Carolina’s AHL contributions

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. 

  GP G Pts P/G
Dallas 247 30 73 0.2955
Ottawa 226 28 77 0.3407
Columbus 176 17 42 0.2386
Carolina 170 12 29 0.1706
Nashville 162 20 50 0.3086
Florida 158 5 19 0.1203
Buffalo 153 17 46 0.3007
Vancouver 150 12 31 0.2067
Tampa Bay 146 22 49 0.3356
Colorado 141 8 27 0.1915
Toronto 135 3 30 0.2222
Detroit 134 11 33 0.2463
Minnesota 125 16 34 0.2720
Edmonton 117 17 40 0.3419
Rangers 116 4 12 0.1034
Phoenix 108 13 24 0.2222
Islanders 104 15 37 0.3558
St. Louis 100 8 22 0.2200
Anaheim 85 9 18 0.2118
San Jose 83 7 18 0.2169
Washington 81 4 19 0.2346
Pittsburgh 77 7 25 0.3247
Chicago 76 12 29 0.3816
Philadelphia 76 8 17 0.2237
New Jersey 74 8 17 0.2297
Montreal 70 14 31 0.4429
Winnipeg 69 7 15 0.2174
Boston 66 2 10 0.1515
Calgary 50 6 16 0.3200
Los Angeles 49 9 21 0.4286

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.

Minnesota 13.70
Nashville 13.12
Washington 12.69
Los Angeles 12.62
Toronto 12.58
San Jose 12.52
Edmonton 12.30
Columbus 12.11
Ottawa 12.05
Pittsburgh 11.99
Vancouver 11.52
Philadelphia 11.47
Chicago 11.21
Florida 11.10
Buffalo 10.84
Anaheim 10.72
Winnipeg 10.54
Montreal 10.53
Tampa Bay 10.47
Detroit 10.40
Colorado 10.23
Dallas 10.22
St. Louis 10.17
Islanders 10.05
Calgary 10.01
Phoenix 9.98
Carolina 9.68
Boston 9.67
New Jersey 8.94
Rangers 8.39

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.