The Process is Working; The Future is Still Bright
April 4, 2017, 6:13 AM ET [2 Comments]
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Well we knew that it wouldn’t be easy to make it into the final wildcard spot. Despite having five games last week, the Canes only went 2-2-1 and saw themselves fall out of contention for the playoffs. Since the loss to the Penguins on Sunday, the Canes have made plenty of moves.
The Canes management seems focused on ensuring that the Checkers are stacked with prospects for their own playoff run. They’ve had two recent additions in the past week—Saarela joined them the past four games after arriving from Finland. He was acquired in the trade for Eric Staal from the Rangers. To say the least, he has more than performed. He won AHL player of the week and had six points (4g, 2a).
I’d say from early looks that Canes fans might want to start following him. It is certainly early, however, in his first four games, he looks like he could make a good push for making the Canes next season. His offensive skillset could be valuable—he has high hockey IQ, an accurate shot, good hands and strong skater. The big question is once the adrenaline from coming to North America wears off, can he keep this up?
The second addition is the Canes 2016 1st round draft pick, Jake Bean. He will be joining the Checkers for the remainder of the season as his WHL team was eliminated in the playoffs. This will give the Canes management a chance to see him play at a higher level and gauge his development.
Given he can’t play in the AHL next season, this could also be a chance to “show” him off as trade bait for a big trade this summer. Looking at many of the scouting reports, it is clear that Bean is more of an offensive defensemen. He is average sized, a strong skater, good at creating/starting the transitional game and possesses an offensive skill-set. He is supposed to have a very good risk/reward upside.
While he is rumored to have a good upside, I’m not sure the Canes need another average sized, offensive D, who struggles with physical play and getting “dirty.” It isn’t to say that he couldn’t have a good role for the Canes, more that moving him in a package deal may fill bigger needs—such as a young high caliber goalie or young top-6 forward.
The Canes also made a handful of other roster moves: they sent Wallmark and Di Giuseppe back down to Charlotte. This doesn’t surprise me that much, especially given the Canes are out of the playoff race. Both will help Charlotte in their push forward for playoffs.
The Canes also called up Bickell and Poturalski from Charlotte. It is great to see Poturalski get his first NHL call-up, he has certainly earned it. He leads the Checkers in points with 48 points (16g, 32a).
I imagine his call-up is similar to Wallmark’s, where Coach Peters wanted to see what a natural center could do for the Canes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Poturalski was sent down again and the Canes make a few other moves to get looks at guys.
I am glad to see that Bickell is getting to come back up—he will become a UFA this summer, so I hope to see him get in the line-up. He was diagnosed with MS in November and joined the Checkers in February.
Beyond the roster moves and getting to see some young prospects, Faulk set a Canes record. He tallied his 17th goal this season, which is the most for a Canes D in a season. Talk about a memorable goal as it bounced off the glass, off Murray’s back and into the net. I’ve seen some crazy goals, but this one ranks up there:
Speaking of records, Eric Staal will play his 1,000th NHL game against the Canes tonight. It is pretty fitting that the Canes will play him in Minnesota. While he isn’t on the Canes anymore, I know he will enjoy getting to share this night playing against many of his former friends/teammates.
Despite going 2-2-1 last week, the Canes are playing strong hockey. The streak they went on in March was truly a testament to the “grit” these guys have. While I don’t believe in participation trophies, I do think the core group of guys in that room need to be proud of what they accomplished in March.
The fact of the matter is that people stopped talking about the Canes after the losing streaks in January and February. The run in March got the buzz going again—while it may not have resulted in the playoff spot fans wanted, I do think many see the amount of progress is.
I think GMRF is 1-2 trades/signings from putting together a very competitive team—he certainly has enough draft picks this summer to mix it up. As the season winds down now, the biggest question is what do the Canes do with all these prospects and picks?