Recently watching the Canes defense with and without Jaccob Slavin in the lineup was eye opening. No doubt, there is an element of the randomness of NHL teams from game to game that is a part of it, but there is also an element of the Hurricanes being a significantly better team with Slavin on the ice. He eats up so many minutes against the other teams’ best players and makes it look easy nearly every shift. That adds a top end player, but there is also a boost that he gives his defense partner that makes him better too.
In that vein, today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers one opinion on making a short, ranked list of irreplaceable Canes players:
1) Jaccob Slavin
Partly because he is anchoring the top 4 pairing that needs a newcomer to fill Dougie Hamilton’s big shoes, Slavin ranks first for me. He leads the team in ice time by nearly two minutes over Brett Pesce and has shown the ability to play nearly half of a regulation game pushing up to 27-28 minutes when needed in a pinch. In general, I think having a solid top 4 defensively will be critical to post-season success, and Slavin is the top dog in that regard.
2) Brett Pesce
Sticking with the defense theme, I would rank Brett Pesce as second most irreplaceable. I think there is a drop off in after Slavin and Pesce such that they both are critical to making one of the top two pairings work. Though most Canes fans appreciate him appropriately, I think Pesce is still underrated in broader hockey circles. Though not dynamic offensively, he is steady and capable of holding his own against the NHL’s best on an every shift basis.
3) Sebastian Aho
As the team’s top scorer, offensive player and forward in general, Sebastian Aho is #3 on this list. He plays an integral role on the top line, even strength scoring and both special teams units. His absence would leave a sizable gap that would be difficult to fill just by bumping everyone up a notch. Minus Aho the challenge would be for Jesperi Kotkaniemi to step into a role on a top scoring line. While that has the potential to work based on his play at center lower in the lineup, the team is still just so much better with Aho in the middle of a number of things forward-wise.
4) Frederik Andersen
After a little bit of a slow start, Antti Raanta has settled in nicely with a few bumps in the road injury-wise. Because of that, I admit putting Andersen at #4 is debatable, but two things in that regard…First, I do think Andersen has been the better of the two overall. Second, goaltending is critical in high stakes match ups like the playoffs. Because of that, I put Andersen as fourth most irreplaceable on the Hurricanes’ roster.
If pressed to make a longer list, in consideration would be Brady Skjei for being the third of four players needed to build a capable blue line, Andrei Svechnikov for being arguably the team’s best scoring wing with the ability to play a power forward game or finish with skill and then also Teuvo Teravainen who is arguably the team’s most versatile and well-rounded wing. Teravainen is top-tier defensively, a great puck distributor and capable of scoring when he pulls the trigger. Whether Vincent Trocheck is considered here would depend on if one things Kotkaniemi could fill a second line center slot effectively. And whether Jordan Staal is considered here would depend on if you think he can find something closer to the 2020-21 scoring machine version of himself that makes more than just a solid checking line center.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on my top 4 irreplaceable Canes players? What changes would you make?
2) What are your thoughts on the next tier that I included as honorable mentions?