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About Last Season: Haydn Fleury Performance Review and Grade

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The former 2014 first-round pick has started to really blossom into his role, now given extra responsibility and ice time.

Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Haydn Fleury 2019-20 By The Numbers

  • Age: 24
  • NHL Seasons: 3
  • Games Played: 45
  • Scoring: 4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points
  • Average TOI: 12:53 ES, 0:00 PP, 0:47 SH
  • Contract: Finished one-year, $850k contract; Upcoming RFA

Haydn Fleury shouldn’t be a seventh defenseman ever again.

After having a back and forth season last year between Charlotte and Carolina, Fleury signed a one-year extension with the Hurricanes for only $850k. Obviously knowing he wasn’t getting the time he wanted, Fleury still showed commitment to the team that drafted him and showed that he wanted to prove that he was worth being at the NHL level.

He then spent the majority of this season coming in and out of the lineup as the sixth/seventh defenseman, but when he was finally given increased ice time and responsibility, Fleury finally seemed to grow comfortable as a reliable defender.

With extended ice time and a guaranteed spot on the roster, Fleury’s confidence, and subsequently his play, blossomed. When you know one wrong play could mean you’re getting yanked from the lineup for a string of games, it can cause some players to become really tense and dull their game. But by allowing him to develop and learn through playing, Fleury’s game went from a lackluster beginning to a really solid end.

Not to mention he finally did it. In his 96th career game, in his third NHL season, Fleury finally scored a goal.

Not only that, but he notched three more throughout the season and put up a respectable 10 assists, both career bests.

Outside of seeing a boost in his offensive production, Fleury also saw improvements in his defensive game, namely his physicality, awareness and skating.

Coming into the season, Fleury had joked with reporters that he was going to smile less on the ice and instead increase his intensity and compete level. And the guy with the usual constant smile on his face delivered on that message.

As one of the largest players on the team, fourth in height at 6-foot-3 and second in weight at 221 pounds, Fleury needed to be able to utilize his size. This isn’t some Paul Fenton fantasy about larger players being better, but when you can utilize your size into your skill set, that’s when it is crucially beneficial. Fleury averaged a hit per game and had seven games with three plus hits, finishing third among Hurricanes defensemen with 48 hits in 45 games.

Fleury also became a force to stand up for his teammates and not let guys run around unchecked.

To be fair, Mrazek 100% initiated this contact with Robby Fabbri, but Fleury did not even hesitate to go after him as soon as he saw his goaltender go down. That’s the type of player you want to have around, one that cares for and will stand up for his teammates.

Now to be fair, there were two different types of Fleury this season. Before Dougie Hamilton’s injury, Fleury did show flashes of brilliance, but his sheltered role and constant flux in and out of the lineup gave him less than stellar performances in those 24 games.

But after Hamilton went down, Fleury saw his usage rate rise and began to flourish in a new stable role. The mistakes still came, but it was less frequent and they were in turn outweighed by the smart plays he began to make with more consistency.

Let’s first take a look at where Fleury struggled.

This is a good example of the difference in play that we saw from Fleury throughout the season, and although it is from the first game after Hamilton went down, it’s still more like he played in the first half of the season.

Fleury gets beat on the turn around by Ryan Getzlaf and is therefore unable to pressure him behind the net. Then, as Fleury is trying to chase him as he goes around, Fleury chooses to try and poke check the puck from the outside of Getzlaf, along the boards.

This is poor awareness in two ways.

One is positioning, as he is pulled further out of position and he also tries to pressure Getzlaf from behind and along the boards. The second is opponent awareness as Getzlaf is an elite passer. By allowing Getzlaf the whole of the inside of the ice to scan and wait for a play to materialize since he went for the outside poke check, he was mostly at fault for the goal, although the lack of anyone covering Erik Gudbranson on his entry was less than ideal.

Still one can see the lack of confidence in this play as he is just trying to chase him instead of committing to anything.

Now take this play from a month later.

Perfect body positioning, laying out to cut the initial passing lane and then he still sticks with the play (literally) to cut off the second passing lane Nick Merkley tried to create. Fleury made plays like that with more consistency as his playing time increased.

It wasn’t just in his awareness either. In the first half of his season, Fleury had nine giveaways and only three takeaways in his first 24 games. In the last 21, Fleury accounted for 17 more giveaways but 14 more takeaways. In fact, he would have gone positive in that regard if it weren’t for three tough games in the last month of hockey that added nine in a short span.

Even past his hockey senses, Fleury skates well up the ice and through transition and his edge work has gotten cleaner and tighter allowing him to actually make plays and find space in the offensive zone, which could account for his rise in production.

All-in-all as the season progressed, Fleury looked more and more like he could be the top-four defenseman that he was drafted to become.

And that is promising seeing as the Hurricanes are facing a real cap crunch currently with the ensuing flat cap as Fleury may be a key part in helping to relieve a bit of that pressure. On an expiring one-year deal, Fleury is still an RFA so he won’t be able to test out the market, but I can’t see him asking for much in terms of money.

It is true that he has improved significantly, but he is still not a proven defenseman. His good play was only a small sample size and he doesn’t have enough body of work to deserve higher-end money.

With the situation Carolina is currently in, Fleury would most likely have to sign either another one-year extension or perhaps go for a bridge deal. Fleury is three seasons out from becoming a UFA, so if he wanted to go that route a three-year deal would walk him there, but it would make more sense for Carolina to go with a two-year deal to retain his negotiation rights.

In terms of price, I’d expect Fleury to fall in the range of $1.85 to $3 million AAV at most, which is still pushing it. He wants to play and he knows the situation the team is in. With a flat cap for at least the next season, a new contract like this would work for both sides; a raise for Fleury and a solid defenseman under budget for the Canes.

Poll

How would you grade Haydn Fleury’s 2019-20 season?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    A - Outstanding Performance
    (10 votes)
  • 59%
    B - Above Average Performance
    (96 votes)
  • 33%
    C - Average Performance
    (54 votes)
  • 0%
    D - Below Average Performance
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    F - Significantly Below Average Performance
    (0 votes)
161 votes total Vote Now