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Point/Counterpoint: In which Andrei Svechnikov needs a home

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The Hurricanes need goals from their rookie winger. Where’s the best place for Andrei Svechnikov to generate them?

Jamie Kellner

Breaking news: the Carolina Hurricanes need goals. Specifically, they need them from one of the players they were counting on as a linchpin of their offense.

Andrei Svechnikov has gone eight games without a goal. He’s languishing on the third line with Lucas Wallmark and Jordan Martinook, and it’s the opinion of many fans - along with a good portion of the CC writing staff - that a shakeup is necessary to get Svechnikov going.

But where? Brett and Brian offer some possibilities on where in the lineup to place the talented rookie, both to get him going and to jump-start a Hurricanes offense that’s stuck in neutral.


Brett: Promote Andrei Svechnikov, Demote Justin Williams

I think it’s time to get real about Justin Williams.

While his value to this team goes well beyond the goals and the assists, the fact that he is the captain of the Hurricanes and the de facto leader of a very young locker room should not blind us to the fact that he is 37 years old and has, clearly, lost a step (or five).

On more than one occasion over the course of Carolina’s 2-5-0 stretch, an opponent has gotten the puck, absolutely burned Williams to the outside, and ended up scoring a goal because of the veteran’s inability to keep up.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

The Jordan Staal line (featuring Williams and rookie Warren Foegele) has failed to score a 5-on-5 goal in almost eight full games. On a team with no real scoring depth (for the time being), that is unacceptable. Yes, they’re an excellent trio when it comes to puck possession and taking on tough assignments, but it doesn’t really matter how few goals the other team’s top players are scoring when the Canes are getting one or two goals in any given game...

It’s time for the bottom-six usage of Andrei Svechnikov to end. He needs to be in the top-six, and he needs to take the place of Carolina’s aging, regressing captain.

In this scenario, I think it helps both Svechnikov and Williams.

Svechnikov gets a much bigger 5-on-5 role with much better line-mates. He gets put in a situation where Staal can create space and Foegele can play his aggressive and skilled power game, which will give the Russian winger more opportunities to make an impact offensively. The addition of Svechnikov immediately makes that line quicker and more dangerous. When you put an exceptionally talented player next to two guys like Staal and Foegele, I think all three players benefit in a big way.

Williams can now get slotted into a role that actually makes sense given where he is in his career. He can play alongside guys like Lucas Wallmark and Brock McGinn, a player he performed well with a season ago. The 37-year-old will see his 5-on-5 minutes shrink, but that means he will be able to focus more so on his role on Carolina’s power play and won’t be worked into the ground to the point where he becomes even slower and less effective in February and March.

The biggest argument against this idea has been about Svechnikov’s inability to play responsibly in his own end and the neutral zone. I think that’s a lazy argument.

I’m not at all convinced that Williams is an elite defender or even a markedly better defender than Svechnikov. I think that debate’s false sense of legitimacy is based on the fact that Williams is a veteran and Svechnikov is a rookie. If that’s case, then explain to me what happened on Sunday. Tell me how valuable his veteran wisdom was when he totally failed to cover Pulock in the slot on the New York rush...

That poor defensive play ended up being the difference in the game.

Brian is arguing that Foegele should be the one who sees his role diminish, not Williams. I couldn’t disagree more. Foegele has been, game in and game out, one of Carolina’s most effective forwards. He forces turnovers, he is a pain to play against, he has the speed to create chances on the rush and, to boot, he has the skill to back it all up. The problem has been that, more often than not, those chances he has created have been one-man shows. His line-mates are trailing behind because they, frankly, can’t keep up with him.

I’m not a fan of punishing Foegele for being able to out-skate his line-mates and playing with energy every night. Instead, I’d like to see him alongside a player who can keep up with him and give the Hurricanes another quality scoring line that they desperately need.

Are there still some things that Svechnikov needs to iron out and take care of? Absolutely, but would you rather watch a young player learn on the job and make mistakes as he goes (like Rod Brind’Amour said, during training camp, he’d let Svechnikov do...) on his path to turning into a star in this league, or would you rather watch a player in his late-30’s get routinely out-skated and see his lack of mobility lead to chances the other way?

For me, the answer is obvious.


Brian: Promote Svechnikov, Demote Foegele

Look, I realize the absurdity of typing the words “Warren Foegele should be demoted.” I get it. He’s been a revelation this season, he’s been a sparkplug in more ways than one, and he’s done absolutely nothing to merit a demotion. Let’s get that out of the way first.

But this isn’t about Foegele. It’s about Andrei Svechnikov and, specifically, how to maximize the Canes’ talent across their forward lines. These things don’t just happen in a vacuum; every move has a corresponding reaction, and if you’re going to bump Svechnikov up, you’d better give him a chance to succeed.

Remember last year when the line of Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho was money in the bank for the Hurricanes every night? That line worked because Staal did all the little things that allowed Teravainen and Aho to work their magic. Staal is not an offensive firebrand. I know that’s not exactly a hot take, but it’s true: he’s a damn good defensive center and he clogs up a ton of space in the middle of the ice, but no one’s going to be confusing him with John Tavares anytime soon.

Indeed, Foegele is one of the only two Hurricanes forwards - Brock McGinn is the other - who is sub-50% in goals for. (We’ll exclude Phil Di Giuseppe and his two games here.) That’s, again, not a knock on Foegele. It’s a realization that on a line with Staal and Justin Williams, he’s going up against top lines every single night. The Canes’ matchup line against opposing top lines is Staal, Player A and Player B, and has been for years. If Player A and Player B are both rookies, how’s that going to work? My contention is “not very well.”

(We pause for a moment to note that Williams is at 54% GF and 50% high-danger GF. Not good, to be sure, but not horrific either.)

I do think that Svechnikov and Staal should play together. But keeping Williams on the other wing gives them a good bit of cover. Offensively, Williams has been middling to mostly fine, and putting him opposite Svechnikov - especially with Staal creating space for them, which Lucas Wallmark is doing very little of to benefit Svechnikov - would probably open up some more offensive opportunities for dirty goals.

A Foegele-Staal-Svechnikov line would create goals, of that there is no doubt. But, again, who’s your matchup line against other teams? I would argue that the Canes wouldn’t have one, unless you go strength against strength and start putting the Aho line out against Tavares, Crosby, Backstrom, et al. It certainly wouldn’t be a line of Martinook-Wallmark-Williams. It wouldn’t be the McGinn-Nicolas Roy-Valentin Zykov combination, either.

For me, the correct move is to put Svechnikov next to two veterans, both of whom have struggled in different ways - Staal offensively, Williams defensively - to start the season. The hope here is that a rising tide lifts all boats, and by spreading the ice time around a little more evenly - maybe 15-16 minutes a night for each of the top three lines - you’d get Svechnikov going while not overburdening him with too much defensive responsibility.

This isn’t about what a player can do. It’s about what a player should do (ask Elias Lindholm). Is Svechnikov’s defensive game good for an 18-year-old? Yes, but for the Hurricanes’ sake, he needs to get going offensively and not be constantly back on his heels in front of the Carolina net. The way to do that is to move him up alongside Williams and Staal.

Poll

Which line should Andrei Svechnikov play on?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    Alongside Foegele and Staal
    (281 votes)
  • 9%
    Alongside Williams and Staal
    (31 votes)
  • 2%
    Keep him where he is
    (8 votes)
  • 3%
    Other (answer in comments)
    (10 votes)
330 votes total Vote Now