Today’s Daily Cup of Joe is a catch all of random Hurricanes hockey musings that have accumulated but not made it into other articles yet or are being added to.
It’s the competition
There are any number of ways to slice and dice the Carolina Hurricanes results through nine games, but perhaps one of the simplest is to just look at the caliber of competition. In games against teams that made the 2018 playoffs, the Hurricanes are 3-0-1 against teams that missed the 2018 playoffs and 2-3-0 against teams that made the 2018 playoffs. The ability to take care of business against lesser teams is encouraging. This has been an Achilles’ heel for the team in recent years. And though the 2-3-0 record against playoff teams is not great, even that is not so bad when one considers that four of those five games were on the road.
Short-term and long-term on Clark Bishop in the C4 slot
I am torn on Clark Bishop centering what I am calling the fourth line right now. On the one hand, I voted multiple times to get Martin Necas more ice time in Charlotte. He just was not ready for the NHL yet which is not a big deal considering he is 19 years old and in his first professional season. And I think Brind’Amour’s decision to go with Clark Bishop hinged on just being something sound and stable for the short-term. There is merit in going that route short-term, but I continue to believe that the path forward is to be four lines deep with scoring ability, and I think that is tough to do with a center who is limited offensively (reference Marcus Kruger in 2017-18). So as the 2018-19 season plays out, it will be interesting see which direction this goes. Janne Kuokkanen is arguably the most NHL-ready player in Charlotte right now and was drafted as a center, but for whatever reason the Hurricanes organization seems to have him pegged as a wing. Nicolas Roy is the other option who is off to a fast start. He would not classify as a pure playmaking center, but his offensive ceiling is probably higher than Bishop’s. Victor Rask theoretically adds another center, but his time line seems to be a ways off. Is it out of the question that the Hurricanes add via trade now that the probability of Necas being the answer in 2018-19 is reduced? Regardless, what the team does with this center slot is worth watching as the season rolls on.
Depth scoring is still elusive
On a similar note, the theory that the Hurricanes would be four lines deep offensively with the infusion of talented young players into the lineup has not been realized in the early going. Hopefully, this does not turn out to be like the ‘the blue line will be the strength that leads us back’ projection that never really materialized and was jettisoned this past offseason when the team rebuilt the blue line with help from outside. Lucas Wallmark’s line that I have taken to calling the third line has produced some. Counting Martinook’s empty-netter on Monday, Martinook/Wallmark/Svechnikov has tallied six goals which would be project to an average of 18 goals per player over an 82-game season. That is a decent amount. But the fourth line that was originally Necas’ line has accounted for only Necas goal before he was sent to the AHL. As such, despite the talent level being allegedly higher, the production looks eerily similar to the black hole that was Nordstrom/Kruger/Jooris or Di Giuseppe in 2017-18. Thus far, Brind’Amour has erred on the side of patience, but I have to wonder how much longer until Brind’Amour tries some different options with Kuokkanen maybe top of the list.
I continue to think that the next leg up for the Carolina Hurricanes if it is to occur in 2018-19 will require the team to finally push up to the league average in goaltending. Thus far the Hurricanes are again short in this department. The Canes entered Monday’s game in 28th place in terms of Save Percentage. After a stellar first start, Curtis McElhinney has looked like a goalie who not surprisingly is suited only for a backup role. Petr Mrazek has had a couple good outings including Monday’s win but in total has been sporadic at best in the early going. The biggest dice roll of all but arguably also with the greatest upside is Scott Darling. He finally returns to the ice Wednesday in a rehab game with the Charlotte Checkers and pending how that goes could be back in Raleigh for the three-game home stand that starts Friday. If I look at the Hurricanes decent 5-3-1 start with an eye for upside, Scott Darling is the biggest thing to watch short-term.
Justin Faulk and passing angle on shots
Not sure if I mentioned this elsewhere already (maybe just in comments somewhere), but I think the key to Justin Faulk scoring on the power play could be passing angle. Since I do not have time to dig up tons of tape and/or shot location charts and undertake a hockey research odyssey for a day or two, I will have to settle for claiming it as a theory…
A couple years back when Faulk had his monstrous power play scoring season with 12 power play goals in 2015-16, the Hurricanes were still running more of a traditional set up with two point men and the puck largely being distributed off of the side boards. The result was a pretty heavy dose of Faulk receiving passes traveling vertically into his shooting wheel house. These passes are much easier to one time. And the result was a run of power play shooting from Faulk that is among the best in Canes history. He regularly blasted shots on net and pretty regularly found the back of the net. Fast forward and the Hurricanes transitioned to more of an umbrella type set up that seems to more often find Faulk receiving and shooting passes that are more lateral. Especially when watching Faulk earlier in the year when he was on the left side and receiving/shooting at the top of the face-off circle, he just is not the same. His ability to hit the net seems to decrease, and he just seems to lack the pinpoint precision that he had awhile back. With the current setup, I am not sure how adjustments could be made to get the puck more to Faulk from below instead of next to him, but I think that could be the difference. On cue, Faulk scored on Monday and sure enough…if you watch the replay, the pass comes from below him such that it is coming vertically into his wheel house.
What say you Canes fans?
Certainly after nine games everyone else has a short list of Canes thoughts that have not yet fit into the regular discussion. Please share, and/or feel free to chime in on my notes above.