First to be clear, the point of today’s Daily Cup of Joe is not to suggest that the current state of the Carolina Hurricanes and the team’s season is positive. It is not.
But amidst the current trials and tribulations, there are legitimate positives. Taking a break from the day to day of the currently sinking 2018-19 season, today’s Daily Cup of Joe points out five positives.
1) Sebastian Aho
Thus far, his season has been about all you can ask. His point per game pace is a tiny bit short of the league leaders, but Aho has been swimming upstream on a team with a bottom tier power play and general inability to score. In addition, arguably the harder part of the transition on the defensive side of the puck has mostly been a non-story. By no means has he been perfect defensively, but he has not looked to be in over his head either. For whatever issues the team has with forward scoring depth, Aho has established himself as a legitimate first line center.
2) The goaltending
Had you told me in October that the team’s goaltending would be a strength in late December, I would have been ecstatic and probably also jumped to the conclusion that the team would be right in the thick of the playoff chase. In the category of ‘finding new ways to lose’, the culprit right now is the team’s inability to score.
Looking forward to 2019-20, I will be shocked if Scott Darling’s rough tenure with the Hurricanes does not end with a buyout in June, but what happens with Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney will be interesting. Both are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this summer. If the Hurricanes season continues on its current trajectory which is to be out of playoff contention by the trade deadline, either or both goalies could have decent value at the trade deadline especially if a Cup contender or two encounters goalie injuries. But the Hurricanes also need to find two goalies to man the nets for the 2019-20 season. If he continues to play well, Mrazek would figure to be the one more likely to stay simply because of his age. (Mrazek is 26 years old versus 35 for McElhinney.) But it would not be out of the question for the team simply to retain and re-sign both. I would not make a long-term commitment based on half of a season, but given the unlikelihood of luring a high-end free agent without overpaying, maybe a short-term commitment to the tandem is the best possible.
Regardless of if the team collects value x2 at the trade deadline or considers extending either goalie, the situation is clearly a positive right now which is refreshing.
3) Though imperfect, the foundation is strong for the blue line
I have a half-written article on the pros and cons of the Hurricanes defense. On the positive side of the ledger, the group has been decent or better defensively and in my opinion has been trending upward defensively which has contributed to the goalies’ success. And with Fleury as a #7 and van Riemsdyk and even a slumping Hamilton as a third pairing, the group is among the deepest in the NHL. In addition, the fact that the veterans are all under contract at least through the 2019-20 and longer for many makes for stability and the ability to focus on the forward position in terms of transactions and budget. That makes for a solid foundation. The inability of Hamilton to settle in with the Canes and the somewhat related lack of scoring from the blue line do present offsetting negatives. But the starting point of being decent or better defensively and having capable depth on the current roster is a workable foundation looking forward.
4) The team is incredibly young
Hurricanes fans know by now that upside and young players is not automatically realized nor is there a guaranteed time line for it. But young players do have the ability to grow, become better and take on bigger roles. The current roster features 10 player who are 24 years old or younger. What’s more, many of the youth are players who are already leading or are expected to lead the next step upward.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of these four positives will have the greatest impact on the team going forward?
2) Who has more positives to add?
3) With two potentially marketable impending free agent goalies, what would you do if the Hurricanes are out of the playoff hunt come February? Is one or both part of the solution at least short-term such that the team should re-sign one or both? Do you collect what you can in trade assets and start anew this summer? Or…?
1. It has to be Aho and the team’s youth. The other two positives are sunject to change even before this season is over.
2. Only almost tongue-in-cheek, but come the trade deadline each of our 5 primary UFAs (JW, Martinook, Ferland, and the goalies) will be valuable trade pieces as rentals and we should get a good return. 😛
3. Regardless of whether the Canes are buyers or sellers at the deadline, what makes you think it will be re-sign either Mrazek or Mac. Both know that based on their performances this year (so far, at least) they will both find considerable interest in their services as FAs. Mrazek is showing he can be a starter – his goal in signing with the Canes; and Mac continues to show a high level of competency as either a backup or even a 1B. I don’t think re-signing either will be a simple matter – there is nothing making the Canes the place to be for either – and I would expect both will do the smart thing and decide to test the market as UFAs. At that point do you decide to trade them?, or compete with other teams in the summer to sign them. I think you have to trade them. Time will tell, but I expect we will have a totally different goalie tandem next season.
On #2 – I’d trade anyone at this point I got a solid offer for (save a handful of players). I guess EDM isn’t really a partner anymore, but it shows you how tough it is to get anything done.
On #3, I pick who I want to re-sign – definitely Mrazek if he gives me another 4-6 weeks of this and maybe Mac, too – and attempt to get a deal done by end of January. If that doesn’t happen, or if I get a great offer sooner, I trade them. Now that we’ve seen them both play for a while, my sense of it is that we’re not going to do much better on a risk-reward basis with anyone else until Ned/Booth is ready. Of course it all depends on price, but I think Mrazek gets a Carter Hutton-type deal for 3-yrs and Mac would probably be thrilled with a nice raise for another 1-yr deal. That seems fair and affordable.
(sorry, feeling especially tongue in cheek today)
1. Aho’s success is a double edged sword. I doubt he has much desire to stay in the hot mess that is the Hurricanes and may choose to negotiate his way out of town, and I don’t know if TD wants to pay any player more than he absolutely positively has to. But I’m sure the team can trade his negotiating rights to another team for up to 3 6th round picks.
2. The goalie tandem is good, but is entirely subject to trade deadline bate. given the management’s excellent record with trades we can expect no more than a 6th round pick in 2028 for either.
3. The team is #12 for Goals Against (2.87) so the D is doing a decent job, I would say top 10 is the expectation for the quality of D men signed, so I claim it is short of expectation, especially for the over investment that happened. at least we can collect a few exrra6th round picks when we trade them away, boy those 6th round picks often develop into something.
4. We’ve seen what happened to our promising youth in years past and recently. Many will realize their potential; more often than not with the Canes. But the canes have developed a talent for turning lower round pikcs into serviceable players, if they can hone their 6th round pick prowess the future is bright.
I would add all the pending UfAs on the team, that can yield 3 or 4 extra 6th round picks and TD can start saving some money to offer Forslund a new contract that it at least 2 dollars over minimum wage, though he probably claims that the idea of a play by play voice is outdated, and that today’s games should be streamed without an unnecessary (and expensive) team of analysts yapping away. Better yet, replace the annoying play by play call with something enlightening and helpful, like inframertials about the benefits of having clean water in your home.
While all 4 of the positives you mentioned are important, Matt, I can’t begin to say which is stronger than the others. I would qualify my support of Fishy as a positive. The TAF or FAT line is a force. Roddy’s experiments with Turbo playing apart from Fishy showed how much they feed off each other. Apart, they were not good. And even together, they weren’t quite the same after Ferland was injured. I am reminded of the separation of E. Staal from E. Cole. Disaster. Edmonton brought in Lucic to work with McDavid. While Lucic was and is providing protection for his teammates (he would look so much better in red), he didn’t keep up with McDavid’s speed. Patrick Maroon did better. McDavid asked that management keep Maroon on his line. Instead, they let Maroon go. Management is still trying to figure out what’s wrong with their top line.
I must still disagree with the myth being promoted about our “defensive depth”. We have a decent top six. It would be better if we paired Dougie with a big strong stay-at-home defender with a jagged edge to his game. TVR Would make a great number 7. I can’t see how Fleury could factor into any team’s depth calculations. He is not of NHL calibre.
I am doubtful of our ability to hold onto either of our keepers. The free agent market will be much too inflationary. I would get what I can at the deadline for both if one or both are unsigned to new contracts.
1. The defense. Aho’s impact has already been realized and IMO his performance will continue at a high level. I selected the defense because I think moving one or two of them (trading) will help strengthen other areas of need and will facilitate the signing of Fox who should become another Karlsson on defense.
2. We need to start signing our free agents which means getting serious and opening up the checkbook for those who really have value (Martinook, Mrazek, Ferland, etc.). We must develop a core and then add to it, not continue to be the URent of the NHL.
On a more realistic note 😉 the best thing about this team is not this year but the potential for next season.
We’ve all said this year after year, but I think this year is different.
Adam Gold has a good piece on this:
We have the seeds of an acceptable top line with Aho, TT/Ferland (though all 3 players are up for contract negotiations). Aho must be kept and I’d say at least one of TT/Ferland. Adam Gold thinks Ferland is the piece to keep, TT to be traded if he is not willing to sign a 5m per year, I’d say 5.5M.
Svech is going to be a star in this league and he’s got two years left on his ELC.
Good thing we didn’t sign Zdina, so far he’s a massive disappointment for the Wings (then again, he’s a young kid, he can turn it around).
Necas has shown flashes of potential and I think he should be given another look in the NHL. I am not as convinced as Gold that he is a bonified top center, but he’s work hard in Clt, his playis coming together and we can hope. We can’t always think of the future, I think he needs to learn on the job this year to be able to contribute next year, not play in the lower leagues just to push his ELC out another year. The kids need at least half a season to figure out the NHL. I don’t care about the extension draft. This team needs to win now or face irrelevance, relocation and all that jazz.
We have the top team in the AHL. Though it doesn’t necessarily count for that much there is potential there, playeres in the system, players coming in with some swagger and winning attitude, what really ales the Canes more than anything else is the culture of losing, or finding losing acceptable, that lack of compete, fire and swagger that you ssaw in the 05/06 season, 09/10 season and in other winning teams.
We have found a goalie duo that could carry the team for a year or two (again pending negotiations). I think the team should try to sign them, at least one, but they must see evidence that management wants to turn this team’s fortunes around next year.
The team has excess depth on D.
There are UFAs that can be traded for futures.
If we can trade Jordan Staal to a cup contender with top scoring we could get a decent return and we have Walmark/Bishop that are stepping up and filling the void, and Roy with a potential to do so, Walmark has played very well as a defensive forward.
TD/ownership have hopefully learned from the mistakes that were made last summer and they really have a chance at wiping the slate clean, fit the desireable pieces into the picture and obtains assets and picks for other pieces.
I have very little confidence in the management but this is their year to prove me wrong.
I still honestly advocate for tanking this year and trying to grab one of the impact players in the draft. As much as I enjoy individual Ws I hate seeing the team string together 5 or 6 wins in March when the season is meaningless, only to drop in the draft pick standings.
This has been offset a little by the new draft lottery rules, which I think are better, because they discourage tanking to some extent, but statistically the chances are good at picking high if you finish low.
This team is not going to play at 10 games over .500 in the second half which is what it would take to make the playoffs, let’s just be realistic about it and start preparing for next season. Do the auditions, figure out what fit and maximize returns for what doesn’t.
This is TD’s chance to show he’s not cheap, he’s not in it to make money when he sells the team, he can build a winning sports franchise.
His track record to me does not show that, but he’s a rookie and maybe this is the time he needed to figure out what he bought himself.
This is his chance.