Hurricanes Roundtable: the West Coast Trip, Metro Threats, & More

Welcome back to another edition of the Hurricanes Roundtable Discussion. In this series, the Carolina team here at the Hockey Writers — Brandon Stanley, Alex Ohari, Caleb Shaw, and Casey Bridge — discuss all things ‘Canes hockey; from storylines to roster moves, some silly questions, and everything in between — anything goes here.

First off, apologies for missing last week — I (Brandon) have COVID, unfortunately. My being sick, along with normal scheduling issues, simply made it too difficult to get everyone together. However, we hope a fun series of questions this week will make up for it! Also, please welcome the newest Carolina Hurricanes writer here at The Hockey Writers, Casey Bridge! Make sure to give her a follow on Twitter (@CaseyLBridge) and check out her content here on the site.

The Hurricanes have wrapped up their west coast road swing, compiling an excellent 4-1-1 record in the process. The end of the trip certainly had its rough spots, but considering the struggles Carolina has had on the Pacific Coast in years past, most fans will be thrilled they took nine out of a possible 12 points while playing a majority of the games three time zones away.

So, for this week, we’ll talk about that trip, Seth Jarvis (again), some teams that the Hurricanes should be worried about in the cutthroat Metropolitan Division, and more. Let’s get to it!

Topic 1: Biggest Takeaway from the Road Trip

Ohari: The west coast trip made me realize that despite being 15-3-1, there’s still a lot of work for this team to do and areas to improve on. The inconsistency of the power play — especially in key moments of games — is a trend that continues to plague a group that has far too much talent to struggle.

The absence of Ethan Bear also made a noticeable difference. He’s a major key to the team’s transitional play, and the downgrade from him to Brendan Smith has been extremely large.

Jaccob Slavin Carolina Hurricanes
Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bridge: The Hurricanes are clearly able to compete against high-level teams and come out the victors. It may not always be the prettiest game, but two points are two points.

Shaw: This has been a grueling road trip for the Hurricanes. Not only have they gone without two nights off for nearly two weeks, they’ve also been away from PNC Arena for an extended period of time. After some sloppy play and a bad loss against Seattle, it’s become clear that depth and durability are going to be tested during the first full-length season in a couple years. I would take a team conditioned by Rod Brind’Amour over nearly any in the league over the long run, but this trip has exposed that even a team this in shape can get worn down.

Stanley: The mark of a great team is banking points or outright winning games when you aren’t at your best. The Hurricanes have been on the other side of it so many times in years past — outplaying, heavily outshooting teams, but losing due to a skilled play or two from the other side and elite goaltending. Well, that’s what they’re getting on a lot of nights now — Frederik Andersen stepping up big, and Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov or someone else stepping up with a big play when they need it.

The Hurricanes certainly didn’t play their best hockey at many different points over the road trip, but still come home 4-1-1 in the stretch. That’s impressive. I stopped short of truly believing in this team as a Stanley Cup contender the last few seasons, although I felt they were close. Despite the young team, have they faced enough adversity and grown enough as a group to take that step towards true contention? Aho said he believes so in an interview last month, and I’m inclined to believe him considering this road trip — and season so far, as a whole.

Topic 2: Can Jarvis Compete for the Calder?

Ohari: Missing the first seven games of the season may hurt him, but talent wise he should be right there in the mix. A lot will come down to how he continues to mature physically and away from the puck as the season progresses, as he’ll need to earn Brind’Amour’s trust when games get tighter and more important.

Seth Jarvis Carolina Hurricanes
Seth Jarvis, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bridge: I am actually writing a piece on the rookies across the league right now, and looking at what’s out there (mostly Detroit), it’s hard to say whether or not our boy can be a true contender. He’s won the hearts of fans and media much like Jeff Skinner did in 2010, but unlike some of the other rookies, his stats don’t quite compare just yet up against the early leaders. He could end up in the top 10, but at this point it is hard to say if he’s going to be the victor.

Related: Hurricanes’ Seth Jarvis Claims Full-Time Roster Spot

Stanley: If this were another season, I’d feel a lot better about his chances. “Jarvy” has been stellar for the Hurricanes, and considering the two disallowed goals and general excellent play he’s already produced, I think it’s fair to expect him to actually start scoring at a higher clip than he already has — especially if he’s going go to keep playing alongside Aho, Svechnikov, and other stars in the Hurricanes top six.

However, the play of the two Detroit youngsters (Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider), as well as rookies like Trevor Zegras and Dawson Mercer, it’s shaping up to be an extremely difficult race to get into, much less win.

Shaw: If Jarvis can keep lighting up the scoreboard, I don’t see any reason why he won’t compete for the Calder. He more than obviously has the talent, and once he settles into a line for longer than a couple games — I loved him with Aho at center, but playing with Jordan Staal might be an even better fit for the rookie — the sky is the limit for the 19-year-old.

Question: If you were Rod Brind’Amour, what recent issue would you be most concerned with?

Ohari: I mentioned this earlier, but the power play really needs a little refinement. There’s been too much deferring and not enough players taking control, if you will. On paper, the ‘Canes have as much firepower as any unit in this league, so there’s really no excuse for why they continue to struggle at various times throughout the season.

Bridge: I sort of felt like the Hurricanes changed things up to send a message to underperforming players during a game they expected to be an easy win (putting Jordan Martinook on the top line against Seattle, demoting Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and others). The Washington Capitals are red hot and lost to the Kraken, so it felt a bit like underestimating an underdog. Hopefully, they learned from that game and the “first-line Martinook” experiment is over with for good. The offense was ugly in that game, to say the least, with so many turnovers and missed opportunities.

Jordan Martinook, Carolina Hurricanes
Jordan Martinook, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Additionally, discipline has been an issue, especially for Svechnikov, who was just fined $5,000. He’s got a temper on him that gets him into trouble, but I think he was so frustrated last night that he fought just to see some action.

Shaw: Starting fast needs to be a priority for the Hurricanes. This team is always liable to score in bunches and bounce back nicely from mistakes and poor play, but taking control early on will make the Hurricanes even more of a force to be reckoned with. They’ve gotten into a bad habit of coming out of the gates slow and falling behind, so first periods need to be more of a focus moving forward.

Stanley: I think we touched on the two biggest ones already in the slow starts, which goes along with lack of in-game consistency or playing a full 60 minutes, as well as the struggling power play, which is totally lacking any flow or off-puck movement right now. They’re too easy to defend.

But, for this one, I want to touch on Svechnikov a little more. These next few games feel very, very important to me. He scored a beautiful goal in Philadelphia to snap a 11-game goalless streak, and the Hurricanes really need that to be a harbinger of things to come. Last season, the Russian phenom started out looking absolutely unstoppable, but right around Game 15 things really hit a bump in the road, and he struggled the rest of the way. This season has started to feel a little similar, with his play really dropping off right around that same point. Hopefully, he proves it’s a simple rut in his breakout season, and things don’t snowball and keep getting worse as they did in the 2020-21 season.

Topic 4: What Metro Team Poses the Biggest Threat to the Hurricanes?

Ohari: Right now, I’d have to say the Washington Capitals, just because of their experience level and the fact that the New York Islanders have been a massive disappointment. The Caps have a recent Stanley Cup, veteran leadership, and a nice influx of some solid depth pieces to boot. Oh, and that Alexander Ovechkin guy is still pretty good.

Bridge: I’d say the Capitals for sure. They are extremely strong and neck and neck with the Hurricanes, tied in points even though that’s really only because of the loser point (Carolina also has two games in hand). The upcoming game will be a good measuring stick to see how the two teams match up this year.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Shaw: I’ll always be concerned with the Capitals, so long as No. 8 remains on the ice. That’s not to say they can’t score outside of Ovechkin, but his torrid pace to begin the season is the kind of play that steals a playoff series or flips the division order late in the season. Should the Caps keep up with Carolina in the standings all season, I’d look for them to play spoiler and steal potential home ice in April.

Stanley: Well, in a division as cutthroat as this one, I expected a little more variance here. Alas, the Capitals still reign supreme according to the Hurricanes team here at The Hockey Writers.

But, I’m at least going to shout out the New York Rangers. They obviously have a lot of tantalizing young talent with rising players such as Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, and a suddenly-hot Kaapo Kakko. With those players beginning to supplement the star power of Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Adam Fox, plus their phenomenal young goaltender Igor Shesterkin, it’s easy to buy that team as “for real.” It was always simply a matter of them putting things together, and it appears they have.

It’ll be interesting to see how the season shakes out, because even the current worst team in the division, the Islanders, are no pushover. The Metro is a meat grinder. Again.

Home Games, Sweet Home Games (Enjoy While They Last)

Sunday afternoon the Hurricanes finally return to the friendly confines of PNC Arena, where they will take on those very same Washington Capitals. Following that showdown, they’ll head to Dallas to take on the Stars, then return to Raleigh for two highly-winnable games with Ottawa and Buffalo, before heading on another long road trip out west. This time around Carolina will see the Western Canadian teams and Minnesota Wild. Some really fun matchups lie ahead in that stretch, especially the one that will pit them against the best player on the planet (two best players on the planet?) in Edmonton. The matchup of Connor McDavid (…and Leon Draisatl?) and Jaccob Slavin is always incredibly fun to watch.

The fact that the Hurricanes have played 12 of their first 19 games on the road, and still sit with a stellar record of 15-3-1, is obviously a very good thing moving forward. As tough as the division is, the Hurricanes have been deadly at home for years now, so getting longer homestands as the season moves along sets them up for continued success. As the length of the NHL season continues to wear on players, home-ice advantage can really play a large role later in the season.

And, generally speaking, this grueling stretch of schedule is only going to continue to help this team grow as a unit, and battle-test them for the most important time of year when the calendar turns to April, May, and beyond. It ought to be a lot of fun to watch this young, star-filled roster try to keep proving themselves in arguably the best division in hockey.

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving from the team here at The Hockey Writers; we’re thankful for the awesome readers and fans we have here at the site. Until next time!