Hurricanes Defensive Pairing Breakdown Thus Far

Carolina has used 8 different defensive pairing configurations this young season. They have not all worked as well, but none have completely stunk up the room. Likewise no single player has completely stepped on their nose for the whole season. Yet, several players have reached beyond their abilities to put up solid numbers. Here is a simple breakdown of each configuration.

Defensive Pairing Breakdown

Sep 27, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns (8) and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin (74) talk against the Florida Panthers during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1st Paring: Burns and Slavin

  • Burns: 3 G 3 A +2
    • Games 0/+: 11
    • 0/+ and Hurricanes Win: 8 of 9 or 88.8%
  • Slavin: 3 G 5 A +5
    • Games 0/+: 11
    • 0/+ and Hurricanes Win: 8 of 9 or 88.8%%
  • Both
    • Games Played: 15
    • Hurricanes Win: 9
    • Points: 14 (Burns 3 goals 3 assists, Slavin 3 goals, 5 assists)
    • Games 0/+: 11 of 15 or 73.3%
    • 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 8 of 9 or 88.8%

Oddly Brent Burns is the outlier of the pairing this year. He has a game of -3, and two games of -2 where Slavin only has three games of -1. Burns also has struggled offensively and there seems to be a bit of timidity in his play. Several times in the 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres, Burns was left, due a defensive breakdown, was left alone, and that in years past was not a total problem. Inversely, Jaccob Slavin has been all over the place and consistently in the mix for good things with the Hurricanes.  Having hit the ice, and had 0 or better nights in 8 of Carolina’s 9 wins, if this pairing is in the positive, it is safe to say the Hurricanes could win.

2nd Pairing: Skjei And Pesce

  • Skjei: 2 G 8 A +8
    • Games 0/+: 12 of 15 or 80%
    • 0/+ and Hurricanes Win: 8 of 9 or 88.8%
  • Pesce: 1 G 1A +5
    • Games 0/+: 6 of 7 or 85.7%
    • 0/+ and Hurricanes Win: 4 of 4 or 100%
  • Both
    • Games Played: 7
    • Hurricanes Win: 4
    • Points: 10 (Skjei 1 goal 7 assists, Pesce 1 goal, 1 assist)
    • Games 0/+: 6 of 7 85.7%
    • 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 4 of 7 or 57.1%

Even with being hurt for the first sliver of the season, and just returning, Brett Pesce has play his typical hockey. Brady Skjei has played his best hockey with Pesce on the blue line next to him. This combo has been 0 or better together and the Hurricanes lose only twice. They are also the most in sync with each other, having been either in the – or 0/+ in every game they have played together.


Oct 27, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei (76) watches the puck in the air before the game against the San Jose Sharks at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

2nd Pairing: Skjei and Chatfield

  • Chatfield: 1 G 1 A -3
    • Games 0/+: 7 of 12 or  58.3%
  • Both
    • Games Played: 5
    • Hurricanes Win: 3
    • Point: 3 (Skjei 1 goal, 2 assists)
    • Games 0/+: 3 of 5 or 60%
    • 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 1 of 5 or 20%

This is the least success of the pairings Brady Skjei has been matched though it is the second most common with 5 games. For some reason, Jalen Chatfield was pointless while paired with Skjei which is odd given Skjei’s ability to create opportunities for scoring. This pair only managed to win one of it’s five games with a win with Carolina’s 4-3 win against the New York Islanders back on November 4th.

2nd Pairing: Skjei and DeAngelo

  • DeAngelo: 1 G 5 A -8
    • Games 0/+: 10  of 14 or 71.8%
    • 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 6 of 8 or 75%
  • Both
    • Games Played: 3
    • Hurricanes Win: 3
    • Points: 3 (Skjei 1 goal, 1 assists, DeAngelo 1 assist)
    • Games 0/+: 2 of 3 or 66.6%
    • 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 2 of 3 or 66.6%

This might be the most successful of the mixed up defensive pairings particularly for Brady Skjei. It did win all three games (against the Kraken, Sharks, and Flyers) that it skated in. Brady Skjei did have one game of negative play to ruin their perfect record. And despite all of his defensive problems, Tony DeAngelo is 0 or better in 75% of the Hurricanes wins. Three of those were when paired with Skjei.

As noted when it hit the ice, this pairing was not completely unfamiliar with experience together in New York.

3rd Paring: Orlov, DeAngelo, Chatfield (Extra)

  • Dmitry Orlov: 1 G 5 A -9
    • Games 0/+: 10 of 15 or 66.6%
    • 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 7 of 9 or 77.7%
  • All Three
    • Games Played:1
    • Hurricanes Win: 1 of 1 or 100%
    • Points: 1 (DeAngelo 1 Assist)
    • Games 0/+: 0 of 1 or 0%
    • 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 0 of 1 or 0%

This combination hit this ice in the first game of the season and we have not see it since. At least with Jalen Chatfield as the extra defensemen. Even with one game, this is the least successful of the defensive pairing combinations when it comes to cohesion. Dmitry Orlo had at least one defensive breakdown that caused a Ottawa Senators goal. DeAngelo does notch his first point in this grouping.

3rd Pairing: Orlov, Chatfield, DeAngelo (Extra)

  • All Three
    • Games Played:2
    • Hurricanes Win: 1
    • Points: 0
    • Games 0/+: 1 of 2 or 100%
    • Games 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 1 of 2 or 50%

No points came from the combination, with DeAngelo as the extra defenseman, and only the 6-3 butchering of the San Jose Sharks on October 17th could make this group look good in the -/+ column. Jalen Chatfield had + nights in both games but DeAngelo and Orlov were dismal in the 6-4 loss to the Seattle Kraken.


Nov 7, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dmitry Orlov (7) takes a shot against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

3rd Pairing: Orlov and DeAngelo

  • Both
    • Games Played: 8
    • Hurricanes Win: 4 of 8 or 50%
    • Points: 7 (Orlov 1 goal 3 assists, DeAngelo 1 goal, 1 assist)
    • Games 0/+: 4
    • Games 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 2 of 4 or 50%

This pairing has the most mixed of results of any the Hurricanes have fielded. Either DeAngelo or Orlov or both have had a breakdown in each of the games they have played together. Somehow they have managed 7 points for the Hurricanes while trying their best to make it as easy as possible for the other team to score. Dmitri Orlov has show flashes of offensive sparks but those have not been much to start a fire. DeAngelo somehow has been able to score one goal as still came out of that game -1. His defense breakdown in the 2-1 loss to the Rangers, with Orlov on the ice, did no help stand up against his critics, yet his supporters have noted his early assists on critical Hurricanes goals.

3rd Pairing: Orlov and Chatfield.

  • Both
    • Games Played: 3
    • Hurricanes Win: 2
    • Points: 3 (Orlov 1 goal, 1 assist, Chatfield 1 assist)
    • Games 0/+: 1
    • Games 0/+ And Hurricanes Win: 1 of 2 or 50%

It’s hard to call this pairing anything. They’ve been a part of 2 Hurricanes wins with 3 points. They’ve both been in the positive once, and that was a Hurricanes win. Besides that, this is a lukewarm pair at best.

With the exception of the Orlov/ DeAngelo line, none of the Hurricanes Defensive pairings have suffered a major breakdown, AND that particular combination has not suffered that many. Brent Burns is struggling offensively, but Jaccob Slavin has points in a third of his games. Brett Pesce, while hurt, played his typical mistake free hockey and an excellent counter-balance to Brady Skjei. Even though Skjei has struggled with a smattering of line mate, he has played individually well.

Anyone watching the Hurricanes thus far will say there have been more than one breakdown at critical junctures in the defensive game, and their offensive pace is not that of last year’s breakneck speed. Still the Hurricanes have managed to avoid a major breakdown as a unit. Like the micro imitating the macro, no single player has completely stunk up their play thus far. No one, individually, can be blamed completely for their poor play, though everyone has struggled in spots. How the Hurricanes handle this, along with the early season injuries will be interesting.