The Carolina Hurricanes were back on the ice on Saturday, and here are seven takeaways from the first two days of training camp.
1. First Impressions
There was palpable excitement for this weekend, for a couple of reasons, the first being that there is always a sense of childlike exuberance when training camp rolls around and the regular season is nigh.
But this weekend also marked a first time for many players to skate with their new coaching staff on the ice and leave an impactful impression.
“There’s a tone, for sure. I think everyone felt it today,” Jordan Staal said Friday. “There was an excitement coming into today. Everyone was talking about a fresh start for every player here, and you could tell everyone was just excited to show the coaching staff and GM what we have.”
“Everyone has that excitement to start camp and start the season, so there’s going to be that type of energy,” Eric Staal said on Friday. “Everyone is on a clean slate and a new page, and it’s an opportunity to show what you have.”
One word that permeated every interview was “details.”
“You can tell he’s got the details down. It’s right away right to the point, get it done and move forward,” Jordan said on Friday. “With the way he’s explaining things and with the fast-paced drills, it really gets your body and mind going trying to keep up. It’s a good pace that our team needs to be playing and practicing at.”
“They’re really prepared and detail-oriented,” Jeff Skinner said on Friday.
“He comes in with a presence, a plan and an idea, and that’s what you want,” Eric said on Friday. “You want to follow someone that shows that confidence and exudes that confidence. He’s done that early.”
“It’s been good. The message has been clear, and he’s been pretty detailed with us, too,” Justin Faulk said after today’s skate. “It’s been a good experience so far with the high-tempo practices.”
This paralleled much of what was said at Peters’ introductory press conference.
“When we asked if he had anything for us, he had a booklet that broke everything down,” Francis said in mid-June. “The next time, he had not only a booklet, but a PowerPoint with it. He’s extremely, extremely detailed. He’s going to communicate with our players, and they’ll know where he stands.”
3. Limited Time at the Whiteboard
On both days, Peters limited the amount of time the team spent at the whiteboard, opting more for pre-skate instruction in the locker room and verbal tutelage on the ice.
“I don’t like going to the whiteboard. It’s dead time. There’s no need for it,” Peters said on Friday. “They’re intelligent players, and you can verbally tell them what they’re going to do.”
That’s just fine with the players, especially in the early days of camp when they’re antsy simply to get going.
“There wasn’t a lot of standing around, which was nice,” Skinner said on Friday. “At the start of camp you want to get your lungs going and your legs under you.”
“It was good. A lot of pace. Not a lot of standing around,” Eric said on Friday. “Not a lot of sitting at the whiteboard. It was up-tempo and detailed.”
4. Dedicated Special Teams Work
The coaching staff has carved out at least 15 minutes with each group on the first two days of training camp to work on power play breakouts and positioning. These sessions are primarily led by assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour, who has spent the offseason tirelessly working to improve what was the 28th-ranked power play last season.
“Roddy’s done a fantastic job here in the offseason getting ready for the power play, and Smitty the same for the kill,” Peters told CarolinaHurricanes.com while in Traverse City. “I have a lot of confidence and trust in those coaches, and they’ll do a great job with the specialty teams.”
Like most of Peters’ ideas, his philosophy on the power play is simple – detailed, but simple.
“Every good power play shoots the puck in the zone. Once you’re in the zone, you have to have a shooter’s mentality. You have to shoot it, and you have to retrieve it. The best power plays know what they’re going to do. They’re hard to defend, and their work ethic and retrieval skills are top-notch,” he said. “On the power play breakout, I want to make sure we’re all together and efficient. I want to make sure we have more than one or two ways to enter the zone; if we’ve got to go ice behind with chips or rims, then we have to be able to do that.”
5. Young Guys Make an Impact
Peters mentioned Victor Rask and Brock McGinn as two players that impressed him in the scrimmage on the first day.
“I thought Rask was real good. He’s a smart player. You can see his hockey sense out there,” he said. “McGinn is always around the play. He’s involved offensively, and he’s involved physically.”
Peters again tossed Rask’s name into the discussion after Saturday’s skates.
“He was good again today. Every time I’ve seen him he’s been good. I got to see him play twice in Traverse City, and I really had a lot of respect for the way he played the game properly,” he said. “He’s a smart Swede, a good, reliable two-way player with skill. I think he’s got a real bright future.”
I liked Phil Di Giuseppe in today’s scrimmage. He displayed his scoring touch on a two-on-one, beating Cam Ward for a goal. He also evaded Jordan Staal with a quick stop-start move in the corner.
Elias Lindholm also stood out, skating with Eric Staal and Skinner. He’s noticeably bigger on the ice, and his hockey sense that made him a fifth overall pick a year ago is plainly evident.
6. Jumping Right into Game Action
It will be just the third day of training camp Sunday when the Hurricanes host Columbus in their preseason opener on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Group A is set to be the game group for tomorrow’s tilt, with Group B skating briefly in the morning.
Eric Staal, who centers Skinner and Lindholm in Group A, will not play on Sunday. Staal is coming off a core muscle injury suffered during offseason training.
“We’re not going to play Staalsy tomorrow. There’s no need,” Peters said, noting that Staal has said he feels good. “That’s just us managing the situation and realizing that it’s a long year.”
Ultimately, it will be a proper measuring stick to jump right into game action and see what you have when you come out of it.
“I think guys like to get going and play other teams,” Faulk said. “I don’t know if everyone loves playing against each other, at least that’s usually how it is when the regular season gets going. You get sick of battling each other in practice and camp, and you’re ready to take it out on someone else.”
“You know what? I’m looking forward to seeing a game. It’s early, and would you like to practice? Yeah, you would,” Peters said. “But the reality is, they probably would like to play. Hockey players like to play games, and they’re going to get that opportunity tomorrow.”
-- Peters liked the scrimmage more on the second day of camp, noting that it was understandably cleaner than the first.
“I liked that a lot of the things that needed to be improved upon in the scrimmage were improved upon,” he said. “It was more realistic hockey. It wasn’t quite as loose or informal. I just thought it was better with some good plays all around. Some of the young guys continue to look good, and some of the older guys, you could tell they took a step today.”
-- Peters literally tipped his cap after one drill today, as he told the players “Nice job.”
“We’ll catch them doing it right, and when we do, we’ll make sure they know,” he said. “That’s what we want to do: we want to do it right, and we want to make sure everyone sees it.”