By: Allan Erickson
Okay, so Hurricane fans everywhere rejoiced whenever Bill Peters, aka the Kinetico Waterman, packed up his belongings and left Raleigh, which was step 1 in getting the Hurricanes back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Here are the next steps in taking this team back to the promise land, under new head coach and longtime franchise leader Rod Brind’Amour.
1- Trade Justin Faulk
The combination of Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen had a stellar season putting the puck in the back of the net. While we all love Jordan Staal and the leadership he brings to the Hurricanes team, he’s getting older, and he’s not a first line center. He belongs on the first unit of the powerplay, but the Canes need to bring in a first line center who can make plays to get the two young goal scorers the puck in scoring areas. Justin Faulk needs to be the piece the Canes move. His role as an offensive defenseman is clear, he has a great shot, but his last 2 seasons have been, quite frankly, awful. 151 games played, 25 goals, 43 assists, and an abysmal -44.
Justin is making over $4.8 million per season, those numbers aren’t going to cut it. Maybe if he were a shutdown defensemen we’d be able to live with the lack of offensive output, but he’s not, he’s supposed to score from the blue line, and not be a liability on the defensive side. The numbers are black and white, he’s not making the grade, especially for a co-captain. Faulk simply has not been the same player since the Canes traded away his long-time partner Ron Hainsey. The potential is there, and someone will take a chance on what Faulk could be in the future, while the canes can get a producing center to star on the front line between the two young Finnish stars the Canes have on the wings.
2- Get rid of Derek Ryan
Ryan and Bill Peters had ties dating back to junior hockey and the American Hockey League, so Ryan got his chance to prove he’s an NHL level player. Unfortunately, he didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. Ryan is 31 years old, and in 147 games he’s amassed 67 points in the NHL. You can live with that, if he brings a presence to the team like young winger Brock McGinn, but he doesn’t. He’s not physical, he doesn’t play heavy on the forecheck, and he doesn’t belong on an NHL roster. I’m sure Derek Ryan is a great person, but he’s not a great hockey player, and the Hurricanes need to break out of this postseason drought, and not having Ryan on the roster will be a good start.
3- Make Elias Lindholm a full-time Center
With Derek Ryan not on the roster, it allows Lindholm to play his natural position, as well as the position he looked very promising in when inserted there last year. Lindholm was solid in the face off circle, and looked much more comfortable in the middle of the ice than he did on the wing. The Canes need to do a full roster evaluation and find out where this young talent is going to play in the future. The process began last season as we saw Lindholm pressed into the middle, and while he didn’t produce like a first-line center, he was far more engaged in the game when he was playing his natural position.
4- Leave the defensive tandem of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce together
After a down year, there were times that we saw Slavin and Pesce paired with other defensemen. The Hurricanes need to re-establish them as a shutdown pairing. Two years ago when, somehow, Justin Faulk made the all star game, the Caniacs lost their minds because Slavin wasn’t representing us in the game. Two years ago, Slavin and Pesce were both a +23 and were matched up against opposing teams best offensive line.
There was no better shutdown pair than Slavin and Pesce 2 seasons ago, and the Hurricanes desperately need them together, and playing that way again. Camaraderie and chemistry is something these two have developed tons of playing together, they communicate, they both play the body, and had breakout years offensively this past season. If they can elevate their defensive play to where it was in 2016-2017 while continue to grow as offensive weapons from the blue line, this tandem can carry the Hurricanes a long way, for a long time.
5- Fix Scott Darling
Darling never settled in to the starting goalie role in Raleigh last year. We did see glimpses of what he could become, but no consistency. He was much better in Chicago, where he didn’t have to play the puck as often, and could hug the post and play a natural butterfly goalie position. Brind’Amour and Peters are two different coaches, and seeing Rod play for the Canes, and now coach, there’s one thing he has that Peters never saw.
That’s the ability to see a player’s strengths, and scheme around that as a team. Darling doesn’t need to play the puck as much, now that Peters is no longer at the helm. Don’t be surprised if Rod changes the aggression levels with goaltenders this season, so we can truly see Scott Darling at his best. Cam Ward flourished in a backup role, if we get some consistency out of Scott Darling, this could be the year the Hurricanes end their playoff drought.
6- Give Jeff Skinner more ice time
Skinner is the most naturally gifted offensive player the Hurricanes have, and when he gets a lot of ice time, he becomes more engaged on the forecheck and gets to the front of the net more often, giving him a chance to excel as a goal scorer. Hurricane fans have been in love with Jeff Skinner since he was crowned rookie of the year. We love his work, his smile after scoring a goal in crunch time, but Peters never game him the ice time he deserved to get into any type of groove.
He can be a 40-50 goal scorer in this league, he’s that skilled, he needs to be on the ice more than 16:42 per game, the second lowest mark of his career. Just two seasons ago he averaged 17:44 a game and scored 37 goals, amassed 26 assists for 63 points, compared to last seasons 24 goals 25 assists and 49 points. Oh, and he played in 3 less games 2 year ago than last season. Get the guy on the ice and let him go to work for us. We’re begging you, Brind’Amour.