Ask and you shall receive.
Pre 2020-21 season concerns
A regular theme of my pre-season writing about the Canes was for the team’s middle centers to find a higher gear than in 2019-20.
On September 4, I wrote this article entitled, “Questions down the middle.”
And on December 30, I pegged the second line center slot that Vincent Trocheck is in as one of “The two most critical slots in the Carolina Hurricanes 2020-21 lineup.”
I figured Sebastian Aho for a near certainty to produce in the neighborhood of a point per game for a floor and therefore be a bona fide first line scoring center. He has a higher gear yet but is in the neighborhood of that level of production.
Then past that I had Vincent Trocheck and Jordan Staal as keys to the team’s success. Staal started slow in 2019-20 and had a ‘meh’ season overall even defensively and dipped to a new low offensively. The question of whether he was fading in the second part of his career was legitimate. Vincent Trocheck’s situation was an odd one in that he played a few games after arriving via trade, then went on COVID hiatus with the league for four months and then played another few games in the playoffs. By no means was the separated, small sample size enough to make any final declarations on Trocheck as a Hurricane, but it was fair to say that his production out of the gate (twice) was not at the level hoped for when he was obtained.
10x expectations so far
Fast forward to 2020-21 and things really could not be going better with the question marks. Vincent Trocheck and Jordan Staal both have legitimate claims to being the team’s best player through 25 games. Scoring-wise so far it is as if the Hurricanes have three top line scoring centers. Trocheck is averaging exactly a point per game, and Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho are just a single point below that mark. All three have played a role on both successful power play and penalty kill units. And all three have been capable defensively. The Hurricanes are truly in unprecedented territory at the center position right now, and I think more than any other factor that is driving the team’s success right now.
What say you Canes fans?
1) On a scale of 1-10, how surprised are you with the current level of play for the Hurricanes’ top three centers? (individually and/or in total)
2) To what degree do you think the current level of play is sustainable, and if you expect there to be some regression to the mean, how much do you think the fall off in play will be?
While all of what you say is true about the production of Aho, Trocheck, and Staal, let’s not overlook the fact that Trocheck has benefited greatly from Nino’s resurgence and Necas’s stepwise development; and that Staal gets to play with Svetch who, like Necas, has taken another large step forward. Neither had those benefits last season.
If anything, it’s amazing Aho continues to produce without Teuvo.
I can’t imagine it gets any better so by definition it’s going to revert a bit – let’s hope not too much.
To add to the center speculation, Bob McKenzie reports that the Canes are interested in Eric Staal. My first reaction was “no way,” but if Teravainen is out for longer than another week or so it may make sense. Staal could play on Aho’s wing. Staal would likely be revitalized coming back to a cup contender and playing again with his brother. End of his contract as well. Not that far fetched…
To underscore your excellent point, I have to disagree somewhat with the idea of “unprecedented territory” as it regards center play. Perhaps you meant this in terms of overall play, standings etc.
The Cup winners of 2005-6 were flush down the middle the entire season and it showed. Adding a 1/2 C at the trade deadline was crucial as well. That said, the idea of adding Eric Staal is quite intriguing!
Did the 2005-06 team have two All-Star player playing All-Star level play, and a beast like Jordo?? I will wait for your answer, RJ. LOL!
Even more intriguing now that Trocheck is out. No one is saying it isn’t his leg. Really bad news. Hoo boy….
1. I would put my level of surprise at about a 6 or 7. I was skeptical about Trocheck given last season and the bubble playoffs. But the healthy version of Trocheck has returned him to his All-Star status and that is impressive.
I have also been pleasantly surprised by Staal’s offensive production. I have been a huge fan of his for years and it is nice to see the puck going and his confidence in his shot growing.
2. Staal may regress a little bit but he remains the horse/monster he always has been even if the goals fall off a bit.
I think Trocheck’s reversion is entirely based on his health. If he stays healthy we have an amazing player at 2C (kind of our holy grail).
Finally – hats off to the young guys filling in at 4C, both Geekie and Lorentz. Both are taking advantage of the opportunity being offered them to perform on NHL ice. They are strong, talented, hungry and eager to improve.