ refusal to sign with Calgary is something that the Hurricanes could solve and net a high-end prospect in the process?
2) Do you agree that Justin Faulk is suddenly even more likely to be dealt this week before his no-trade clause kicks in?
3) Where do you think Dougie Hamilton fits in terms of being able to drive success for a top 4 pairing?