Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a random set of Canes notes.
His development in 2020-21 combined with seeing him play reasonably extended runs in different roles has been interesting. I am on record as thinking that his ceiling is highest as a playmaking center, but at the same time I think it also makes sense to just let him keep growing as a wing with a bit less responsibility for the time being.
Playing with Aho, Necas was able to play with the puck on his stick more almost as a center and it was eye-opening. His ability to skate and create jumped out. No doubt there was an element of Aho just making everyone better, but I also think the run of him playing with a wing like Aho who is as comfortable with or without the puck raised another possibility.
I think Necas is more prone to hit some quieter stretches playing with Trocheck in a more typical winger role where he plays a bit less with the puck on his stick.
Another huge positive of Necas’ play in 2020-21 is his commitment to using his speed to skate back into play defensively even in cases where he starts from well back of the play. The Hurricanes are incredibly luck (or smart drafting-wise? …or both) to have young offensive stars who buy in defensively. Svechnikov and Necas do still have some lapses defensively, but is not because of willingness or effort level.
The fourth line when healthy
Quality play by fill ins will make for some tough decisions if he has the full set of forwards healthy for the playoffs. My starting point is assuming the top 9 stays the way it is which leaves Steven Lorentz, Morgan Geekie, Brock McGinn, Cedric Paquette, Jordan Martinook and Max McCormick fighting for three slots on the fourth line. For the playoffs, my hunch is that Brind’Amour will lean toward using veterans. McGinn, if healthy, would probably be a sure thing. My guess is that Brind’Amour would want one of Martinook or Paquette in the lineup. And then the question could be whether Brind’Amour wants more experience such that he shifts Martinook or Paquette to the center position.
My wild guess for Brind’Amour’s choice to start the series is McGinn-Lorentz-Martinook.
My preference would be McGinn-Lorentz-Geekie aiming for a bit more offense.
What to do in net
The time is quickly approaching when Brind’Amour needs to make a decision on who to start in net for the playoffs. Petr Mrazek was shaky in his first start back which makes the next three games interesting. With Nedeljkovic playing well and having officially reached the 27 games needed to be a restricted not restricted free agent in the off-season, my guess is that Brind’Amour gives Mrazek two of the remaining starts and Nedeljkovic one. Lost in the fits and starts of two injury layoffs is the fact that Mrazek has been every bit as good as Nedeljkovic which puts the team in a great spot. And if Mrazek looks good heading into the playoffs, I think simplest and smartest is to go with the veteran to start. By no means is any playoff series a sure thing, but if the Hurricanes can net three more points either themselves or with the Lightning losing points to win the division, a match up against a #4 seed would offer a tiny bit more margin for error. Where it gets interesting is if Mrazek struggles in the last couple games of the regular season. That would put things back in play and force Brind’Amour to consider Nedeljkovic. As far as James Reimer goes, I do think he is clearly the #3 goalie at the point, but he is a very good one for that role that can go quickly from being irrelevant to absolutely critical. As a veteran, he would not be in over his head under the brightest of lights which is a great starting point for a third goalie if pressed into action cold in the middle of the playoffs.
How do I think it shakes out? I think Mrazek will rebound in the final couple games and be the playoff starter, but I also think that if Mrazek falters either in the last couple regular season games or in the playoffs, that Brind’Amour will be quick to make a change.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Thoughts/comments on Martin Necas and his development in 2020-21 and where he fits best skill set-wise?
2) What would you do for a fourth line for the playoffs if everyone is available?
3) What would you do in net to start the playoffs assuming Mrazek finishes the regular season strong or assuming he is still a bit shaky?
1. Necas seems to fit very well on the wing with Trocheck and Niederreiter; I wouldn’t change anything. I know plus/minus can be a misleading statistic, but I would not have predicted before the season began that Necas would lead all Hurricanes at +26.
2. RBA has the luxury of basically having two 4th lines that he can mix and match. I think the opponent will dictate who plays. Maybe more of a scoring line against NSH versus a heavy/gritty line against TBL.
3. Ned should be the 1A starter – he’s earned it. I think Mrazek is playing now to shake off the rust and be the 1B. I know their stats are similar but the eye test tells me that Ned is the better goalie right now.
I can’t help but comment on the Tom Wilson situation. The game at MSG last night between the NYR and WSH was a fight-filled affair as was to be expected after the meaningless $5K fine assessed to Wilson. The message from the NHL was very clear – each team needs to have enforcers to protect their players because the NHL won’t have your back. There is a strong argument that the NYR fired both their president and GM yesterday because the team had failed to be built to protect their best players. And the playoffs haven’t even started yet! The NHL’s failure to adequately protect players will have further ramifications. It sets the tone that a team like the Canes will be at a competitive disadvantage when playing more physical teams. The important role of the enforcer is alive and well in the NHL – thanks to George Parros head of NHL Department of Player Safety.
1. Necas on the wing. I think he is consistently much better with Aho but it is tough to break up a hood thing like SAT.
Next season he should still be on the wing. Trocheck is much better at C than Necas. Only in the event of injury to Aho or Trocheck should he play center.
2. You go with the veterans. We need that line to grind and Martinook and Lorentz have the ability to score opportunidtically.
3. There is an axiom in sports – all sports – that you don’t lose your starting job because of injury.
So Mrazek has to be the presumptive 1A going into the playoofs.break
And given what promises to be an extended break between the end of the regular season and the start of playoffs how he finishes in his last two games won’t matter. What will be determinant is how he performs at the start of the playoffs.
On the Tom Wilson stuff…that show on Wednesday night was for the NHL. It was a black eye for them and that’s what the Rangers wanted. The fights were obligatory. I didn’t see anyone really passionate. The kind of fights you don’t want to see and that if Parros did his job well you woudln’t see. The $250,000 fine had plenty to do with the blood letting by the Rangers,IMO. Dolan might have even got a break from Bettman for icing those two.
1. Necas will remain playing wing this post-season. However, I do think he should be the 2C starting next year. Necas has made significant strides defensively, his offensive skill set is definitely best utilized as a center.
2. I agree with you Matt that Lorentz should be 4th line C and Geekie should be RW, I think either McGinn or Martinook could work with that duo. That said, Brind’Amour has consistently committed to veterans–I would bet the 4th line in game one of the playoffs (if they are all healthy) is McGinn/Paquette/Martinook.
3. Ned should start game 1. Since the Canes last won the cup with a rookie in goal, the NHL champion has had a goalie developed within the organization all but once. The reason why that has happened is unclear, but every advantage helps.
Unless a one is traded there is zero chance Necas plays center next season. I appreciate his commitment to defense and it makes him so much the better player, but….his upper body strength is still an issue. He goes into corner back first half the time! His faceoff % is under 50% while Trocheck is at 55%. Throw in the fact that Necas’ speed is much better utilized on the wing and it would be nuts to force him in at center.
Of the young guys on the fourth line Laurentz has stood out as the most dependable. The guy can skate and backchecks like his life depends upon it. He wins faceoffs at above a 50% (he was like 11 for 15 last night). Yes, his offensive skills and instincts aren’t all that, but as a fourth liner he does what you want. Keep the puck deep, don’t turn it over, and backcheck like hell. Pauquette might get the first start at 4C, but if he hiccups at all you will see Laurentz.
I assume Mrazek will get another start in Nashville. If he plays like he did last night he will be the #1 going into the playoffs. Vets get that benefit and he should. Ned will play. I think Brind’Amour will ride the hot hand. If Petr has an off night Ned will be in. If one gets red hot, well…that’s what you want.
Most important of all! The Canes are the winners of the Central division. The Stars beat the Lightening last night, which leaves them and the Panthers 5 points behind the Canes with only 2 games left to play.
I remember how at the beginning of the year how we were speculating they would probably do well to place third? Well, they did better than that. Definitely an occasion worth celebrating!!
There are no guarantees, playoffs are an altogether different beast but, man, that is impressive.