Through 32 games, the Carolina Hurricanes are one game above .500. As measured by games above .500, that puts the Hurricanes are three points out of a playoff spot right now. That is not out of the picture, but the treading water pace is not on target for a return to the playoffs. Even more significantly, teams who teeter around .500 up to this point tend to go one way or the other as the season progresses and some teams figure it out and others do not. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes have recently been in the group that did not figure it out and ultimately sunk in the middle part of the season.
So recognizing that the Hurricanes will need to find a higher gear to do more than play their way up and out of the best odds in the draft lottery, today’s Daily Cup of Joe identifies potential areas for upside.
A starting point is identifying the team’s strengths and weaknesses. In general, goaltending (of late at least) and the blue line have been strengths. When he went down with an injury, McElhinney was playing incredibly well, and since then, Mrazek has stepped in also performed well. There is upside to be had over the first third of the season simply by dropping the starts related to the last try to Darling, but in general the goaltending is doing its job and not so much an area for improvement. The same is true for the blue line at least on the defensive side. The group has not been perfect, but it has been a strength. The forward play, especially scoring, is the area with the most room for improvement.
So with that introduction, here are the most promising areas I see for upside over the remainder of the 2018-19 season…
1) Second tier scoring from the rookies — Andrei Svechnikov, Lucas Wallmark and Warren Foegele
As noted above, the biggest area for improvement is scoring. Aho’s line should continue to do its thing, but the team desperately needs a second line to step up in the scoring department. Arguably, the players with the most upside from the front part of the 2018-19 are the rookies. That is because these players are just settling into the NHL and learning and therefore have significant room to grow if they can mature quickly. Andrei Svechnikov took a significant step up over the past few games. If that trend continues, he could rise significantly from his 40ish-point pace first third of the season to much more. Warren Foegele FINALLY cracked the sore sheet again on Sunday. His ceiling offensively is not as high as Svechnikov’s, but he can certainly be better than the 25-game goal-less stretch that he just ended. Finally, there is Lucas Wallmark. Wallmark has settled in nicely at the NHL and is already a dependable center. But his 30-point pace even with power play ice time is light even for an average third-liner.
Though it might be unfair to put pressure on the rookies to do more, I actually thing they are the players with the most potential upside scoring-wise.
2) More scoring from the blue line — Dougie Hamilton and Justin Faulk
On paper, the Hurricanes entered the 2018-19 season with the potential for significant scoring from the blue line. Hamilton netted 17 goals during the 2017-18 season but is on pace for only half of that right now. Faulk had only eight goals in 2017-18 but averaged 16 goals per season in the three year prior. If this duo can play at 15-goal pace for the remainder of the season, that would be a huge boost for the offense and relieve some pressure in terms of finding more offense from the forwards.
If Faulk and Hamilton both started finding the net at the same time, it would be a sizable boost to the offense.
3) Help from management — a trade for a scoring forward
Though there is potential upside for the current team, I think the team is light offensively and could benefit from a dose of outside help. With the William Nylander saga over, the latest naming buzzing in the rumor mills is Vladimir Tarasenko. My bias is toward adding more of a playmaking center who can hopefully boost an entire line. That said, the availability of high-end scoring forwards is always minimal, so a team has to take what it can get. Tarasenko is a legitimate first line scorer. Asking price can be an unforeseen obstacle, but the Hurricanes have to at least be in the conversation. In addition, there are many other players who could bring an offensive boost.
Tarasenko depends on asking price which might be too high, but I think we are deep enough into the season to see that the Hurricanes definitely need more offense of some kind.
There are other potential areas for improvement, but I see those as the three most likely to help the Hurricanes find a higher gear and push up above .500.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What other area(s) for upside do you see for the Hurricanes over the remainder of the 2018-19 season?
2) Of my list of three areas for potential upside, which do you see as most promising?
Faulk seems to have found a good partner in Calvin deHaan. While Faulk begins to trust that deHaan is going to cover the d-zone, he is more willing to join the forwards in the o-zone. The scoring will come.
You can’t blame Justin. Being saddled with Haydn Fleury as a partner for over a season took its toll. Fleury was not very good at any of the things a defender is expected to do.
So what’s up with Dougie? He is still looking for a replacement for Mark Giordano. Giordano is the exact opposite of Dougie. Dougie likes being up with the cool kids (scoring forwards). Giordano prefers staying home with the keepers. Dougie is big but soft and not very strong. Giordano is average sized but strong, hard and mean. We have tried pairing Dougie with other soft d-men who prefer to hang with the cool kids. This is why he is often caught out of position. We need to pair him with someone like Caj. Caj is big, strong, and hard-nosed. He likes staying at home with the keepers. Once Dougie trusts this, he will start to score.
Matt and I disagree on one very important point. He believes that the team should be rid of all role players. The team does not need players like Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon. Matt would only be happy with small, fast and skilled scorers. Protection from the goons and bullies like Tom Wilson should lie in our power play. Of course, this presumes that the refs will see and call the foul. It also presumes that the victim of the foul will survive the foul without injury. Finally, it presumes that we will score on the power play. Too many moving parts for me.
We don’t need more scorers. We need a couple of big players who play a heavy game. We need them to protect our scorers. Fishy, Turbo, Svetch, Willy and Staal need protection. But more than that, we need players who are willing and able to establish a net front presence. These men will suffer the pain inflicted by enemy defensemen when they stand near the crease screening the keepers and looking for tap-in opportunities. Protecting our scorers and other important players from cheap shots from enemy goons as well as providing a net front presence, is the scoring catalyst we need. We will see our scorers score.
Yes, we have Ferland and Martinook. But both are average sized. We need a couple of bigger than average strong and nasty players. Ferland is sidelined by an injury incurred by his style of play. That’s why we need more than one.
I have given up hope that some of you will see the light here.
I’ve always thought the issue is more about balance than talent. On offense we need a sniper from outside the organization and another tough forward to muck it up, as both will improve the balance tenfold. On defense, we have a talented top 6, but do they balance each other and play to strengths? Faulk/deHaan – solid 2nd pair. Slavin/Pesce – solid 2nd pair. Hamilton/???. The problem is Hamilton needs a better partner. Until we make a trade to clear space, we’re stuck with much of the same defenseman.
Rask needs to start contributing more. If he can effectively anchor another line that would provide a significant boost.
I’m concerned that Ferland’s concussion will alter his style of play. I agree with pwrlss that we need at least one more heavy forward.
Management is way overdue for obtaining a difference-making forward. That would have a positive ripple effect throughout the line-up.
1) Reuniting Pesce and Slavin will have ripple effects. Slavin is -15 at even strength. A change to that alone will make a difference. The overall defense will be better and don’t be surprised if the offense you are hoping for from Hamilton and Faulk comes from the top pairing.
2) The rookies. Wallmark could produce like Rask from 3-4 years ago. Though I think his production will be more weighted toward assists. If Wallmark can end the year around 40 points, that would be a significant boost. I honestly believe Wallmark can be a 50-55 point player in the next few years. He makes so many smart plays all over the ice that eventually will show up on the score sheet.
I also think McGinn could have a stretch where he gets 3-4 goals over 5 games.
Finally, those of us who don’t see a lot of western conference games significantly underrate Giordano. He is an excellent all-around defenseman–not really a “stay-at-home” player. He is over a point per game so far this season, obviously he is playing aggressively in the offensive zone.
There is a whole article on The Athletic, based on statistics, looking at Giordano and Hamilton. I think it’s nearly impossible to understand a player only through statistics, but they do a pretty good job showing how Giordano is getting many more opportunities than Hamilton. They also suggest that some statistical anomalies surrounding shooting percentages and save percentages are making Giordano look so good and Hamilton look so bad.
1. Svech being included as “second-tier” scoring? Even with his early learning curve he is up to one of our top goal scorers of the season. I chatted with him briefly yesterday – a little banter that had us both laughing, he is a great young man. But he is learning how to score against NHL goalies and getting better every day.
I would like to see more offense from Wallmark but now, particularly with Staal out, he is being asked to play Staal’s role and he is doing a heckuva job with that.
I group Foegele with our need for depth scorers from our veterans as well – we have too many grit-and-grinders.
2. The article that lts referenced is a great read. I don’t know near enough about hockey (yet) to know why we use a 3F2D setup instead of a 4F1D – I will do some research over the holidays. But neither Hamilton nor Faulk are getting the looks they need in the current PP to generate the offense both have created in the past. This goes back to coaching and utilization decisions.
3. Waddell is on record as saying we are shopping for a “sniper”. And I have been on record as Saarela is an excellent AHL sniper who’s shot won’t translate to the NHL (as many AHL snipers find to be the case). But Brandon emphatically said otherwise and as I have watched more CLT games and listened to more commentary I say while we are shopping let’s give this guy a try and see what he can bring to the table over one (any one) of our grit-and-grind forwards.
tj. Saarela is an intriguing option. I remember the end of 16-17 when he came over after his Finnish season. He scored 6 goals and 10 points in 9 games and everyone wanted a late season call up. I agree with Brandon that his shot is NHL quality. But I am with you that I don’t know if he will be able to get enough shots off. I think he is most impressive when he skates at top speed. Someone else mentioned that he has been able to get icing waved off several times. Also in 3-on-3 he seems to create defensive breakdowns. Bottom line, if he is called up, he likely needs to play with Aho to see if he can produce goals.
Either Aho or Wallmark, ct, that is if Wallmark can be made something other than Staal 2.0. 😀 Wallmark is, of course, familiar with Saarela, and you put a grit-and-grinder with speed (say McGinn) on the left and I think you have the potential for a very competent and effective two way line with a big scoring possibility.
Unless McGinn grows a new set of hands I’m not so sure about the scoring part. Otherwise, sure.
I think the concerns about Saarela have more to do with his play in the neutral and defensive zone as well as overall self discipline and effort.
Regarding Rask – I saw him yesterday outside RCI after practice. His fingers are still in splints (which is not surprising). He doesn’t have gripping power or strength and that has to be affecting his play.
Just a thought after reading the comments above. Why don’t we put Dougie Hamilton on the 3rd or 4th line and see if his scoring improves. Just spitballing some to see if we can improve scoring.
“You can’t blame Justin. Being saddled with Haydn Fleury as a partner for over a season took its toll. Fleury was not very good at any of the things a defender is expected to do.”
Dude, this statement is unjustified. Fleury wasn’t fantastic )he did’t not score a single goal), but he was not single-handedly responsible for Faulk’s bad play last season. Even if he was he is a rookie who, in my opinion, could be a solid quality third pairing defenseman but is not a second pairing defenseman. The fact he was overslotted is not his fault, that is the coach’s fault. Management over compensated for this problem by acquiring two top 4 defenseman instead of one and not acquiring extra help at forward.
Fleury is working hard and playing hard down in Clt and is not costing the Canes anything in terms of contracts and barely anything in terms of money, and he must be evaluated as such. Yes, he should not have been drafted over other players in the first round, that is the scouting department’s (or RF’s fault).
I think your approach to hockey management is actually refreshing and pretty insightful, but I totally disagree with your constant blaming Fleury for the Canes woes, but we’re all entitled to our opinions.
Yeah, adding more tough up front would be good, especially if the forward can contribute some to the goal totals (more of a Tom Wilson than Milan Lucic in terms of skill, not in terms of dirty play).
I don’t know why they are trying to play Rask if he is not ready. I don’t think Rask in his current state does anything to help the team (not his fault either, let his injury heal until he can play well enough to help).
In the meantime, try someone from the Checkers, they are on top of the world right now, give more of the Checkers a shot here, they won’t elevate the team overnight, but they infuse energy and I don’t think they’d do worse than ask in his current state.
The team needs help at forward to improve in my opinion, ideally an RHD plus top 9 ish forward for a true top 6 if it can be done. Terasenko would be an interesting acquisition, he is gritty, he can score and he can help Svech. I think having a fellow countrymen on a team could be great for the kid.
Fleury isn’t in CLT right now – he is on concussion protocol in Raleigh. I don’t know where those daily vents against Fleury come from. Haydn plays hard works hard to improve – he is an excellent passer with a wicked shot when he can get one away. This is what Jason Shaya, who has seen a lot of Fleury and knows him and his game well had to say just today, “Hurricanes defenseman Haydn Fleury works incredibly hard trying to find a regular spot on the team’s blue line. After drawing back into the lineup last week against Montreal, Haydn suffered an upper body injury. Here is what I know about the kid – he’s truly talented and he wants to get better every day. It’s very difficult to get to a high level when you’re in and out of the lineup but I do believe he will get there because coupled with his skill is a strong competitive nature. “Hurricanes defenseman Haydn Fleury works incredibly hard trying to find a regular spot on the team’s blue line. After drawing back into the lineup last week against Montreal, Haydn suffered an upper body injury. Here is what I know about the kid – he’s truly talented and he wants to get better every day. It’s very difficult to get to a high level when you’re in and out of the lineup but I do believe he will get there because coupled with his skill is a strong competitive nature. ”
For Rask, I have to think the opinion in O/M/C is that an injured Rask is still better than the options available. We can disagree on that. But that injury is a long-term heal – it took me 6-9 months to get back to 75% when I suffered something similar (a ruptured tendon) a number of years ago.
Forwards playing well for CLT, besides Necas and the aforementioned Saarela. Poturalski has really gotten good and Gauthier is almost looking like he worthy of a shot.
Sorry about the duplicated quote.
I think Fleury may be grinding his way back from the reputation he has developed over the past few years. The first couple years after he was drafted he came off as entitled and had conditioning issues. I liked the newer version of Fleury last season and even more when he came into camp slimmer this year. Hope he gets a shot here soon, or moved on before his trade value diminishes.
Breezy nails it with “the statement (linking Faulk’s bad season with Fleury) is unjustified”. Faulk was awful last season, all of his own doing. As is his improvement this season, all of his own doing. Playing now with a significantly high GaS (GiveaShit) factor has made all the difference.
There seemed to be 4 items on the pre-season checklist. 1. Improved goal tending. Check. 2. Solid defense. Check. 3. More scoring. Totally unfulfilled expectation. At one point we thought we might have several rookies in the running for the Calder, (Svechnikov, Necas and Zykov). We have none. Skinner was dumped to be replaced. Reinforcements are yet to arrive. 4. RBA would thrive in his first year as an NHL coach. There is no evidence to substantiate that he is either the problem or solution to our scoring woes. Summary: Until needed reinforcements arrive, the dependence on rookie forwards bears fruit, or RBA fine tunes his offensive strategy our path is leading directly to another long summer w/o playoff hockey.