A cursory glance at the defensive stats doesn’t garner a ton of enthusiasm. Going strictly on face value at this early point would, however, be a mistake. With new faces like Edmundson and Jake Gardiner getting acclimated to a new system and Haydn Fleury filling in well for the recovering (and now back) Trevor van Riemsdyk, a few hiccups were to be expected.
These changes, along with the departure of Justin Faulk, have given the Hurricanes’ defense a bit of a facelift.
Mainstays Slavin and Pesce have continued their solid play, each player contributing some offense while keeping their defensive play at the level that’s become expected of them. Pesce is averaging a team-high 3:43 of shorthanded ice time so far while blocking 19 shots (tying him with Edmundson for the team lead).
Gardiner got off to an auspicious start, netting the overtime game-winner in the second game of the season, though his offense has stalled since. Primarily slotting into the #5 spot thus far, Gardiner has shown some flashes on the power play which indicate that he can help the Hurricanes out once he finds his touch.
Despite the depth and talent on the Hurricanes’ blueline, things haven’t been perfect yet in the young season. As with the forwards, the defense has looked flustered at times. As such, they have occasionally made poor choices with puck management.
While not confined to the defense alone, this loose play has led in part to the Hurricanes taking an unnecessary number of penalties. The penalty kill has been okay, but the discipline has to be addressed before it becomes a bigger problem.
All things considered, the defense hasn’t been a hindrance, but there is still room for improvement. With everyone getting healthier, seeing that improvement should be a given.