Carolina Hurricanes: Season Report card – defensemen

RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 21: Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes and teammate Jaccob Slavin #74 watch action on the ice from the bench area during a NHL game against the Washington Capitals at PNC Arena on December 21, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 21: Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes and teammate Jaccob Slavin #74 watch action on the ice from the bench area during a NHL game against the Washington Capitals at PNC Arena on December 21, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes have just passed the halfway point of their 2018/19 season, and are riding an exciting five-game win streak as they look to challenge for a playoff spot. This week we’ll be looking at how each part of the team is performing – on Monday we awarded Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour a B-, yesterday gave the team’s goalies good marks, and today we look at the Canes’ defensemen.

The Carolina Hurricanes are widely respected for their performance on the stats sheet, with the Canes frequently topping various advanced stats lists. This stems from the team having such an excellent group of defensemen; all six of the Canes’ main defensemen have a Corsi For % of more than 50%, and the Canes have allowed the least shots on net of any team in the entire NHL (1184, 28 less than the St Louis Blues having played a game more). This is a quality defensive corps that moves the puck well, and makes relatively few mistakes in their own zone.

So, how are they doing this season?

The main men

Jaccob Slavin continues to be a lion among men on the Carolina Hurricanes’ blueline. Criminally under-rated by everyone outside of North Carolina, he is the very prototype of a first-pair defenseman. Now in his fourth season with the Canes, Slavin looks like being a leader on this team for at least another decade to come. Never a renowned scorer, he is currently on a three-game point streak and has a respectable five goals and eleven assists in 42 games. His goal last night was his 100th career point. He’s on track to match last season’s 30-point output and, while his plus/minus is a misleading -15 currently, he’s playing 45 seconds more per game than last season and is rocking his best Corsi For % of his career, at 56%. He is getting better with age – let’s not forget, he’s still just 24 years old, and in theory a few years away from his prime.

Injuries kept Brett Pesce out of the lineup for nine games during the team’s leaner spell in November – it is no co-incidence that a healthy team, with a healthy Pesce, is winning more games than it is losing. Never a big scorer, he has nevertheless scored three times and needs just one more goal to tie his career-high; he is also on course to record his highest points total, and his +10 also projects to be a career-high. Pesce is the one guy on this Carolina Hurricanes team who always puts out a 7 or 8 out of 10 effort, and goes under the radar.

Justin Faulk is having a mini-revival this year, playing some solid hockey and passing the significant milestone of 500GP with the Carolina Hurricanes franchise.  His scoring is down a touch, barely projecting to pass his career-low of 5 goals, but one significant improvement has been in his plus/minus, which was a combined -109 over the first 477 games of his career. It’s a big fat 0 this season, and it’s clear to Canes fans that Faulk has given up some of his offense to become a more rounded defenseman, as he’s clearly much better in his own zone this season.

Dougie Hamilton may never get a fair shake in his career, as he’s yet again being mentioned in the rumor mill. All it took was a disappointing first 35 or so games with the Carolina Hurricanes; curiously, his play has remarkably improved over the last few games, and his four-game point streak includes goals in three consecutive games. He was apparently injured for most of November / December, so if we are now seeing a healthy Hamilton, the production from the Canes’ blueline should increase sizeably for the rest of the season. Let’s hope this is the real Dougie.

Last night Calvin de Haan went back to Nassau Coliseum for the first time in years, and came away with a valuable win for his new team. Another player who goes consistently under the radar on this Carolina Hurricanes team, de Haan is a steady presence on the Canes’ blueline and while he’ll never be a prolific scorer, his main value is in keeping the opposition at bay, something he excels at. He is a valuable contributor.

Trevor van Riemsdyk has woken up in recent weeks. He’s shooting the puck a lot more, with 16 in the last ten games compared to 27 shots in his first 28 games this season. Last night’s game against the Islanders saw TvR play 17:16, his highest TOI since 27 November. He remains a competent third-pairing defenseman, but hasn’t particularly shown any signs of becoming more than that – but as one of the very few players on this team with a Stanley Cup ring, there is more to TvR than his performance on the ice.

The future

The enigma that is Haydn Fleury continues to confound and astound. Fleury has featured in ten games this season for the Carolina Hurricanes, registering one assist and 13:12 of ATOI. He’s suffered the most from Dougie Hamilton’s acquisition and the relative good health of the Canes’ blueline, and is best served right now leading the Charlotte Checkers.

More from Cardiac Cane

Trevor Carrick played just one game, losing a fight and making one hit and one block. Now 24 years old, he deserves an opportunity to play in the NHL but that Canes defense is a tough one to crack. He remains unlikely to break through any time soon, which leads me to believe that his best option is to ask for a trade. He’s an NHL-caliber defenseman, stuck in the AHL. He would be a fantastic pickup for quite a few teams.

Jake Bean was given limited opportunity during his brief run of two games with the Canes. He played an average of just 8:28 in those games, registering a shot, a hit and a takeaway. His Corsi For % was terrible, but it was a brief glimpse into the future for Canes fans. He has a big future in Raleigh and there will be longer looks for him later in the year, for sure.

How do we score everyone?

Rather than write even more material to justify their grades, I’ll keep it simple and lay out their marks in pairings:

Jaccob Slavin (B+) – Brett Pesce (B)

Calvin de Haan (B-) – Justin Faulk (B-)

Trevor van Riemsyk (C) – Dougie Hamilton (C+)

Haydn Fleury (D+) – Trevor Carrick (D) – Jake Bean (D)

Jaccob Slavin has been the pick of the Carolina Hurricanes’ defense, with Brett Pesce his usual selfless self. Calvin de Haan has been a really good pickup, and Justin Faulk has been much better this year than last. TvR has been solid, and Dougie Hamilton’s mark is better than it would have been a week ago. Fleury gets an extra mark for effort, with the Ds given to Carrick and Bean being ‘Ds for default’.

dark. Next. Grading the Canes' goaltending at the halfway point

Tomorrow we look at the forwards for the Carolina Hurricanes, who have awoken just in time for our marks to be awarded. Will their recent hot form save them when it comes to getting their grades? Let us know how you would mark the Canes’ defensemen, and come back tomorrow to see how the forwards fare.