It feels kind of silly to review the season of Zac Dalpe because he played only 10 games for the Hurricanes and missed almost all of the month of March with the Charlotte Checkers. However, what was also silly was the fact that Dalpe only got 10 games in the NHL to begin with because his performance with the big club was pretty impressive. Yes, I know that his stat line of one goal and three points over 10 games indicate that he didn't make much of an impact, but Dalpe's actual performance was much more impressive than what his boxcar stats indicate and he could have easily played more than 10 NHL games this year.
With his entry-level contract expiring and his 24th birthday on the horizon, the Hurricanes are going to need to make a few decisions regarding Dalpe in the upcoming months and it will all come down to whether or not they feel he has a future in this organization. One could say that Dalpe's been given plenty of chances, but I'm not sure if you can close the book on a prospect when he has played only 41 games over 3 years. Not when at least half of those games came with him playing in a fourth line role. Anyone who has followed the Hurricanes knows that the development of some of their forward prospects has been frustrating and while it has improved since Kirk Muller took over, there are still players who haven't been given much of a shot in the NHL and I think Dalpe falls into that category.
I'll admit that Dalpe wasn't very impressive during his first two years in the NHL and he looked out of place then, but a lot changed this year. Dalpe has been a strong AHL player for the last three years and we finally got to see him carry some of this over to the NHL this year and hopefully it's enough for the team to keep him around for another couple of years. Dalpe isn't a future star like some hope he will be, but his performance in the AHL and with the Canes this year gives me confidence that he can be a useful NHL player and not another Boychuk.
After the jump we'll go over some of the odds and ends of Dalpe's time with the Hurricanes and what the future holds for him.
While Dalpe only played 10 games with the Hurricanes, he was at least getting decent ice time both at even strength and on the power play. In the Paul Maurice era, Dalpe was restricted to a third line role, but Muller was at least giving him a chance this year, even if it was short-lived. Dalpe also played most of his games on a line with Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner, which meant he was getting very tough minutes since the J. Staal line usually commands the toughest assignments.
|5v5 Fenwick Diff/20||4.161||1st|
|5v5 Chance Diff/20||1.57||1st|
It's going to be tough to make conclusions based on Dalpe's underlying numbers because he only played 10 games, but his defensive play may have been one of the reasons why he was sent down. Dalpe was on the ice for more even strength shots against per 60 minutes than any other forward and it suggests that he may have been over his head in a tough-minute role. Although, even with Dalpe's defensive flaws, he was a positive player in terms of territorial play and scoring chances because he created a ton of offense. He had only one goal to show for it at the end of the year, but Dalpe's offensive contributions go far beyond that.
Whenever Dalpe was on the ice, the Hurricanes were creating a lot of offense and he did a great job of tilting puck-possession in Carolina's favor even with his defensive flaws. While the small sample size of 10 games inflates probably inflated his numbers, the overall idea remains the same. He wasn't exactly cut out for a tough-minute role, but I still find it hard to believe that the Hurricanes didn't have a place for him on the roster for more than 10 games. With Ruutu out, who was the team's best option for the right wing spot on the second line? The team ended up trying out at least four or five different players in this role after Dalpe was sent down and none of them managed to stick.
I understand that it was hard to keep Dalpe n the top-six considering his scoring woes, but it's not like he was given a lot of time to get something going or develop chemistry with Staal and Skinner. Six games isn't a large enough body of work to judge a player but that's how long it was before Dalpe was intially sent down and he got only four more games after that. Some prospects are kept on a shorter leash than others and Dalpe didn't seem to have much room for error. I wonder if this will change next year with him being a year older and having a full training camp.
5v5 Zone Entries
Dalpe didn't have much of an issue with carrying the puck in, but he didn't have many entries overall. It's probably because he wasn't the primary puck-carrier on his line and he left most of the work to either Skinner or Staal. I think this could change next year if he is placed on the third line depending on who the Hurricanes play on that unit. If Nash is the one centering it, then Dalpe will have much more responsibilities but not so much if he plays with a more skilled center.
Season Grade: Incomplete
Dalpe did just about everything except score when he was with the Hurricanes, so he would be getting a positive grade for me if he played more games. However, he played in only 10 games and I can't give him a grade based on that. I will say that I was more impressed with what I saw from him this year in both the NHL and the AHL. Hopefully he can stick around full-time next season.
The Final Word
Is there a place for Zac Dalpe in the Hurricanes future? Carolina's management and coaching staff are going to have to find out the answer to this soon and it won't be easy. If someone were to ask me, I would say that Dalpe has a future with this team and can settle into a third-line role next year without much of an issue. I thought this would be the plan for him this year, but that obviously didn't work out since the team seems to view him as "top-six or bust." That may have been true for Zach Boychuk, but Dalpe is a little different since I think he can perform well outside of a top-six role and can be relied on for secondary scoring. Next year will be a critical year for Dalpe and how successful he can be in Carolina is going to depend on what the coaching staff asks of him.