Whether it be whom the Carolina Hurricanes should trade for between now and the trade deadline, the power-play issues, or just the general issues with the team’s inability to finish, Brandon Stanley and I have put together our first mailbag to give you our thoughts on these.
Thank you to everybody who took the time to submit questions on Twitter, there were some very good questions here. The common theme was that the Hurricanes have had trouble scoring. Despite their 12-6-5 record, which is good for ninth in the NHL, the team could be a lot better.
What is the plan for the rest of this season and how are you guys planning to turn this scoring slump around and start scoring more goals? – @ZanderM12549037
Jacob: The plan should be to stay the course. With Teuvo Teravainen having missed a good chunk of time and Max Pacioretty on the way towards a debut with the Hurricanes, they have the pieces needed to get out of the team-wide scoring slump. Martin Necas, Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho have done great at producing offense, and I think the rest will come with time. In terms of the depth producing more, that would be great. Jack Drury has yet to register a point, and other bottom-six players like Paul Stastny and Derek Stepan just aren’t giving enough. While I think they will be fine with what they have, they could benefit from an addition of somebody like Anthony Duclair or Andreas Athanasiou.
Brandon: For now, I think the plan is, honestly, just kind of wait it out. Finishing was always going to be a tad thin until Pacioretty returns after losing both Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter over the summer. It’s compounded by one of their most consistently productive forwards, Teravainen, getting off to a slow start and then going down with injury himself. Plus, speaking of slow starts, we’ve also seen Seth Jarvis come alive with four points in the last five games, and while Stastny hasn’t been great, he has been at least a little better the last few games. Basically, I think the Hurricanes will ride it out for now, get their two top-six performers back from injury sooner or later, then come the trade deadline they’ll reassess and see if another move is necessary.
Do you guys think any mid-season trades will happen? If so, trade targets? – @reecebai05
Jacob: I kind of alluded to this in my answer above. I will dive a little deeper into why I said Duclair and Athanasiou. With the Florida Panthers getting ready to have Duclair healthy, they will need to either trade him, or someone else to make cap space. As for Athanasiou, Frank Seravelli recently ranked him 13th on his Trade Target board, and the fit could be good. Athanasiou has eight points this season on a weak Chicago Blackhawks team, but after signing a one-year contract, the plan was clearly to use him as a trade asset. He wouldn’t be very expensive, and could slide in very nice on the wing in the bottom six. Duclair can be an important, versatile piece if acquired. He has a knack for scoring goals, and can be the best player on the ice on some nights. The Panthers have little to no leverage when it comes to Duclair, and I think that there could be a great deal to be made.
Brandon: This pretty much ties in to my last answer. I think the Hurricanes are set in net and more or less on defense as well, but they may be in the market for either a second power-play unit quarterback or a little added scoring punch depending on how the next couple of months shake out. However, with the injury and salary cap situations being what they are, I wouldn’t expect anything until the trade deadline.
Canes are dead last in the league [in Goals Scored Above Expected, per JFresh’s Nov. 27 Chart], meaning that they are finishing far fewer of their chances than any other team. Since this problem has a history on this team, do you have any insights here? – @emanningwrites
Jacob: Adding Pacioretty to the mix was a very intentional move by the team. This team has some incredible talents, especially at generating offense, but no high-end goal scorers. Sure, Teravainen and Svechnikov have shown they can be great goal scorers, but they don’t have anyone that shoots like Pacioretty. The goals scored above expected stat can mean a lot of different things. Is it a lack of puck luck, or a natural inability to finish? It is not an easy question to answer, but when you look at the model below, the Hurricanes are in last place, by a lot.
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If you don’t understand the model, it means that based on all of the chances and value each shot has, the Hurricanes should, in an ideal world, have 21.7 more goals as a team than they do. Having an elite sniper on your team typically helps this number, but the team as a whole currently sits second-last in team shooting percentage, only ahead of the Colorado Avalanche. So, to really answer the question in terms of team history, they have lacked that true goal-scoring talent, as no player has scored 40 goals since Eric Staal did in 2008-09. It comes down to more than just one player, but this plays a big role in it.
Brandon: The Hurricanes are a team that is always going to create chances thanks to their system, but right now it’s a mixture of bad puck luck, which you have to think is eventually due for positive regression (especially once the team gets some players back from injury), plus a lack of finishers. There are too many players on this team (namely Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jarvis, Stastny, and even Teravainen himself) who have far more to give than what they have so far. Even still, outside of Jarvis, none of those guys are natural finishers; however Teravainen would be, he just never wants to shoot the puck. Regardless, it wouldn’t be a shock if all those guys start to perform at a much higher level as the season rolls along, and improved secondary scoring is likely all this team needs to go from a below-average offense to a pretty lethal one considering the way the trio of young stars atop the lineup are playing.
I will add, I think it might be time to reassess the Hurricanes gameplay of “pass to point, shoot everything from there, even through bodies.” Sometimes it works, to be sure, and creating greasy goals by getting to rebounds or getting deflections is one of the most effective ways to consistently create offense in the NHL. Still, it seems teams have caught up to this and it feels like far, far more shots are being blocked this season; if not, they’re making sure to crash the net and clear the crease when the shots do get through. One of the biggest reasons Trocheck and Niederreiter were so reliable was because they were constantly getting to the crease and banging in dirty goals, or simply screening the goaltender and helping others score. The Hurricanes haven’t had that same net-front presence this year, and it’s really hurting them.
I’ll do a lighthearted one, you each have an option to pick a restaurant and beverage to be added to PNC. What are you going with? – @Erich_K8
Jacob: This might be the hardest question for me to answer. For those who don’t know, I am not from Raleigh, let alone the United States. I am from Nova Scotia, and have only travelled to the USA once, when I was seven. In a completely biased answer, I would love to see poutine more available in American arenas.
Brandon: Oh, that’s an easy one: CookOut. Chicken Quesadilla tray with hushpuppies and a honey mustard wrap while I watch the game? I don’t even care that it would surely go from $6 to $20, take my money.
We’ve seen a bit of a different pace with the power play the last 2 games, what’s changed between those games and games prior where our PP looked horrible? – @baileyycurtis
Jacob: So far this season, the Hurricanes’ power play hasn’t been good enough, and has been predictable; getting the puck to Brent Burns for a strong point shot, and working with whatever comes from that. They are now showing some ability of moving the play around. Once Teravainen and Pacioretty are healthy, I think we will start to see the power-play tactics get slower again, as they have the ability to get a strong shot off, but until then, their best power play is when they are cycling themselves with the puck.
This team could really benefit from a true net-front presence that can bully his way into an opportunity, but it isn’t a requirement. With a season total of 16.5 percent success rate on the power play, that isn’t nearly good enough. I want to see some more movement, and guys getting in close.
Brandon: The Hurricanes are moving the puck quicker and more decisively, and changing lanes instead of staying stationary in one spot (still not as much as I’d like to see, but an improvement all the same). Plus, they’re winning more battles in the dirty areas that are allowing them to get to rebounds or effectively screen the goalie. You can’t just expect to out-skill and out-man the opponent on the man advantage, even if you do have more players on the ice. The off-puck movement is still the biggest thing to me, though, as that is how you open up seam passes against NHL penalty kills. That’s also why their power play has been far too easy to defend a majority of the season; they’d just stand in one place, pass around the perimeter, and give Burns a predictable one-timer, usually right into someone’s shin pads.
Now they’re doing a much better job of moving side to side, as well as high to low. They rarely used the goal line on many occasions this season, but lately a lot of their goals seem to come after getting the man posted up just off the post a touch; they have many set plays from there, namely finding Aho in the high slot with a touch pass for a one-timer. These plays and movement put a lot more stress on the penalty killers, which leads to mistakes and open lanes. There’s still work to do for the unit, but the process and, as you mentioned, tangible progress, has been promising.
This was a lot of fun, and we plan on putting one of these together around the beginning of each month! Make sure to stay up to date with myself and Brandon on Twitter, and look out for the next mailbag tweet!
These are always a great time, and the more in-depth, creative, and thought-inducing questions you can give us, the better!
My name is Jacob Billington, and I cover the Carolina Hurricanes here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, becoming a hockey fan was quite easy. Falling in love with the game in the early 2000’s, and taking in as much knowledge as I could since then. I appreciate everybody who reads my content, and I take pride in creating the best experience for readers. Feel free to reach me on Twitter, I am always active and talking about anything hockey related!