Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe was entitled, “A realistic assessment of the current 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes roster.”
The article was a bit sobering in that it used the word “rebuilding” and highlighted the many question marks in the current lineup including a slew of rookies at forward and a ton of uncertainty in net.
But while I did say that the current roster strikes of rebuilding, I followed that by saying:
But because of the high ceilings of the rookies and the potential upside from rough 2017-18 seasons for the two goalies, I think the potential for an upside surprise is significantly higher than average.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe explores what it takes for such an upside surprise to occur for the 2018-19 season.
In short, I think it takes only three things for the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes to surprise to the upside:
1) Serviceable goaltending
There are actually two angles on this possibility. The most obvious is the possibility that the goalies simply play better. Both Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek have NHL success on their resumes. The 2018-19 Hurricanes need just one of the two to refind that higher level of play and boost the team to at least middle of the pack for netminding. The less obvious path to improved goaltending could be through an improved defense. During the offseason, the team solidified the blue line by adding two veterans and is incredibly deep as currently configured with Justin Faulk still in tow but now likely slotted in the third pairing.
2) The young forwards need to hit the ground running
A significant factor in the team’s recent failures to push over the rebuilding hump and back into the playoffs was the team’s inability to find legitimate top half of the roster players in the first round of the draft. Elias Lindholm was rushed to the NHL, languished early on and only recently became a solid NHL forward but even after progress, he was still only a middle 6 type forward. Through three years, Noah Hanifin’s skating ability and potential had yet to yield more than a third pairing defenseman, and the same is true for Haydn Fleury. The Hurricanes faithful are rightfully high on Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas and other forward prospects, but anyone who thinks they are a sure thing especially for the 2018-19 season must have managed to block out memories of Hanfin, Lindholm and Fleury. If Necas and Svechnikov have 2018-19 campaigns that can best be described as learning on the job, then the team is suddenly very light on scoring. If instead Necas and/or Svechnikov can dial it up at the NHL level, then the Hurricanes forward lines and scoring add needed depth.
3) Coaching and attitude
Of the many possible things to pin the 2017-18 season on, I think the team’s lack of a winning attitude rates high on that list. Even when playing well, the team seemed to lack the killer instinct necessary to go on a run. Maybe more concerning, was the way the team imploded at times in the second half of the season. There is no clear answer what needs to change to chart a new course in 2018-19, but some kind of change of attitude is imperative. As a leader, Rod Brind’Amour could be the perfect coach to effect such a change, or alternatively he could be a rookie coach who has to learn some hard lessons in 2018-19. Which side of the fence Brind’Amour lands on should factor significantly into the results for the 2018-19 season.
If the Carolina Hurricanes go 0 for 3 on this short checklist, I fear that nothing else will be enough to overcome the negatives and push the team up the standings. On the other hand, if the team goes 3 for 3 on these items, it will mean that the team is at least decent across all three positions. If that occurs, the playoffs should be within reach.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on these three items as keys to surprising to the upside in 2018-19?
2) Are there any other items that you would add to this short list in terms of vaulting the team up above the playoff cut line?
3) How do you predict the team will fare on each of these items?