On Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes recalled Finnish forward Saku Maenalanen. The timing is interesting in that there had been recent rumors that Maenalanen might be headed back to Europe. Based on that, one have to wonder if perhaps this is a consequential audition for Maenalanen.
So my jumping off point from there uses today’s Daily Cup of Joe to question the Hurricanes use of the AHL.
The article adds to a busy week of Charlotte Checkers coverage.
On Thursday, the second of two Charlotte Checkers ‘week in review’ type articles with detailed game recaps by Brandon Stanley was posted. You can find the first article covering Thanksgiving week HERE. And you can find the most recent week HERE.
Right now, if there is one thing that the Carolina Hurricanes need, it would be scoring punch.
Canes forward call ups
Based upon that, I have been perplexed by the Hurricanes’ moves with regard to AHL call ups.
=> The choice to call up Maenalanen might be driven by the need to give him an audition or lose him, but at the same time, I question calling up yet another forward whose calling card is two-way play not dynamic scoring.
=> That is in addition to Clark Bishop. Bishop is a good hockey player, and as a fifth-rounder who worked his way up to the NHL level, his story is a great one. But Bishop has exactly zero points in 10 games and makes for yet another line where the center is light on offense relative to his slot/role.
=> Ditto for Warren Foegele. Foegele earned an opening night roster spot by playing phenomenal hockey in preseason. He followed that up with a fast start, but Foegele has now gone 19 games without a point. Foegele’s game in general has been okay, but one has to wonder if the team would be better with more offense in that slot.
=> Meanwhile in Charlotte, the Checkers are winning, and the team is scoring. Yet the Hurricanes have regularly passed on scoring and instead called up a checking line forward. When you do that enough times, the lineup starts to look like run of checking lines that cannot score. So why not Janne Kuokkanen who had a strong preseason and now leads the Checkers in scoring. Aleksi Saarela also fits the bill as a sniper. And if team wanted to go off the chart, they could recall Andrew Poturalski.
Instead matching needs and players
If I were suddenly given the keys to the Canes offices, the first thing I would do is call up Janne Kuokkanen. Past that, I would look to add one more higher ceiling type player to the mix at the NHL level. Aleksi Saarela is potentially the best fit as a pure sniper. In addition, could an AHL center like Andrew Poturalski and/or Greg McKegg ride an adrenaline rush for a burst of scoring? Or could someone like Julien Gauthier suddenly arrive?
What say you Canes fans?
1) Are you surprised with the call ups thus far? If not, what would you change?
2) What do you make of the rumblings about Maenalanen and what that could mean for his upcoming audition?
3) If you could have only one AHL call up right now, who would it be?
1) Not surprised. The Checkers serve two purposes that are somewhat distinct: Develop young players; provide players for emergency call ups. Matt, you have been one of the most vocal critics in the past of the organization not developing players (Lindholm and Hanifin). There are four possible future 20-goal-scorers in Charlotte: Necas, Kuokkanen, Gauthier, Saarela. Those players need to develop. That is what the organization is doing. After the Checkers first weekend many thought Nic Roy had suddenly become a high-scoring center and were clamoring for his call-up. Now I remain critical of how RBA limits the minutes/situations for young players and that applies to Roy. Still, he didn’t register a point in his six games. For me, it makes sense to let the true top talent continue to play in Charlotte until they are the AHL’s version of Pasternak or Marner. If you need another example, think about Lucas Wallmark. He was the top point-per-game player in the AHL last season. I think he is playing really well this season. He is struggling on the scoresheet.
With Kuokkanen much of his success in on the power play–I just don’t see RBA giving him enough PP time.
I want the Canes to turn this season around. But I understand the patience in developing their most valuable assets.
2) Before the rumblings I thought Maenalanen would be the next call up. He hasn’t scored as much as others, but he is skating really well and has the size that the Canes will be missing with Staal out. I understand that Maenalanen is in the AHL because he is not as talented as McGinn and DiGiuseppe, so he should get limited minutes. However, the Canes haven’t scored a 5-on-5 goal in a long time (which is doubly painful considering how the Canes dominated at even strength early in the season). So why not try something unusual. In the 2014 Under 20 World Championships Maenalanen was the top goal scorer. That tournament included Filip Forsberg, Leon Draisaitl, Anthony Mantha, Jonathan Drouin. Maenalanen was on a line with Teuvo Teravainen. I think it past time to try TT/Aho/Svechnikov. But if that isn’t going to happen, then there really is nothing to lose by using Maenalanen with Aho and TT.
How bad are the scoring woes? Despite a league leading 1087 shots for (17% above league average), the Canes are 30th in Goals Scored with 67 (30% below the league average of 87) and have a league worst shooting % of 6.3% (35% below the league average of 9.8%. Over the 8 previous years the team has not set the bar high for any of this statistical categories. Yet somehow this team has managed to be worse in every one of them.
These stats lead to a bigger questions than just utilization of AHL call ups. What is fundamentally wrong with the entire offensive philosophy of the current coaching staff? They have seemingly turned bad to worst.
1) not surprised by call-ups given that we are playing a grinder style now offensively. I am surprised that we switched to a “grinder style” given our success with the “puck possession” style in pre-season and early season, at one point being on top of the league. Since changing to grinder hockey we have been falling. And the games are boring. Note to Tom Dundon: 5-4 games fill the stands and 1-0 games do not.
2) Maenalanen will probably choose to play where it makes the most financial sense for him and his family, and that is not Charlotte.
3) Kuokkanen is a combination play-maker and scorer, so he would be my first call-up… only if we go back to a puck possession style. Bringing him up to chip and chase or dump and chase and bang on the boards wouldn’t help his development as a scorer.
And the beat (on Roddy’s head) goes on. My gosh! Give it a break, guys.
Edmonton fired their coach and hired Hitch. He is doing a lot to improve the team, but changes take time to become evident.
Chicago fired their coach. They replaced him with a young archetypal coach for the “new NHL”. They have continued their slide. They have now only won 3 of their last 20. Wow! There is talk of a losing culture creeping into the Chicago locker room. Should they fire this new coach?
I guess maybe there aren’t any magic answers with coaches. No magic with players. No magic anywhere.
We can recite stats until we are blue in the face. We can forcefully put forth our carefully considered analysis of those stats. But the people who sit on the bench as well as those who stand behind it very stubbornly persist in being human beings.
In the last game we played against the Ducks, we played gamely against a bigger, stronger team. We played them nose to nose and toe to toe. But late in the third, it was obvious to those of us who know what to look for that our heroes were just plain tired. A famous general is credited with having said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” So does pain. The Ducks were dealing out generous portions of both that night. Our heroes finally folded; late in the third.
We sorely miss Michael Ferland. We will miss Jordan Staal. Among other things they bring to each and every game, is physical strength. Jordan also brings size.
Doing constant battle against men of superior size and strength tires out the best conditioned athletes. Our guys are no different. And with the exception of Staal and Hamilton, our guys are average in size. They are also below average in physical strength.
So when Roddy brings up Bishop and Maenalanen, he is looking to replace the size and strength we are missing with Staal and Ferland in the press box.
Now this makes no sense to the fancy stats fanalysts. But to the human men actually out there playing the game I love, absolutely nothing else would make any sense.
For clarity I am not into “fancy stats”, just good old fashioned ones with large sample sizes and credibility. Our shooting % has been as high as 20th in the league only once since 2011-12. Averaging about 26th in the league at about 8.1% (Best was 9% twice in 2013-14 and 2012-13; worst 7.3% in 2014-15) In the last 3 years our shooting percentage is 8.2%. This season our shooting percentage is 6.7%, radically lower than what has been an historically low number. Coincidentally the teams style of play changed noticeably this year. Coaching must be suspect for the team’s reduced ability to score. RBA has never been a head coach at any time in his coaching career. That inexperience must be suspect as well. Given all that I am not trying to get him canned. However, changes in game strategies, would be signs he is learning and growing in this role that is very new to him. Right now, he appears to be doubling down on an ineffective strategy which deserves inspection and criticism.
https://www.prohockeyrumors.com/2018/12/carolina-hurricanes-recall-alex-nedeljkovic.html Interesting outsiders viewpoint on Nedjelkovic.
When it rains, it pours.
Ned appears to be headed to LA to back up Mrazek. The virtual definition of a”long run for a short slide”. IMO, would have been a much better use of Darling’s time. Makes me suspicious we will see Darling back here sooner, rather than later.
I think it’s the opposite. Darling is never coming back. Dundon has to pay an extra NHL salary to bring in Ned.
Ned’s additional 3 day NHL salary is just a little more than his two way airfare from Charlotte to LA. Peanuts in the total salary structure of the Canes. What I read is that playing Darling is more valuable than playing Ned. Ned sits on airplanes twice and the bench once while Darling plays. Ned gets nothing, Darling gets “rehab” time. The win is Darling’s.
I did not know that Maenalanen was threatening to go back to Europe. My guess is that does play a role in the call-up. Not sure if many of you remember that Vellucci healthy-scratched Maenalanen early in the season and publicly said it was because he wasn’t playing hard. I can’t imagine Maenalanen appreciated that. I wouldn’t. Not saying he didn’t deserve the scratch, but ripping players in public should be a last resort, not your first move. Canes may want a last look before they let him go, and if you aren’t planning on giving the call up top-6 minutes, why bring up a Kuakkanen or other player in development?
I am concerned about the change in the Canes style of play. I’m not sure if this is by conscious design of the coaching staff, or just the lack of confidence the players seem to have. Maybe some of both? I agree that a return to the hyper aggressive style of play is a more palatable way to lose than what we have seen lately. If the goalie can’t handle the occasional odd man rush at least you know which position needs an upgrade. The way it looks now they all need to be upgraded!