The wave of injuries that the Hurricanes have experienced has been pointed to as a reason why their season has gone down the drain over the last few weeks. Injuries are always tough to deal with and it's usually the teams with strong organizational depth who can persevere through them. This is where building a strong farm system comes in handy. Whenever a spell of injuries occurs, it presents an opportunity for the guys in the AHL to step in and make an impression at the next level. There are always a lot of players who perform well at the minor leagues but never get a chance to do much in the NHL due to there not being a enough roster space or not getting sufficient ice time whenever they are called up.
The Hurricanes have been in this situation for a few years now since they've had a ton of fringe-NHL players who we didn't know a lot about other than their potential and what they had done in the AHL. It all changed this season, as the injuries have allowed the Canes to get a look at just about every eligible player in the AHL. They have used 17 different players from the AHL and only two of them have spent the entire year of the team. Each one of them seems to have left an impression on the fans, but the only call-up who has managed to stay on the team for a prolonged period is Riley Nash. The rest have kind of drifted back-and-forth without making much of a buzz.
I talked about some of these players a couple weeks ago and how some of them may have deserved more of a shot, but I think it's fair to say that the Canes haven't gotten a lot from the guys called up from Charlotte. They aren't the only team that's had to deal with injuries and have had to rely on AHL call-ups, but how much have they relied on them compared to the rest of the league and how does their production match up?
When you look at how many games the Hurricanes have received from players (non-goaltenders) who started the year in the AHL, they are pretty high in the rankings.
Only three teams have seen more games played from AHL skaters than the Hurricanes and they would probably rank even higher if you factor in Justin Peters' starts. It's never easy relying on guys who don't have a ton of experience but it's worth mentioning that the three teams in front of them here are having better seasons than the Hurricanes and two of them are in position to make the playoffs. Unreal goaltending has played a part in this, but the Senators, Stars and Blue Jackets have also gotten more from their younger players than the Hurricanes. Ottawa's had to make do with their two best players on IR for basically the entire year and getting decent production out of their younger talent (along with a team save percentage around .930) is one reason why.
So yes, it's reasonable to conclude that the Hurricanes could have gotten more out of the guys from Charlotte. However, if you go back to my last article on this situation, you might remember that I said that some of the players weren't exactly given a fair chance. They may have gotten a game or two with decent minutes and were then heavily restricted after that. So while they weren't producing, some of them weren't exactly given much of a chance to succeed. The ice time they were given backs this up.
Much like there have been only three teams who have had more games played from AHL call-ups, there are also only three teams who have given fewer minutes per game to these players. This obviously doesn't apply to every player but guys like Jeremy Welsh and Chris Terry were only given a few games this year and weren't given much ice time despite playing pretty well. There have been a few guys like Riley Nash and Bobby Sanguinetti who have made their mark and earned their ice-time, but outside of that, not many of the call-ups got to play much (everyone knows my feelings on how the team has handled Zac Dalpe by this point). Part of the reason for this is because they don't have much experience and can only be trusted in limited roles until then. Brett Bellemore and Michal Jordan are perfect examples of this. Both played well during their time with the Canes but at this point, they are only third-pairing defensemen at the NHL level and you don't want to trust them with more minutes until they get more experience. The same goes for guys like Nicolas Blanchard, Brett Sutter & Tim Wallace, who are only fourth liners at the NHL level and will only be trusted with those minutes. Perhaps this would be different in a full-season or if the players had a full training camp because adjusting to things on the fly is never easy.
In short, the Hurricanes could have gotten more out of their call-ups this year, but some of them could have been given more of a chance to succeed, as well. This has been an issue in Carolina for as long as I can remember and while things have gotten better since Muller took over, but there are still some younger players who are only getting plugged in on the fourth line and nothing more than that. As a result, they haven't gotten as much from their call-ups as they could have. Part of the reason for this is because some of these players are more suited for limited roles but there are others who have been restricted in a way. Having good organizational depth is a way to soften the blow of injuries and the depth of the Hurricanes has been tested this year. Looking at their performance along with Carolina's miniscule production from their bottom-six, it's fairly safe to say that they haven't risen to the occasion or played as well as they could have.