A defense corps going through a rebuilding period can be painful to watch at times and it certainly was for the Hurricanes this year. The team has drafted a lot of defensemen in recent years and have added many other prospects through trades, so there has been a lot of new blood coming in an out of the Hurricanes blue-line. Most of these prospects are still very young and not ready for full-time NHL action, but there are some who are getting to the age where the Hurricanes need to find out if they have any future with the team. One of these players in Bobby Sanguinetti.
Sanguinetti was acquired by the Hurricanes at the 2010 NHL Draft from the New York Rangers in exchange for two picks and the hope was that he would give Carolina a young prospect who was reasonably close to being ready for the NHL. A former first round pick, Sanguinetti has a lot of talent and shined as an offensive defenseman during at the lower levels. Those who have followed his career with in the OHL and AHL know this well, as he has been a key contributor on the power play for just about every lower-level team he has played for. After spending five years developing in the AHL, many figured this would be the year Sanguinetti would make the jump to the NHL. He was coming off his best professional season, posting 50 points in 60 games with the Charlotte Checkers and was set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, so if Sanguinetti was going to have a future with the Hurricanes, this would be the season to find out.
It was going to be tough for Sanguinetti to really stand out among the Hurricanes blue-line corps because they entered the year with seven defensemen and already had plenty of puck-movers on top of that. Sanguinetti's offensive game is his strongest asset, but he was going to have to really excel in that area or do more to make himself a permanent fixture for the Hurricanes. Did he accomplish this? Let's find out...
Sanguinetti's usage wasn't very different from your typical rookie defensemen. He played third-pairing minutes (played above 15 minutes at even strength only four times), was kept away from other team's first lines and started a majority of his shifts in the offensive zone. He was sheltered in just about every sense of the word and the only time he was trusted to play more minutes is when the Hurricanes had no other option. Case and point, the one game where he played nearly 20 even strength minutes came when the Hurricanes had three defensemen out.
There's nothing wrong with Sanguinetti being a sheltered player because every team has guys like this. However, a lot more is expected out of them because they are playing significantly easier minutes than the rest of the team and are expected to dominate them. Did Sanguinetti do this? In some ways, yes.
|5v5 Fenwick Diff/20||3.558||1st|
|5v5 Chance Diff/20||0.34||2nd|
Overall, Sanguinetti's numbers are good but he got off to a rocky start. He struggled mightily in his first 10 games and was scratched for a few games after that. Sanguinetti eventually found himself back in the lineup, though and he began to play really well after game 21 or so. He wasn't being asked to do a whole lot, but he managed to find his legs as a third-pairing defenseman in the second half of the year and did a fantastic job of keeping the play out of Carolina's end of the rink.
Sanguinetti played in Charlotte during the lockout, but I think he could have benefitted from a full training camp because he looked really overwhelmed early in the year. He made a lot of bad decisions with the puck and was constantly getting caught out of position in the neutral & defensive zones. These mistakes often led to chances and goals against, which is likely why Sanguinetti was scratched for a few games. He slowly improved as the year went on though and did just about everything you could ask out of a third-pairing guy, except score.
With only two goals and six points over 37 games, more was expected out of Sanguinetti since he was billed as an offensive defenseman. His even strength production was actually the lowest among Carolina blue-liners and he had only one total point on the power play all season on top of that. He also went the first 11 games of the season without registering a point. The lack of power play production wasn't necessarily his fault since he wasn't used much there, but his even strength numbers were still pretty low. To make matter worse, he ended up giving up a lot at the other end in terms of goals, being on ice for almost three opposing goals against per 60 minutes at even strength.
Sanguinetti was disappointing from an offensive standpoint, but I think he contributed in a lot of ways that didn't show up on the scoresheet. He was the team's best territorial defenseman and the number of shots he was on the ice for shows that he helped more offensively than his scoring line indicates. Going by just his on-ice performance, Sanguinetti played his role well but the results paint a different picture.
Sanguinetti was a strong player in terms of puck-possession and territorial play and his zone entry numbers reflect that, as he was one of the team's better defensemen at leading breakouts & rushes. The contributions of an offensive defenseman go beyond just point-production and their ability to carry the puck into the zone regularly is one thing that is often under-appreciated. Sanguientti performed well in this area and it's a reason why he was so good at controlling puck-possession during the later part of the season. Overall, his numbers aren't great but he was still very good compared to the other defensemen on the team and it might be what sets him apart from a guy like Jamie McBain, who often resorted to dumping the puck in on his entries.
Season Grade: C
Sanguinetti played well after a rough start and seems like he can make it in the NHL as a third-pairing defenseman. His bad start and goal-based performance is why I'm only giving him a C on the year because even though he was better, it still took him awhile to adjust to the NHL and he was making a lot of bad mistakes early in the year. Sanguinetti was also playing a sheltered role and I tend to give these guys much less slack than those who are asked to do a lot more. Still, Sanguinetti learned from his mistakes and put together a decent rookie season, although it could have been better.
The Final Word
If there is anything Sanguinetti's strong underlying numbers indicate, it's that he has the potential to do a lot more in future seasons, because he was playing very well during the second half without seeing much of a reward for it. This should encourage Carolina to re-sign him but there are some red flags around him. First of all, Sanguinetti's underlying numbers were boosted from cushy assignments and he was easily one of the most sheltered players on the team. I can't fault Sanguinetti since that's the role the coaching staff put him in, but it does show his limitations.Can they keep playing him in those situations next season with Ryan Murphy likely joining the team?
Sanguinetti is in the same predicament as McBain, where he is a very solid third-pairing defenseman but he hasn't proven himself to be much more than that. Carolina found out the hard way that McBain isn't cut out for a top-four spot and they might have the same luck with Sanguinetti unless he takes a couple steps forward next year.