Carolina Hurricanes: Don’t be too hard on Justin Faulk

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 9: Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on March 9, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/NHL/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 9: Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on March 9, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/NHL/Getty Images) /
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There cannot be a more maligned figure in the Carolina Hurricanes organization than the team’s alternate captain Justin Faulk. But should Canes fans be as hard on him as they are?

Justin Faulk made his debut for the Carolina Hurricanes on October 7th 2011, posting a -2 in a 5-1 loss at the then-RBC Center. He posted just two assists in his first 13 NHL games, going -8 on a Carolina Hurricanes team that opened the season with a 2-9-2 record. He finished his rookie season with a respectable 22 points in 66 games, increasing his ice time to an average of 22:51 by season’s end.

The reason for bringing up such ancient history is not to lower expectations among Carolina Hurricanes fans. Despite being derided by some, and having a career-long reputation as an offensive defenseman who’s not particularly great in his own zone, Faulk’s average TOI has never fallen below 22 minutes a night. That means that a succession of coaches – Kirk Muller, Bill Peters and now Rod Brind’Amour – have valued him so highly that, on average, he’s played more than a third of every game through the first 548 games of his career.

Being a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes can be a frustrating experience, but it can be no co-incidence that Faulk has impressed all three of his coaches during his career. Perhaps it’s the threat of his offensive potential, perhaps it’s now his experience rather than an expectation of goals, but Justin Faulk has been clearly recognized as a talented defenseman throughout his career.

It’s about time the small number of Canes fans who give him a hard time stop doing so.

It can be hard to live with some of Faulk’s mistakes – but every player on this team has made mistakes, even Jaccob Slavin. There was a section of fans on social media who were aghast at Faulk’s mistake in the recent OT loss to the Boston Bruins; yes, Faulk made the mistake that allowed Jake Debrusk to steal the puck and tee up David Krejci for the Bruins’ OT winner – but the whole blueline played badly that night, and the only reason the Canes picked up a loser point was thanks to Justin Williams sneaking a late tying goal, and the goaltending heroics of Curtis McElhinney.

Let’s not forget that earlier in the season Faulk made franchise history, becoming the team’s all-time leader among defensemen in scoring. Now up to 252 career points – all with the Carolina Hurricanes – Justin Faulk has 140 more points than the next-highest active defenseman on the team, Jaccob Slavin. For all his perceived faults, he’s essentially matched last season’s production, and is on track to finish as a plus player for only the second time in his career, and the first since 2012/13.

Justin Faulk has had a very good comeback season after what was widely considered a down year in 2017/18.

With Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton now firmly cemented as the team’s top pairing, it’s unlikely that Faulk ever returns to the dizzy heights of three-consecutive 15-goal seasons. It’s time that Carolina Hurricanes fans stop expecting Faulk’s former levels of production, and instead lower their expectations. Justin Faulk is a fine second pairing defenseman, and will chip in 30-35 points a season while playing solid defensive hockey. Who wouldn’t want a player like that on their team?

Next. Canes' goaltending the difference this season. dark

It’s difficult to be too judgmental of a team that is on the verge of clinching its first playoff spot in a decade, but that’s the nature of fandom these days. Justin Faulk does make mistakes – but then again, most players do. Whatever the reasons for Faulk becoming the fall guy in the eyes of some Canes fans, there’s no doubt that he can be a huge asset to the team, and is nowhere near as bad in his own zone as some fans would have you believe.

The time has come to stop being so over-critical of Justin Faulk, and appreciate the things he does for this amazing Carolina Hurricanes team.