Please bear with us (or help us if you have not yet) make a final push to try to gather as much feedback as possible to plan for 20171-18. If you have already completed the survey, thanks! If not, please help us by taking a reader survey (will be shutting it down soon) and considering a modest financial contribution for our ‘coffee fund.’
The ‘player report’ card series that kicked off on Monday has featured a run of four Canes top 9 forwards – Victor Rask, Teuvo Teravainen, Elias Lindholm and Lee Stempniak.
Today you can find Lee Stempniak’s 2016-17 ‘report card’ article here with links to the previous three.
In addition, the Thursday Coffee Shop features polls and discussion questions on the same four players and how the Hurricanes fill their top 9 for the 2017-18 season.
My Hurricanes forward math
My Hurricanes forward math puts Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho in a top tier.
It also hopes that Francis adds one proven top 6 scoring forward, ideally a center.
That leaves the group of Rask, Lindholm, Teravainen and Stempniak ideally filling important roles in the middle of the Hurricanes forward ranks. It also leaves the Hurricanes still looking for one more top 9 forward possibly from a depth forward or prospect already in the system.
Needed: All four to at least match 2016-17
With only seven proven top 9 forwards on the roster right now, there are already gaps to be filled either by players like McGinn, Ryan or Di Giuseppe stepping up or a young player like Gauthier, Roy, Saarela or Kuokkanen bursting onto the NHL scene early. But with the lack of certainty in these either somewhat or even completely unproven options, it is critical that Rask, Lindholm, Teravainen and Stempniak at least play at a serviceable top 9 level and not create even more holes. That seems like a very reasonable hope given that the group did exactly that in 2016-17.
Wanted: One or two to find a higher gear in 2017-18
With Staal in the mix as a good but scoring-lite top 6 forward and only three other players (and that is only IF Francis successfully makes a big addition), the Hurricanes really need a couple more higher-end scorers ideally in a 60-point kind of range.
As the Hurricanes learned this year, it is challenging to score enough relying solely on balance. The Hurricanes had seven forwards reach 40 points which is impressive, but even still the team finished 20th out of 30 teams in scoring. While there is room for improvement if the Hurricanes build more of a scoring-capable fourth line and get a few more goals from the blue line, the team could also benefit from one or two more top-end scorers in a 60-point and/or 25-30 goal range.
Though it is doubtful that all four will suddenly find that higher level, I think each is capable individually if he can find the right situation. Rask played at about a 60-point pace in the first half of the season. Lindholm did in the second half. Teravainen has shown flashes of having enough offensive ability and skill to do so.
What does it take?
For Elias Lindholm, it might just be as simple as picking up where he left off at the end of the 2016-17 season. He was playing at a 60-point pace, but I think one could make a case that he could have upside from there. If he can ever find some combination of puck luck and a more accurate shot in close, he has goal-scoring upside from the 11 goals he netted in 2016-17. If you downgrade Lindholm’s second half a little bit to allow for some kind of slow stretch but add in a few more goals, 60 points does on seem out of the question.
Victor Rask might be a bit more of a stretch, but he played at a 60-point pace for the first half of the season. For Rask, it might be as simple as decreasing the length and severity of the lull that has hit him at the midpoint of multiple seasons.
For Teuvo Teravainen, it might must be a bit more experience and maturity that increases game by game consistency. He seems to clear have enough skill and different offensive tools in his bag to consider 60 points. It is a matter of playing at a higher level more consistently.
Lee Stempniak represents solid depth scoring but might be the biggest stretch for 60 points. He is 34 years old and has never reached that level. To do so would probably require him to be a complementary player on a high-end scoring line. In his role and at his salary, mid-40-point depth scoring is probably the target.
The bigger discussion on similar topics is in the Thursday Coffee Shop, but for those who want to chime in here, how much are you banking on Lindholm picking up where he left off?
Do you see any of the other three taking a big step up in terms of scoring production?