Between their minimal scoring contributions, lack of size, poor defensive play and general inconsistencies, the bottom-six was a major troubling point for the Hurricanes this season. It wasn't supposed to be a problem going into the year because on paper, the Canes had plenty of depth forwards to make up their bottom-six and had plenty of guys who they could supposedly count on. Even with Tuomo Ruutu missing the start of the year, they had a good combination of young players and veterans who could provide secondary scoring, or at least it seemed that way on paper. When put into action, it backfired tremendously.
If you remember right, the Hurricanes started the season with Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe in the top-six while guys like Drayson Bowman, Patrick Dwyer & Chad LaRose were slated to be in the bottom-six for most of the year. Both players were off the team before the end of the month and numerous bottom-six forwards would end up taking turns on the second line and not many of them proved to be much of a long-term solution. Outside of the first line and 2/3 of the second line, the Hurricanes forward corps spent a good part of the year being jumbled around and they seemed to roll with a different lineup every night. The third and fourth lines were made up of players who did not fit anywhere else in the lineup and neither unit had much of an identity, which was the underlying problem.
The Hurricanes third line was going to see some changes with Brandon Sutter being traded to Pittsburgh and Jordan Staal assuming the "shut-down" role on the second line. This left the door open for the Hurricanes to use their third line in a new way, possibly in a more offensive role than year's past. They ended up going with this plan but their execution of it was far from ideal and a lot of it was because their line combinations were somewhat random. They started the year off with Jussi Jokinen as the third line center, which isn't a bad idea on paper but placing him with grinders like Patrick Dwyer, Drayson Bowman & Chad LaRose did not seem to help him out much. Jokinen was eventually replaced with Riley Nash on the third line but the two wing spots rotated seemingly every game. Any time the Hurricanes third line appeared to develop chemistry, it was either blown to bits by injuries or more line juggling.
Above all, I don't think anyone really knew what role Carolina's third line was supposed to play this past year. When Jokinen was centering it, they were supposed to provide secondary scoring. Once Nash took over, they were more of a checking line and more lauded for their defensive than anything else. It just seemed like the coaching staff stuck any forward who couldn't stick it in the top-six on the third line while all of the leftovers took turns on the fourth line and were used sparingly. In other words, the Hurricanes forward depth ended up being a mess and their bottom two lines did not have much of an identity.
Heading into next year, the Canes find themselves in a similar situation where their top-six is set but their third and fourth lines are in for some changes. Carolina will need to have more of a thorough plan when constructing their bottom-six and they can possibly take some cues from playoff teams on how to do it.no comments