CAROLINA HURRICANES 2012/13 – PLAYER BY PLAYER SEASON PREVIEW

Eric Staal NHL Carolina Hurricanes

Photo by Benjamin Reed (Flickr: Eric Staal) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In preparation for the 2012-13 NHL Season, IceNationUK will be taking a look at each team on a player-by-player basis.  This isn’t really about predicting overall how well the teams will do, where they’ll end up in the standings, line combinations, or even guessing at individual player stats, but is more about analysing the make-up of each roster.  Of course rosters are yet to be finalised, but I will be using the rosters as stated on each individual team’s website.

I am by no means an expert on every single player in the league, but through looking at traditional “box car” stats (G, A, P, PIMs, TOI, +/-, etc.) and also using Robert Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, I hope to piece together a reasonable, realistic view of each player.  Please don’t hesitate to comment if you agree or disagree.

So without further ado, here is the anticipated 2012-13 roster for the Carolina Hurricanes.

FORWARDS

Jeff Skinner NHL Carolina Hurricanes

Photo by Michael Miller (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

PLAYER

POSITION

2011-12 SEASON STATS

GAMES PLAYED

GOALS

ASSISTS

POINTS

TIM BRENT

C

79

12

12

24

The journey-man forward, who at age 28 has already played for 5 different NHL organisations and for the AHL affiliates of 4 of those, Brent had a pretty successful season by traditional stats – only his second full one at this level.  His shooting percentage was pretty high, so expect that to regress a bit, although his percentage last season was still fairly high so maybe he’s just that kind of shooter.  I think at this age, he is what he is – a depth option who is nothing more than a 4th liner who can help on the PP a small bit.  He wasn’t much of a PK option, and got destroyed by the shot metrics playing against soft competition at 5v5, so was bleeding chances against.  He’s a pretty replaceable sort of player, and I think the 2011-12 season could well end up being his career year.  I certainly wouldn’t want to see him getting many more minutes than he already is.

PATRICK DWYER

RW

73

5

7

12

The 29 year old Dwyer was taking on many of the tough assignments for Carolina this year, playing a lot on the PK and taking on the toughest opposition on the team along with sub-40% offensive zone-starts.  This is a useful player no doubt, and one who won’t get much love from fans due to a lack of scoring ability, but he does appear to be a very capable player doing what he does now – playing against the best.  He’s also very physical with 129 hits and was one of the few players on the team who managed to break even in terms of +/-, remarkable given the situations he was placed in.  Highly capable 4th liner.

JUSSI JOKINEN

LW

79

12

34

46

The inconsistent-but-highly-skilled Jokinen continued to provide decent secondary scoring for the Hurricanes.  He’s an important player on a Canes team that was frankly starved for offence, playing heavy powerplay minutes and even contributing on the PK.  He plays against middling competition but more than gets the job done, I’m actually somewhat surprised he doesn’t get given more responsibility – I expect he could handle slightly tougher opponents and take the strain off of some of the other players.  Expect more of the same from the renowned shootout wizard

CHAD LAROSE

RW

67

19

13

32

A career year by the small-but-tough utility forward, putting away nearly 20 goals – and without a massive jump in SH%!  If LaRose wasn’t asked to play tough minutes, which he does with aplomb – routinely putting up dominant shot differentials – I reckon he could actually crack that 20 goal barrier with a bit more luck.  He plays a small bit on the PK and on the powerplay too, and despite not being a massive point getter appears to have become an extremely valuable member of the team.  He is also one of the remaining team-members from the Hurricane’s stunning Cup win in ’06 – Eric Staal is the only other forward – so that experience will be valuable for a team looking to make the playoffs after missing out the last 3 years.

ANDREAS NODL

RW

60

3

5

8

A depth forward if there ever was one, Nodl plays minimal minutes, and not really on either special team.  He was however asked to play tough competition, and whilst he wasn’t awful, he didn’t really excel.  I think the Canes were hoping for a bit more out of him after he put up 11 goals and 22 points for the Flyers in 10-11.  Still, he’s a pretty capable 4th liner, but Carolina appears to be overflowing with those right now.

TUOMO RUUTU

C

72

18

16

34

The hard-nosed veteran forward disappointed somewhat this season in terms of scoring totals, but then virtually the entire team did so perhaps we should blame him too much – he’s always been a streaky scorer anyway.  He’s a very physical player so does contribute somewhat when he’s not scoring, and just about comes out on top in shot differentials playing against middling competition.  He’s not a top line player, but definitely a capable 2nd liner and I’d expect him to rebound a small bit this coming season.

ALEX SEMIN

RW

77

21

33

54

A great signing for Carolina even if only for one season.  I can’t believe a team didn’t sign him before the Hurricanes, he should have been one of the first to go, but I think that goes to show how much teams value “intangibles” and player attitudes over actual hockey playing ability.  And don’t doubt it, Semin is a great hockey player.  He had a bit of a down season this last year for Washington, but part of that can be attributed to less playing time – he played 18:04 per game in 10-11, but only 16:47 per game in 11-12, and a good deal of that cut-time was from the powerplay, where he excels.  He was also taken off the PK this year.  At 5v5, he was playing soft-ish competition but was blowing it away, showing he is probably capable of taking on much more difficult responsibilities and coming out on top.  He plays the sort of puck-possession game that teams like Detroit love  – and I’m surprised they didn’t sign him first – and so should be a great help to Carolina’s scoring troubles playing on the 1st line and getting plenty of PP time too.

JEFF SKINNER

C

64

20

24

44

After his stellar rookie season in 10-11, for which he was awarded the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year – all the more amazing considering people thought he was a reach-pick by Carolina at 7th Overall in the 2010 draft, much less that he’d even make the NHL at all that year – he did drop off slightly this year, but I think much of that can be attributed to injuries.  He did still put away 20 goals and 44 points, which is great production for one of the youngest players in the league.  He was playing middling competition with a 55% offensive zonestart push and came out well ahead in terms of shot differentials, so he took advantage of the favourable situations he was put in.  The next step for the talented Skinner is to see if he can take on more responsibility.  I see so many people saying “the Oilers/Bruins got it so wrong by taking Hall/Seguin instead of Skinner, he’s the best”.  I’m afraid he isn’t.  He put up the most points of the three in his first year, but that doesn’t mean he’s the best player.  The other two, Hall & Seguin, take on tougher assignments and still dominate the shot metrics, indicating that they are more complete players at this point in time.  Skinner is very, very talented though and I’d expect him to be able to take on some of that responsibility and soon.  I don’t see him as an absolutely elite first liner, but a very good one who will consistently get in the 60-70 point range, maybe 75 points in a great year.  Great kid and great player, the Canes really are lucky to have him – there is no need to play the three stars of the 2010 draft off against each other, they are all different and all talented.

ERIC STAAL

C

82

24

46

70

Usually a model of consistency in the NHL, Staal is a perennial 70 point scorer, a true first liner.  However, for the first month or two of this season, the question on many people’s lips was, “What has happened to Eric Staal?”  He was mired in possibly the worst slump of his pro career at the start of the 11-12 season, scoring only 5 points in his first 16 games – and 3 of those were in 1 game!  However, he managed to turn it around and turn it on for the rest season, managing to just make it to the 70 point plateau for the 7th consecutive year on the last game of the season.  For too long Staal has had to carry the load on offence for the Canes, but now he has help from Skinner, Semin and his brother Jordan Staal, who should all help elevate Eric to new heights.  Staal plays in all situations, and whilst the new acquisitions Semin and Staal could take away some of his ice-time, he will still be heavily leaned upon – but he’s up to the task.  Staal takes on tough opposition and comes out on top in shot differentials, exactly what you want in your first line center.  A true star, possibly even a superstar, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him push back towards 40 goals and 80 points this year if the added help proves beneficial.

JORDAN STAAL

C

62

25

25

50

One of the off-season’s big trades, on draft day in June the Carolina Hurricanes sent a heavy package of picks and players to Pittsburgh for Jordan Staal.  Some say it was too much, as Pittsburgh received Brandon Sutter (a 3rd line center possibly almost as good as Staal defensively, though not with the same offensive dimension) and an 8th overall draft pick used to select talented puckmoving d-man Derrick Pouliot, as well as a quality prospect in the form in d-man Brian Dumoulin.  In short, Jordan Staal better be worth the price they paid.  He’s certainly a quality NHLer, possibly one of the best 2-way centers in the entire league.  He played the toughest competition on the Penguins by far, with difficult zonestarts and came out on top in shot differentials.  What is not clear however, is how good he is offensively.  He’s fully capable of being a 20-30 goal and 50 point scorer.  We’ve seen that from him for the past 6 NHL seasons.  But he was a 2nd Overall draft pick, like his older brother Eric, and you hope to get a bit more offence out of a forward at that point in the draft.  Many have said it’s because he’s been stuck behind Crosby and Malkin.  Well now here’s his chance.  He has to take the bull by the horns and really show what he can do.  Last year was a career year for him, as he was on pace for 66 points over a full season, by far a career best for him.  He has struggled with injuries the last 2 years, but hopefully that’s behind him.  He also really turned it up in the playoffs, scoring 6 goals and 9 points in 6 games whilst the Penguins got slaughtered by the Flyers.  Was that a sign of good things to come from Staal, or just a flash in the pan?  I think he’s somewhere inbetween, personally: not an elite scorer but a damn good one, and I can’t wait to see how he gets on in Carolina.

ANTHONY STEWART

RW

77

9

11

20

The not-quite-so-talented brother of St Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart, Anthony did nonetheless manage to put up solid production playing limited minutes (8:07 per game) in a 4th line role.  He’s big and physical and is capable of putting some points on the board, though he needs to improve his shot differentials, as they weren’t good playing against soft competition.  A half-decent 4th liner, there are worse players out there, but I’d rather have someone a bit more reliable from a defensive standpoint.

JIRI TLUSTY

C

79

17

19

36

 The former 1st rounder (Toronto, 13th OV 2006) began to show why he was highly touted, scoring nearly 20 goals and 40 points.  He’s bounced between the AHL and the NHL every season since he was drafted, becoming a quality minor league scorer but struggling generally when called up to the big league.  This season he managed to put it all together, putting up solid scoring numbers and taking on tough competition.  Whilst he didn’t put up a positive shot differential, he didn’t drown considering the pretty tough minutes he was tasked with.  Beyond that, he’s reasonably physical and plays some minutes on the PP and on the PK, so he’s quite versatile.  I do wonder whether this was a one-off season, such as Gilbert Brulé had a couple of years back with the Oilers when he also potted 17 goals after years of struggling – only to fall right back down again; or will he keep it up?  He wasn’t the beneficiary of a massively high shooting percentage or an excessive zonestart push, so you never know, he might keep it up and maybe be even better.

DEFENCE

Joni Pitkanen NHL Carolina Hurricanes

Photo by Benjamin Reed (Flickr: Joni Pitkanen) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

PLAYER

POSITION

2011-12 SEASON STATS

GAMES PLAYED

GOALS

ASSISTS

POINTS

 JOE CORVO

D

75

4

21

25

The veteran puck mover returns to Carolina for a 3rd tour of duty, after having spent the 11-12 season with Boston.  He isn’t the 2-way presence he once was and at age 35 is probably not able to shoulder the same amount of responsibility as he used to, but he is still a player full capable of putting up some points on the powerplay and coming out ahead on shot differentials against softish competition at 5v5.  A nice veteran presence to have, I’d imagine he’ll be in more of a 3rd pairing role this time around, although with a fair helping of powerplay time.  A nice addition.

JUSTIN FAULK

D

66

8

14

22

The young defenceman, drafted only 2 years ago in the 2nd round, had a pretty impressive year for a 20 year old d-man playing his first pro season in the sport’s top league.  He was 3rd in team scoring for d-men, and played surprisingly heavy minutes at all disciplines, having a particularly good impact on the PP.  He’s a stocky guy, and is pretty physical, and was not far from breaking even in shot differentials playing against quite difficult competition.  Defenceman in particular never develop in straight lines, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to take a step back this season, but all in all I think the Hurricanes have a very impressive young player here.

 TIM GLEASON

D

 82

1

17

18

Gleason continued to be a rock-steady presence on the blueline for Carolina in 11-12, putting up his usual solid scoring numbers whilst providing a strong physical defensive presence.  He played heavy PK and 5v5 minutes, but hardly any on the PP, and faced the toughest competition of any defender on the team with around 40% O-zone starts, and whilst he didn’t break even he wasn’t too far off – a very good result considering the difficult situations he was placed in.  Gleason was rumoured to be asked-after by many teams throughout the year, but he re-signed with Carolina for a very reasonable 4 year, $4m per season deal.  Quality player.

 MARC-ANDRE GRAGNANI

 D

 58

2

13

15

An interesting addition to the team, Gragnani had an up and down year.  This was his first full year in the league, after years of dominating down in the AHL for Buffalo’s minor league affiliates, MAG is a big – though not physical – puck moving player, who played heavy powerplay minutes but hardly any on the PK.  In Buffalo he faced soft competition and extreme (~65%) offensive zonestarts, so was getting a major push from his coach but in fairness he absolutely dominated that playing time in terms of shot metrics.  He didn’t put up astounding scoring totals but was respectable, posting 12 points in 44 games.  However, he was then traded to Vancouver in the Cody Hodgson deal, and his scoring fell off to only 3 points in 14 games.  However, it should be noted that in Vancouver he was still receiving a zonestart-and-competition push, and still dominating the shot metrics (although not quite as good), so his lack of scoring might well have come just down to luck, not to mention his ice time decreased significantly as he was further down the depth chart on a talented Vancouver d-corps.  I think this is a good signing for Buffalo, as I think in his second full year he should be able to capitalise more on his dominant possession figures if afforded the same push he got in 11-12.

 JAY HARRISON

D

 72

9

14

23

For a 29 year old who was only a couple of years ago being labelled a career minor leaguer, Harrison has carved out a nice role for himself on the Carolina roster, and the 11-12 season was just his 2nd full year in the league as he put up career highs across the board. He wasn’t far off breaking even against fairly tough competition, although it looks like he might have been put into situations that were just a little beyond his capability, defensively speaking.   He played in all disciplines and provided a physical presence, and overall can be classed as a pretty competent NHL defender.  Not great, not bad, he should be counted on for a similar year this year.

 JAMIE MCBAIN

D

 76

8

19

27

The young and highly touted defender perhaps didn’t take the leap forward that many expected this season after putting up 30 points as a rookie in 10-11, but he still performed well in all areas.  He was put up against middling competition and whilst he didn’t blow them away, he did put up positive shot differentials.  For a big guy (6’2″, 200lbs) he isn’t at all physical (only 15 hits all year), and didn’t play much on the PK (averaging 39 seconds a game), he needs to start rounding out his game to become a true 2-way force, or risk being labelled as a one-dimensional (but talented) scoring defender.  I’m not sure he’ll ever be as good as he was hyped up to be, but he’ll still be a very good player.

 JONI PITKANEN

 D

 30

5

12

17

The smooth skating Finn was impressive in an injury shortened season, and was on pace for year another 40 point season.  He’s not a dominant player by the shot metrics, or at least he wasn’t this year, but he is heavily leaned upon in all areas by the Canes and his loss cannot be understated.  Hopefully he’ll come back this year and provide the Carolina blueline with the dynamic play it has become used to with Pitkanen.

GOAL

Cam Ward NHL Carolina Hurricanes

Photo by Dan4th Nicholas (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

PLAYER

POSITION

2011-12 SEASON STATS

GAMES PLAYED

W/L/OT

SV%

GAA

 BRIAN BOUCHER

G

 10

 1/6/1

.881

 3.41

On a team where Cam Ward is king, the backup is never going to get much opportunity.  Boucher is usually a competent-ish backup, but seemed to struggle (at least by the stats) in 11-12.  He has to be better this year, as I believe the Canes have to rest Ward more so he’s fresher should they make the playoffs – which I think they have a good chance of doing.

 CAM WARD

 G

68

30/23/13

.915

2.74

The resident hero amongst Hurricane fans for his Conn Smythe winning performance in 2006, leading Carolina to the Cup, Ward is actually a pretty average starter – again at least in terms of stats.  He’s very talented, no doubt, but he’s not the sort of goalie who can carry the team all the way to the playoffs on his own.  A better team all around should help somewhat this year though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ward post better numbers this coming year.  At the moment though, it’s hard to justify his $6.3m per year salary.

PROSPECTS MOST LIKELY TO MAKE THE TEAM / EARN A CALL-UP

Ryan Murphy

Photo by Tabercil (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Carolina seems to have a lot of forward prospects who will likely top out as decent depth players, 3rd and 4th liners, but doesn’t appear to have many players with a true high end ceiling, with the possible exceptions of Victor Rask and Zac Dalpe.  Rask is a talented center but very raw and will likely take a few years seasoning in the minors before he’s NHL ready, so don’t expect to see him any time soon.  Dalpe on the other hand should be ready to try and push for a spot on the big club.  He is a talented goal scorer and has performed well at the AHL level, although he seemed to struggle a bit this year.  However, his resumé suggests he likely has to be in a top 6 role as he doesn’t seem to have many traits typical of bottom 6 players (defensive responsibility, physicality etc.), and he might be hard pressed to push any of Carolina’s current top 6 out of the way.  Riley Nash is another player who may play some more NHL games this year, but he has largely been a disappointment since getting traded to Carolina 2 years ago for a 2nd round pick which turned into Martin Marincin.

The jewel in the crown of Carolina’s prospects is defender Ryan Murphy, who has been playing for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL and has been an outstanding offensive defenceman there, racking up the points.  He’s also been a mainstay of the Canadian National Junior Team.  He is undersized for a d-man however, and it remains to be seen whether (a) he can stand up to the rigours of the NHL, (b) if his offence will translate, and (c) does he offer much else other than offensive skills?  It’s unlikely that we find out this season, as I find it hard to believe that he’ll make the Canes roster, and I don’t believe he is eligible for the AHL this year.  Bobby Sanguinetti is probably a more likely bet, as the former first round pick of the NY Rangers has become a dominant AHL defender, but has struggled to make his way on to an NHL roster as of yet.  I would expect he is the primary call-up option for the Hurricanes this year.

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