The Third Pairing
Note: stats are currently through 10/11 game versus the Islanders.
*Denotes team leader
Jake Gardiner, added in early September, is an established offensive defenseman who brings more balance to the Hurricanes blueline. Having a defender of Gardiner’s ability on the third pairing speaks volumes to the depth that Carolina has, and his passing and skating have already paid dividends. Want visual confirmation? Take a look at his overtime winner against the Washington Capitals:
Gardiner also gives the Carolina Hurricanes increased flexibility on the power play. While he’s seen a lot of top unit time, trailing only Hamilton in terms of power-play ice time, he could also be deployed on the second unit to spread the offense around. This presents the welcome flexibility that Carolina lacked for years.
Haydn Fleury has played amiably so far in the young season, albeit with minimal ice time. He’s kept up with the pace and done everything that he’s been tasked with, certainly no complaints about a number 6/7 defender. Unfortunately for Fleury, his spot is likely to move from the former to the latter soon as the Carolina Hurricanes have officially activated Trevor van Riemsdyk.
van Riemsdyk, who underwent shoulder surgery in early May, will likely be eased back into the lineup, though his return adds more depth to a blueline that’s already scary. Now, my guess that Fleury becomes the odd man out is only speculation, but I have reason to believe that, and not because he hasn’t played well. So, what is it?