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Carolina Hurricanes 2018-19 Season Preview: Special Teams

With so much personnel turnover, what can we expect from the historically lacking special teams this season?

The Carolina Hurricanes are entering the season with a new coach for the first time in four years. While this would generally indicate special teams changes, Rod Brind’Amour has been in charge of the power play for the majority of the Bill Peters tenure in Raleigh. On the penalty kill, things will probably be a bit different with the departure of defensive coach Steve Smith. After finishing in the bottom half of the league in both categories last season, what can we expect from special teams in Rod Brind’Amours first season at the helm?

Power Play

The first thing that jumps out to me with respect to the power play this season is personnel changes. No Jeff Skinner on the half wall. An elite new offensive right-handed defenseman in Dougie Hamilton, who supposedly wanted more power play minutes in Calgary. The departure of Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan, and Noah Hanifin — four players in the top 10 in power play time on ice per games played. For as much flak as Lindholm and Ryan caught, they were good catalysts on the man advantage. Someone will have to pick up that slack this season.

Top 10 PP Time on Ice per Games Played

Player PP TOI/GP
Player PP TOI/GP
Justin Faulk 2:56
Sebastian Aho 2:41
Teuvo Teravainen 2:40
Elias Lindholm 2:37
Jordan Staal 2:36
Justin Williams 2:08
Victor Rask 2:07
Jeff Skinner 2:06
Derek Ryan 2:01
Noah Hanifin 1:46

I’m just speculating, but I’d expect for Brind’Amour to stick with Justin Faulk as the first unit quarterback, just based on the fact that he’s proven himself in that role for years in Carolina. Hanifin had been a frequent flyer on the power play since the 2016-17 season, that role will need to be filled. I’d be willing to bet that Hamilton would be a lock to step into that position.

The forward depth chart on the PP has changed drastically. So what do we know for certain? Well, Sebastian Aho will be a mainstay on the man advantage. Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal and Justin Williams will likely remain in the mix for the entire season. But a long term injury to Victor Rask and numerous departures of top contributors leave tons of space to fill.

This is assuming a lot, but I’d expect for Andrei Svechnikov to step in to the role that Jeff Skinner played given that they’re both left shots. The rookie would be a good fit for a target man type role on the PP with his howitzer of a shot. Valentin Zykov only played 10 games in a Canes uniform last season, but he logged just over a minute per game on the PP in that time. If he makes the team this season, I’d expect for him to be on one of the units, if not the top line. And the same goes for Necas, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him step into a role like Elias Lindholm had last season.

The power play will likely look similar to last year’s in structure and strategy, but expect to see drastically different personnel on the man advantage. That could make a world of difference for a power play that struggled with consistancy last year.

Penalty Kill

Ah, the penalty kill. During the Bill Peters era the Canes were frequently the “cleanest” bunch in the NHL, taking the fewest penalty minutes of any club. And for a long time they had one of the best kills in the league, but it kind of went off the rails last season, finishing 24th in the league with a success rate of just 77.5%.

Top 10 PK Time on Ice per Games Played

Player PK TOI/GP
Player PK TOI/GP
Jaccob Slavin 2:36
Brett Pesce 2:21
Warren Foegele 2:03
Jordan Staal 1:44
Joakim Nordstrom 1:43
Elias Lindholm 1:21
Trevor Van Riemsdyk 1:19
Brock McGinn 1:12
Marcus Kruger 1:11
Klas Dahlbeck 1:04

The first thing that should stick out to you with the data above is Warren Foegele. Yes, he sported 2:03 per game on the kill over his two games in the NHL last season. This is actually pretty interesting data considering he has an outside to decent chance to make the team this season, and the organization’s trust in him on the PK certiantly bodes well for his chances this season.

The PK unit is losing a stalwart in Marcus Kruger and a more minor player in Klas Dahlbeck. But the biggest loss from this group is assistant coach Steve Smith, who left the team this summer and took a position in Buffalo. Smith was a great defensive coach and oversaw the penalty kill here for the last few seasons. Without him we will undoubtedly see some changes shorthanded.

Something that Smith really hammered on with his penalty kill was pressuring the puck carrier hard at the blue line and trying to limit clean zone entries. He stressed high pressure from the two forwards in the defensive zone to choke off open space between the faceoff dots and the half walls. This really limits the flexibility for opposing teams to move the puck quickly. These are just some things that the Canes did extremely well when the kill was really humming two seasons ago. We’ll have to see what strategy differences Brind’Amour and company make this season.

Something that will stay the same is the presence of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce as the first unit pairing. They have been the shutdown pairing here in Raleigh since their rise three seasons ago (has it really been that long already?). Quite frankly, this is why Ron Francis paid these guys big money. They’re the best pure defensemen in the organization and they’ll most likely remain on the kill eating up big minutes.

With the departure of Kruger, I expect for Jordan Martinook to step into a penalty killing role, which he occupied in Arizona last season. Haydn Fleury had a surprisingly high amount of time on the PK last season, he will most likely get some more responsibility this season.

Overall, this penalty kill will likely look a lot different than what we’ve seen the past few seasons. We’ll see whether or not it produces better results than 24th in the NHL.