There are a few players on the Hurricanes blue line who I’m not quite sure what to expect from in this coming season, and defenseman Jamie McBain is one player who is near the top of the list. It feels as if McBain has been around for awhile but it’s easy to forget that he is only 24 years old and is about to enter only his third full season in the NHL, so he is still learning the game a bit. When he came out of college, McBain was billed a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who could be a future powerplay quarterback and he has somewhat lived up to that billing. The Hurricanes heavily utilize McBain on the powerplay and he has two decent offensive seasons under his belt, but he has yet to show the ability to run a powerplay on his own or be anything more than a borderline top-four guy.
In McBain’s 2+ years with the Hurricanes, the coaching staff has used him in numerous different roles in defense corps and the results have been mixed. He has struggled mightly in a top-four role with Joni Pitkanen but he has seen some decent in limited minutes playing against tough competition with Gleason as his partner. However, the role he flourished in last season was when he was placed on a third pairing with Jaroslav Spacek in a more protected role. The duo did everything you could ask from a third pairing as they were the team’s most effecitve unit at even strength scoring chances. With Faulk and Harrison being able to handle some of the tougher assignments, this role seemed perfect for McBain at the time.
Unfortunately for McBain, Spacek is gone and I’m not sure how the team will plan to use him for the upcoming year. I still think that the Hurricanes aren’t certain with what they have in McBain either since he’s still pretty young and he’s been used in so many roles in only 166 NHL games. Either way, they see him as valuable asset since they decided to extend him for two years and everyone will have a better picture of what McBain is by the end of the year depending on how this season goes for him.
The problem, of course, is that no one really knows how this upcoming year could go for McBain. He could either continue to flourish as an offensive defenseman, finally be able to step into the top-four on more of a full-time basis or fall completely off the radar and end up in the press box towards the end of the year. The possibilities are really endless for McBain because he’s taken on a lot of mileage already and he has yet to stick to just one role. To get a better idea of what to expect from McBain next year, we will take a closer look at some of the details of his career and see whether or not he will have that breakout year every Carolina fan is hoping for.
McBain’s minutes usually vary depending on what kind of a role he is placed in, but generally speaking, he has been a borderline top-four defenseman for most of his NHL career. He has spent most of his time playing alongside Joni Pitkanen but he still doesn’t play as many minutes as him and isn’t used in as high leverage situations either. I mentioned earlier that his most success last year came when he was used in a more offensive role with Jaroslav Spacek, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the team continued to use him in that capacity with someone like Joe Corvo. However, the coaching staff seems to be high on the idea of keeping McBain and Pitkanen on the same pairing despite how much they struggled defensively, but a lot of things can change over the course of a year.
I tink McBain has an opportunity to earn more ice time this year with there being so much uncertainty in the Canes defense corps, but there is also the chance of him continuing to stay lower on the totem pole than the likes of Faulk and Harrison. The one downside McBain has over those two is that he does not have as much experience playing against tougher competition than them, which doesn’t make him a good option for top-four minuts but his past success with Gleason could possibly change that. As of right now, it appears that McBain is still behind Pitkanen, Faulk, Gleason and possibly Harrison on the depth chart, so he could have a chance to play bigger/tougher minutes this year but he is going to have to perform to outperform a few guys to earn those minutes.
For a defeseman, McBain has a decent goal-scoring acumen and has been able to get a healthy amount of shots on goal per game in his young career. The six even strength goals he scored in 2010-11 could end up looking like an aberration a few years from now since his shooting percentage was pretty high for a defenseman, but McBain’s shot rate has improved over the last couple of years so he might be able to retain a decent goal total if he continues to at least produce offense in terms of shots.
Whether or not he will do that is the question. If the team continues to use him in a more offensive role next year then I think it is without question that his shot rate will improve but that could end up being a different story if he plays with someone like Gleason instead. It’s also worth noting that McBain could see his offensive production increase by a wide margin if he gets to play with Joe Corvo, as he is a very accomplished offensive defenseman and usually generates a lot of shots on goal per game. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is able to have the same effect on McBain that Spacek last year.
|Year||ESA||ESA/60||ESSF/60||ES on-ice Sh%|
Whenever you’re used in a lot of offensive situations, there is a good chance that you will be on ice for more shots on goal than some of your teammates. This was the case with McBain. He wasn’t protected in the same vein as Marc-Andre Bergeron style, but an offensive zone start percentage of 51.5% is pretty high for someone on a team that struggled to control possession like the Hurricanes did last year. This was partially due to him playing with solid defense partners and decent forwards in front of him, but I also don’t think it’s out of the question to say that he is decent enough to create offense on his own and possibly control possession.
McBain was oen fo the team’s better defensemen at controlling possession last year but he was still underwater overall, so I’m not sure if he can be a dominant player in that category but I have some faith that he will be able to at least be someone who can control at least 50% of the even strength scoring chances when he is on the ice. He just needs a little more experience in the NHL and I think this will be the year we find out whether or not he can be that kind of player.
Why does this matter? Because if he is on ice for more shots, then he has a better chance of recording more assists, too. It isn’t a guarantee because a player isn’t automatically rewarded with an assist when he’s on ice for a goal but the fact that McBain has recorded a point on 28.2% of the even strength goals has been on-ice for over his career is somewhat promising.
|Year||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
Power play time is something that is usually guaranteed to McBain no matter where he is playing in the lineup. You could argue that his minutes on the powerplay will decrease this year because the Canes have so many different players who they can use, but I think he will still get at least two minutes per game there. Yes, the team has plenty of options here but McBain is still one of the team’s better players when it comes to quarterbacking the powerplay. He will probably drift between the first and second unit depending on how Corvo and Faulk perform.
|Year||PPG||PPG/60||PP SOG/60||PP Sh%|
McBain’s performance on the powerplay last year was actually among the best on the club, so I can’t see him getting his minutes reduced there unless his play severely regresses. Yes, he got quite a bit of shooting luck but he was also producing a lot of shots by himself, so that definitely helped him create a good amount of offense on the powerplay. That being said, I’m expecting him to regress a little bit on the powerplay because nothing McBain has done so far suggests that he will be able to sustain this rate of production. The door might sitll be open for McBain to produce at this level since he has really played only two full seasons in the NHL but most players don’t see their shot rate increase that much in a given year and are able to sustain it in the long run.
|Year||PPA||PPA/60||PP SF/60||PP On-ice Sh%|
Not only did McBain shoot for a high rate personally, but the Hurricanes as a team were getting more shots on goal with him on the ice. Unfortunately, not many of those shots were translating to goals as the team’s shooting percentage was below-average overall and a large step down from what it was the previous year. McBain should be due for some better luck in this coming season but his SF/60 rate, however, is prone to decline. I mentioned that McBain’s shot rate increased so much last year that it probably isn’t sustainable in the long run and we have a similar case here with Carolina’s shooting rate with him on the ice. He might be able to sustain this kind of production but as of right now, that is unknown. Having better forwards and a stronger powerplay will certainly help things, though.
Things could really go either way with McBain this year in terms of how he is used, so this projection could end up being really off. Regardless, I have him pegged to play a little under 16 minutes per game at even strength. That’s a step down from what he played last season, but there is going to be only so much ice time to go around on the Hurricanes defense corps this year. Gleason, Faulk and Pitkanen are all going to get top-four minutes while Harrison, Corvo and McBain will be fighting over the last top-four spot. It’s possible that McBain might earn that spot but Harrison’s chemistry and past experience with Faulk might give him the edge. Like I said, McBain might end up playing more ice time by the end of the year but I have him playing a little under 16 minutes per game at even strength for now.
Regardless of how many minutes he plays, McBain will still get his chances as long as he continues to provide a decent amount of offense like he has for most of his young career. My projection is for him to produce about 3.5 shots per 60 minutes at even strength, which would be lower than last year but not too big of a drop off. I figure that the coaches will continue to use him throughout the lineup and won’t have a defined role for him right off the bat, which will effect what kind of minutes he plays and what situations he is used in. He could easily top this if he ends up on the third pairing with Corvo. For now, though, I think 3.5 shots per 60 minutes is a reasonable amount. It would give him 83-84 even strength shots on goal in an 82-game season. If McBain sustains this kind of shot rate, he would end up with 4 even strength goals in an 82 game season if he shoots at his career average. He could end up with as many as 6 if he matches his career high, which isn’t saying much since he hasn’t played in the NHL for very long. 4-5 even strength goals for McBain over an 82 game season is reasonable given what we know about him.
Since I think McBain will be used throughout the lineup and not strictly in an offensive role, I don’t have him on ice for an absurd amount of shots on goal, either. I’m actually projecting him to be on ice for roughly the same amount of shots per 60 minutes as he was last season because I don’t see his role changing that much. Playing with better teammates and Corvo’s ability to produce a lot of offense may change this, but I don’t think it will have that great of an impact overall. Plus, if McBain plays with the third pairing, then he probably won’t get a lot of time with the top-six, which is going to affect the number of shots he is on ice for now matter where he starts most of his shifts.
I have McBain’s powerplay production regressing a little because I think the numbers he produced last year aren’t sustainable, but I still think he will do a good chunk of his damage with the man advantage. He isn’t going to produce over 11 shots per 60 minutes with the man advantage again, but even if he slightly regresses from that, he should be able to at least turn in a productive season. My personal projection for him is to have about 9 shots per 60 minutes with the man advantage, which would give him approximately 30 powerplay shots in an 82 game season. Unless he is able to convert on 20% of his shots, then McBain is likely going to finish the year with 2-3 PPGs under this projection.
McBain should be on ice for fewer powerplay shots in general, too since his PPSF/60 rate took an enormous leap forward last year and I don’t see it sustaining. It might, but I won’t project that it will until he starts to post those numbers in consecutive years. That being said, I have him being on ice for about 51 PP shots on goal per 60 minutes next year. I think the improvements the Hurricanes made on the powerplay will help McBain a lot, so he should be able to maintian a high shot rate, so it’s reasonable for him to post about 50 shots per 60 minutes with the man advantage.
This shot rate would put him on ice for about 176 total PP shots in an 82 game season, which would put him on ice for 16-22 goals depending on how the team shoots. The Hurricanes shot at a below average rate with McBain on the ice last season, so I think his numbers will improve there and he should be on ice for at least 18 PPGs. McBain has recorded an assist on 41% of the PPGs he has been on ice for, so if he continues that, it would give him 7-8 PP assists in an 82 game season. It could be more, but I’m being slightly conservative with the team’s shooting percentage.
82 Game Projection
|McBain 2012-13||ESG||ESA||PPG||PPA||SHG||SHA||Total Pts||PPG/82|
I do not have McBain having that offensive breakout year that everyone seems to be hoping for. This is mainly because I’m not sure what kind of situations McBain will be used in next year and decided to be a little conservative with the amount of shots he would be on ice for at even strength. My thought is that someone who spends the majority of the year on the third pairing isn’t going to put up a lot of point because he won’t get the ice time he needs. That and it’s hard for a defenseman in general to hit 40+ points no matter how talented they are offensively.
That being said, I have a pretty high ceiling set for McBain because it’s possible that he may get more ice time than what I am projecting and get more chances as a result. If he is used primarily in an offensive role, is effective and gets top-four minutes on a regular basis, then there is a good chance of him matching the high I have set for him. Will it happen? Probably not since there are a lot of things that need to go right for him, but I think there is a possibility. However, it’s more likely that he finishes somewhere between the low and high I have set for him and I’m leading towards the lower side for now. Things may go differently depending on how the coaching staff uses him.