Entering the offseason, the Carolina Hurricanes seemingly needed to improve. The yearly refrain of needing better netminding definitely applied. At least part of the goals against equation was a blue line that was still hanging on potential but had yet to really materialize into a solid defense. And having finished 23rd in goals scored, the team also needed to find more offensive production.
With trade rumors still occasionally swirling around Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, the offseason is far but complete, but I still figured it would be interesting to check in on the three offseason objectives and do a bit of a deeper dive on goal scoring at a simple math level.
In net, the team has opted to roll the dice and hope for a rebound. Scott Darling returns after a rough 2017-18 season, and Cam Ward was replaced by another rebound hopeful in Petr Mrazek.
Potentially helping the goaltending, the team has made significant upgrades to a defense that never materialized. The addition of Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan basically adds a top 4 defense pairing. Right now, I identify two sources for optimism. First is the hope that the improved blue line can lift the team across the board. Second is the potential for high-end youth to rise up rapidly.
The rest of today’s Daily Cup of Joe will do simple 2017-18 to 2018-19 math to consider the potential for more goal scoring. At a basic level, the greatest source of more scoring thus far probably comes from rookies including Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Warren Foegele and possibly others.
Players who carry forward
In total, 12 of 18 skaters carry forward from year to year. Right now, the blue line returns five in Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury. The forwards return eight in Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal, Brock McGinn, Jeff Skinner, Justin Williams, Victor Rask and Phil Di Giuseppe.
If you simply assume the same production from the returning group on average, you are two-thirds through the lineup at even with 2017-18 scoring.
NHL for NHL player swaps
The team has also added two blue liners in Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan. As of right now with Justin Faulk still in tow, they would replace Noah Hanifin and Klas Dahlbeck. Those changes net an additional seven goals.
At forward, the team has added Micheal Ferland and Jordan Martinook who replaced Elias Lindholm and Marcus Kruger (the players that they were traded for). Here the Hurricanes added another 10 goals.
So comparing player for player through 16 out of 18 skater slots, the Hurricanes are up an impressive 17 goals.
If one simply picks the two highest scorers from the departed players, the next two players to go are Derek Ryan who scored 15 goals and Lee Stempniak who scored three.
Given the current roster, one would figure the two openings left by Ryan and Stempniak would be filled by rookies with the front runners being Martin Necas, Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele and Lucas Wallmark. As first year NHLers, one would reasonably expect some inconsistency and ups and downs, but by sheer talent alone, 18 goals does not seem like too much of an ask for two talented rookies combined.
If you count two rookies for 15 goals each, the team nets another 12 goals.
Netting it out
So when you tally up the gains, the team gets 7 goals from the blue line, 10 goals from the direct forward swaps and 12 more goals from rookies stepping in for depth forwards. The total is an impressive increase of 29 goals.
Adding 29 goals to the Hurricanes’ 20171-18 total vaults the team from 23rd to 11th in total scoring which would be significant progress.
But what about the trade wild card?
But the current math still includes Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk who are both rumored to be on the trading block. If both players departed, the team would lose 32 goals. The team would automatically get some of those goals back just by swapping anyone into the two open roster spots. But rookies or replacement level players would not recoup all of the 32 goals lost.
My math says that the team must return one proven NHL scorer in the 20 goal range if Skinner departs. In doing that, the team would still be minus some goal scoring but would still improve to about the league average. That would put the ball on the tee for an upward surprise if the improved blue line just boosted everyone or if even just one of the young guns emerged ahead of schedule as an NHL scorer.
What say you Canes fans?
1) With the current roster, do you think a 25-30 goal increase is within reach as the simple math suggests? Or is that overstating the gains?
2) What do you think is a reasonable and an upside target for goals for the rookies who could push into the lineup?
3) Do you think it is possible to still make the math work if Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk both depart without returning a higher-end scorer?