The 2020 NHL Playoffs will represent a fresh start for players across the league in a few ways. First, after a long layoff the games will present the same challenge to get up to speed quickly like at the beginning of the season but with much higher stakes. In addition, for players whose 2019-20 campaign was not going as desired, the August playoffs represent a chance to start anew after an extended reset.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at a few Canes players who could benefit from the reset.
After bursting on the scene in 2018-19 after being acquired via trade and playing a significant role in the team’s playoff push, Nino Niederreiter had mostly struggled to find his way in 2019-20. For a player whose strength can be his ability to produce offensively, 11 goals and 29 points for a 35-point pace for an 82-game season was underwhelming. Possibly trying to do too much, Niederreiter also accumulated 42 penalty minutes with too many of the unnecessary variety. Can some time off and a fresh start be just what the doctor ordered to get Niederreiter on track?
After consecutive 20-goal seasons before joining the Hurricanes, Ryan Dzingel has struggled at least in terms of potting goals a pace that would yield 10 goals over a full 82-game season. Dzingel has had some nice playmaking plays setting up line mates on the way to 29 points in 64 games and has contributed in other ways, but like Niederreiter, Dzingel should have a higher gear in terms of goal scoring. He will get a chance to try to boot it up for the playoffs.
Put bluntly, Jake Gardiner struggled mightily trying to acclimate to a new team and a new role with the Hurricanes. He is one player with upside over his regular season performance who probably did not need the reset. His game had been better once the calendar flipped to 2020. On a team where the majority of the regulars are plus players because the Canes were generally winning at even strength, Gardiner’s minus 24 stands out. I get that plus/minus is imperfect but when you have commonality of the same team and a sample size that is the majority of the season, being minus 17 worse than the next worst defenseman is not random. The eye test also suggests that he earned it. But he was playing better in 2020, and the playoffs represent the chance to show that he just needed some time to settle in and adjust.
Trocheck logged only seven games after being acquired from Florida and did not look bad. But at the same time, for a player who figured to slot as a second threat at center offensively, Trocheck’s start was slow on the score sheet. August represents a chance to make a bigger contribution at a time when the stakes are much higher.
Jordan Staal’s primary strength has never been his scoring ability, but to match or better other teams’ top players is not possibly 100 percent by shutting them down. There must also be some scoring. In recent years Staal consistently played at a mid-40s scoring pace but was on pace for only 33 points when the season was abruptly halted. Maybe more significantly, he just did not look as dominant in his normal shutdown role. He looked a half step slow at times and that seemed to manifest itself in uncharacteristic obstruction type penalties. But Staal historically gets stronger when others are wearing down. With everyone entering the playoffs fresh, can Staal still find that higher gear for the playoffs and be exactly the type of rugged two-way center that a team needs to advance in the playoffs?
What say you Canes fans?
1) Would you include any other players who could benefit from the restart to reach a higher gear?
2) Of the players listed, which do you expect to find that higher gear in the playoffs?
1) Not sure any Cane not on the first line will have more than 2-3 points against the Rangers. Whether it is Lundqvist or Shestyorkin, I don’t expect a lot of goals.
2) Staal. He seems to thrive, probably due to style, in these situations.
3) I may be the most in need of a fresh start. The situation with Forslund following the still undecided Checkers move soured me on the organization. Being in CT I usually attend one or two games either in the northeast or when I am visiting family in Raleigh. So almost all my “game-day experiences” are with broadcasts. My son and I have been going to all four Charlotte games in Hartford for the past three seasons. Since the Rangers affiliate doesn’t play Chicago, if the move happens, then my connection with prospects is gone. Though I am not in NC, the moves have changed my relationship with the Canes. Watching some Aho/TT magic, or Svech power moves should be a fresh start for my Caniac status.
Your 3) is solid. Add the way Kaiton was treated and how RF’s was handled (here’s a promotion, now go work from home, now bye). Dundon is a business owner who doesn’t understand value.
1. I am not sure. I think McGinn might be one – he didn’t have his edge for much of the season.
2. Of the lot, I think Dzingel is one. He never caught onto the system – hopefully he has had a chance to reflect on that and comes back with a different perspective.
The other is Trocheck – he has moments of brilliance in his play, particularly with Necas on his wing, but seemed lost other times. He is good enough to get it – I expect bigger and better things with him.
I don’t expect to see a big change in Nino – he showed us his best when he got his second chance last season after leaving the Wild. Now he’s complacent – the same Nino that the Wild traded to us.
Gardiner did not need the break – he was playing his best hockey after a disappointing start. I am concerned the break will reset him back to his game at the beginning of the season.
Staal’s game is made for heavy playoff hockey and I expect he will rise to that. But I don’t expect an offensive surge, and I am curious to see if his game is still as slow as it was earlier in the season; he consistently seemed a half-stride slow.