End of offseason / Beginning of new season coffee drive
First, a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to Canes and Coffee in the past. Your generosity is greatly appreciated, and the site would not exist without your support.
With preseason underway, Canes and Coffee is officially starting its fourth year covering Carolina Hurricanes hockey. The site runs on a lean budget and is founded based on a love of our hockey team, but there are still bills and expenses.
If you appreciated daily coverage to help get through the long offseason, please consider contributing $4 to a buy a cup of coffee as a thank you. If you are looking forward to another full season of daily Canes coverage, please consider contributing $4 to buy a cup of coffee to help fuel what lies ahead. Tips are welcome too. ?
A couple-part season preview will hopefully kick off sometimes on Tuesday. But in the meantime, today’s Daily Cup of Joe is part 1 of 2 detailing watch points for the entire roster.
Sebastian Aho (early goal scoring)
The second half of preseason was encouraging, but he is still one to watch out of the gate. In both of his first two years in the NHL, he started incredibly slow in terms of goal scoring. He did not score a goal until his 16th game (November 13) in 2017-18 after not scoring until his 14th game (November 12) in 2016-17. Having Aho scoring goals before mid-November would be helpful for a team that needs to get off to a faster start.
Justin Faulk (a defensive rebound)
I will be watching to see if a fresh start and a higher-end partner can help Faulk re-find the defensive side of his game. He looked more aggressive and generally better in preseason, though when Nashville dialed up the pressure, Faulk’s challenges advancing the puck from deep in his own zone reemerged. So early in the season, I will be watching to see if Faulk can better handle pressure and more generally to see if he can find a higher gear defensively.
Micheal Ferland (top 6 scoring capability)
Is he a player that can offer top 6 type scoring? Or is he just another physical depth forward? The Hurricanes have other options for the latter but could desperately use another higher-end goal scorer. So early in the season, I will be watching to get a read on which he is and also checking to see if he can find chemistry with line mates such that the scoring comes.
Haydn Fleury (another step up from 2017-18)
The big question for Fleury is whether he can take another significant step forward. On a positive note, Fleury stepped into the NHL as a rookie and straight into a top 4 role and did not look wildly out of place doing so. On a negative note, he peaked at ‘serviceable’ and reasonably sound. He brought nothing offensively and mostly was just capable of avoiding big mistakes in 2017-18. But he was also a 21-year old rookie, so it is reasonable to think Fleury could take another step forward yet development-wise. His strong play in training camp suggests that is possible. So I will be watching to see if Fleury can find a higher gear in his second NHL season.
Warren Foegele (fewer penalties but with same intensity)
He seems to have that Nathan Gerbe-like every shift intensity that the team could use more of. In addition, he has been productive in preseason. But with a never say die style of play, he has been picking up a few too many of what I call Tuomo Ruutu penalties trying to do just a tiny bit too much. I will be watching to see if he can strike a balance whereby he still plays at full tilt all the time, but can clean up his game just a little bit to reduce the penalties.
Petr Mrazek (a push for the #1 role)
I will be watching to see if he can regain starting form and push for the job. Unlike Darling, Mrazek has at one time been a successful number one. (Darling’s successful #1 stints were as an injury fill in for Corey Crawford.) In addition, Mrazek does not have the pressure and/or emotional baggage of a tough 2017-18 season with the Hurricanes. As such, I think Mrazek could have an easier path to building confidence and seizing the job. I will be watching early in the season to see if he can do just that if given the opportunity.
Martin Necas (NHL-readiness)
My watch points for Necas are twofold. First, does he look NHL-ready? Based solely on his preseason play, I am torn on whether his long-term development is best-served by playing in the NHL or AHL. His game is so raw at this early stage of his development that part of me thinks he could benefit from heavy minutes in the AHL with regular film work. But he has enough talent that the potential to learn on the job at the NHL level is there. My hope is that the team assesses this situation on an ongoing basis without bias for the original plan.
Jordan Staal (minutes and ability to maintain same high level of play)
I will be watching to see what he gets for ice time and how he handles it. Staal has been a key player as a top 6 forward, but his ice time has been a normal/modest 18-19 minutes per game. With the team short at the center position and with a lineup filled with youth, I think Brind’Amour will lean heavily on Staal’s line in tight games. Does that mean a number of 22-24-minute nights for Staal? If so, can he handle it and still maintain the same level of play?
Lucas Wallmark (steadiness in second defensive slot)
If he plays in the fourth center slot (Martinook seems to be the other option), I think Wallmark’s level of play will be critical to the team’s success. I see him as filling the exact same role that Rask filled as a second reliable center/line to play behind Staal on the road. So I will be watching to see if he can be steady and sound even if unspectacular.
Justin Williams (ability to hold his own against league’s best)
My watch point for Williams has to do with his ability at age 36 to play 15-17 minutes per game lining up against the NHL’s best next to Staal. Williams excelled in this role next to Brind’Amour in 2005-06, but he is a dozen years older now. I see two potential issues from watching preseason play. First is that he has had a bit of the same issue that plagues Faulk which is sometimes lacking acceleration in his own end such that he is forced to pass before ready, under duress or a greater distance which increases the risk. Against the type of players he will see playing next to Staal, turnovers in bad places will very quickly end up in the Hurricanes net. So I will be watching for early confirmation that Williams can still perform in this type of role.
Valentin Zykov (line mates and production)
I actually was not sold on Zykov sticking with Aho/Teravainen heading into training camp. But the more I watch him the more I think the sheer simplicity of his game could be a good fit. Most notable are his ability to play and be productive without touching the puck much and also his ability to wreak havoc at the top of the crease. I will be watching where he lands in the lineup and his production.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of these player watch points would you consider most critical out of the gate to start the season?
2) Would you add other watch points for this list of players?
1) Aho and Zykov.
Aho because he is the one player the Canes have who can take over a game (at least until Scechvikov lives up to his pedigree). It will be great if he comes out of the gate and scores–35 goals would then be a reasonable year. However, even if he goes for 0-for-October again, playing as a center he can create offense–think about the third period of the opening game last season. If Aho records something like 4 goals and 9 assists in the 12 October games, the Canes will be heading into November with high hopes.
Zykov because his success will mean Aho is putting up points at center and the power play is better than last year.
2) Can Staal, Williams, and Wallmark provide offense. Staal and Williams were dangerous in the Nashville game. If they continue that, then concerns about Staal’s minutes and Williams’ age will be answered.
While Staal is counted on for defense, one of the best ways to neutralize opposing teams’ top lines is to make them work hard in front of their goalie.
For Williams, the minute or so break after a goal will go a long way to keeping him fresh (I am only being slightly sarcastic).
The ability to threaten other teams by scoring on them was absent from last year’s fourth line. Wallmark and his line mates, whoever they are, need to contribute. It is easier to play serviceably when once you stop the opposition’s progress you can turn it around. The preseason demonstrated that the 2019-19 Hurricanes are going to be an attacking team. Every line needs to contribute.
I had a big concern watching that Nashville game and watching Staal + Williams. My fear is that Brindamour wants this to be the 06 Brindy + Williams 2nd line combo. Big problem Staal can’t score half the amount Brindy could and Williams can’t score half the amount younger Williams can. If these two are the 1st and 2nd best players on the Canes 2nd line this season MY GOD this team is going to suck and struggle to score goals.
I love those two and they’re integral to the success of the team but if they are anchoring a 2nd line – think about what you’re asking of top 6 scoring to have an elite shutdown center and a 40-50 pt ideal 3rd liner as your secondary scoring? Toronto is going to toss out Auston Matthews on their 2nd scoring line T_T
In the perfect world that group is only a 2nd line because somehow they play with a winger that makes the line better (Aho? Terevainen? Svechnikov in 2 years?) but with McGinn or Ferland or whoever that really becomes a 2nd line that should be a 3rd line and is going to lead to a lot of scoring problems.
For most cup contending teams Justin Williams is for sure a 3rd liner and Jordan Staal probably is as well.
1. All of the things you have pointed you are going to be important on a player by player basis. I will also be looking at whether our players can make the new high-risk high-reward style of play successful, that they continue to go to the net on offense (IMO the only reason they scored so well in the preseason), and the defensemen remain aggressive and join in on the offensive side of the puck.
2. Steady confidence building (for the rest of the team) goaltending by both goalies. They must make the one or two WOW saves a game on a regular basis and not just the routine saves.
I have been very impressed by Ferland – not just for the way he hits but by his presence. Watch him on the pre-game skates. He is a man on a mission and is focussed.
Fleury also impresses me – he got the message and dropped 15 pounds. He looks comfortable and relaxed in ways he didn’t last season. That will improve his game to no end.
I have no issue with Mrazek claiming 1A or even 1, if that is how it falls. Darling’s injury may open the door for him to start the season (Darling wasn’t on ice this morning).
I admit I have not been a big of Williams and his game, to me, seems to be in significant decline. I really do wonder if he has what it takes to play at the level necessary to succeed against the best lines in the league.
Wallmark is on the ice again with Martinook and Svech on his wings. With the offensive-minded Svech and Martinook’s ability to finish around the net this is not your typical D-first 4th line. RBA has to have the confidence to give these 3 more 5×5 time. They can be very good as a balanced line.
Out of this group Necas gives me the greatest concern, for the immediate future! Long term I have a good deal of hope he will be very good. His speed and skating are good-to-great, But…he has to put everything together still? After the first few days /games…we’ll see if he can play WELL, at this level, or needs more AHL-type sharpening!
This is why I am disappointed that the MGMT TEAM didn’t get another top-6 (or 9 at least) Center! With the defensive depth (8-10) the Canes have to exploit, the WEAK CENTER depth could have (and should have been) addressed!
1). Necas readiness. If RBA is uncomfortable playing him in a close game, it is better to send him to the AHL to play in all situations. He needs time on ice to improve.
2) the situation with Faulk and TVR is a watch point. In the offseason game of +/- moneyball, he sat atop the chart of defenseman and in fact the whole team. He led in +/- by being sound defensively and getting the puck safely out of the d-zone. Although he didn’t play against top lines when we chose the matchups, our opponents chose matchups 50% of the time.
It is odd to have him on the bench. And, he looked bad on his off side. So, how it unfolds will be interesting to watch.
He only had 1 game to audition there. He played extended minutes in Chicago on his off-side and in the top 4 at times. I think with his track record it would be nice to see him given a longer shot. I admit Fleury has looked good this preseason but do I trust him more in the long run of the season that TVR, Faulk or De Haan? Certainly not.
Mrazek starts the season opener – time for him to show what he can do. RBA announced that Darling is out for a couple of weeks
Since they made the team and since no one has really been talking about either one of them, I’d like to add these two players:
McGinn – does he kick his game up another notch and become a 20+ goal-scorer or has he tapped his potential?
PDG – he looked like he’s taken another step forward – especially in his passing – so can he become reliable depth-scoring or contribute to an offensive-minded line?
With all the talk about the youth, let’s not forget that team stability dramatically increases if these two guys take steps forward.
PDG is nothing more than a hard working 13th forward – his preseason stats in which he played many games but had less than 2 pts are telling of his offensive capabilities. He’s no arguable worse than Chad Larose and as Canes fans we should set higher bars for the players we ‘like’ – Mcginn is the Diguiseppe we should all like – works hard but can potentially have 40 pts. ENough with the Gerbes, and Nordstromes, and Diguiseppes who work hard but cant score. Pass.
Good to see the Canes gM move aggressively and claim McElhinney off of the waiver wire from Toronto.
He had an outstanding record as a backup goalie last year and provides another NHL experienced goali option in net.
Of course he was only a backup but he might be as good as or better than any of the UFA options out there last summer.
Can someone please explain to me the vision they have of Fleury being able to continue his development this year as a 7th dman?
In the case of injuries or a trade I see him becoming a regular – but let’s say for a couple months the Canes have this same group, are they REALLY sitting TVR in favour of Fleury? Why in the world would they sign TVR to that 2 year contract if they envisioned him being a 6/7 split dman. HE isn’t Matt Irwin or Yannick Weber – he is a pretty solid top 4 option and an ‘elite’ bottom pair option. Fleury held his HEAD above water last year not much more than that.
What a massive insult and joke if the team ends up sitting TVR for most of the season – I mean why even trade for and re-sign the guy if this is how he is going to be used. Why not just send Fleury to the AHL and let him play 20+ minutes a night? I’m not at all a believer that just because he had a ‘solid’ rookie season there it means he has NOTHING more to gain from playing AHL games.