Carolina Hurricanes: Gauging the Defensive Corps

RALEIGH, NC - APRIL 15: Jaccob Slavin #74 of the Carolina Hurricanes chats with teammate Dougie Hamilton #19 before a faceoff in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - APRIL 15: Jaccob Slavin #74 of the Carolina Hurricanes chats with teammate Dougie Hamilton #19 before a faceoff in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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It’s been known for a couple of seasons, the Hurricanes have an extremely talented blue line, but what makes their back-end so special?

As a group, the Carolina Hurricanes lead the league in terms of goals and points from their blue-line. They also have allowed the third fewest average shots across the league. They are 10th in average goals allowed per game.  All the stats show you that this Carolina blue-line is a cheat code basically.

Let’s start with the guy everyone is talking about right now. Dougie Hamilton has been the best goal scoring defenseman in the league since January 1st. Dougie has 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points on the young season, and is second league wide in defensive scoring, only to Washington’s John Carlson.

Going from offensive stud,  to the cream of the crop here, Jaccob Slavin has established himself truly as a top 10 defenseman in the National Hockey League. Slavin’s offensive abilities arn’t like that of Dougie’s, but they’re still very high end. Slavin defensively though is something else. He had a game at MSG last year where he single handedly denied three goals. Slavin could probably qualify for a save percentage, he’s always there when his goalies need him.

Speaking of defensive studs, Lets talk about Brett Pesce. Oh this man, is a gem. Brett Pesce is one of the best defensive defenders in the NHL. You can use your eyes or analytics to determine that Pesce is capable of shutting down an airport if that is what you need him to do. Pesce has also found an offensive burst this year. He’s quickly becoming a phenomenal two-way defender.

RALEIGH, NC – NOVEMBER 1: Jake Gardiner #51 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots the puck during an NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings on November 1, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC – NOVEMBER 1: Jake Gardiner #51 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots the puck during an NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings on November 1, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Jake Gardiner…. oh Jake. He is among the best offensive talents in the league on the blue-line, but his defensive lapses are always outlined and identified as a major flaw in his game, and rightly so. When Gardiner is going, he’s capable of winning games on his own, like against Chicago at PNC Arena. When he’s not scoring, he looks bad defensively, it’s easier to jump on him. His goal against the Sharks will go a long way towards redemption.

Related Story. Carolina should be patient with Jake Gardiner. light

From a one new defender to the next, Joel Edmundson, who coming cover in the trade that sent former Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk to the St Louis Blues, has become a fan favorite, and is a solid player. He recently had a 6 game point streak has come to a close, but he has been great at standing up for his teammates. His analytics suggest he is lackluster, but his on ice results don’t lie.

Trevor van Riemsdyk has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny so far this season, and there are a lot of people thinking the 28 year old should be scratched for the next defender on this list. Van Riemsdyk has a Stanley cup ring from his time with the Blackhawks. He is a phenomenal defender when he’s healthy, and his analytics back this up. He often seems to score clutch goals too, like against Montreal last year.

Now… Haydn Fleury has been… okay. He’s scored his first NHL goal after more than 100 games. He’s been producing well, he’s had slight defensive issues. He’s the 7th best defenseman on this blue-line, which speaks more to the strength of the blue line than the skill set of Haydn. Fleury would find himself starting night in, night out for most other teams. It’s the strength of this Hurricanes D core which separates them from the rest.

As mentioned earlier, the Canes have the best blue-line production in the league. At this moment in time, Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton have both already eclipsed the 10 point plateau, with Hamilton over 20. Gardiner has had a slow scoring start but he’s been generating chances, It’s really just a matter of time until the blue-line kicks into overdrive and starts to completely dictate the Canes.

Defensively, the Canes are one of the top 10 teams league wide at limiting shots. With defenders like Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin it’s not hard to see why the Canes have such a strength on their back-end. Guys like Edmundson and van Reimsdyk help too, and you know you’re doing well when you can scratch a 7th overall pick like Haydn Fleury and not notice.

Question for Cardiac Cane readers: Who do you think should be the healthy extra on this blue-line?

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