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Tweetmail No. 226: Dougie, Penalties & Stats

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Hello and welcome to Tweetmail, a weekly feature on in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.

Lots of questions this week, so let's get right to it.

Tweet from @tw1st3d_w1ll: Dougie had a reputation before coming here as a bad teammate, everything we���ve seen he���s been a great guy. Do you think the low key of Raleigh helps a lot players flourish out of the spot light of certain media areas?

I find it fascinating how this, that or the other can be said about someone doing something somewhere at some time - whether true or not - and then that something is extrapolated to be that someone's permanent character.

I know first impressions can be lasting, but there's something to be said about actually taking the time to understand and get to know someone.

And in the case of Dougie Hamilton, he doesn't at all seem like a "bad teammate," let alone a bad person. He's a joy to be around. He puts in work at the rink. He's befriended some of the younger players on the team. And, oh yeah, he's one of the NHL's best defensemen.

Perhaps there is something to be said about the relative anonymity he enjoys in Raleigh versus his two previous stops. Perhaps there is something to be said about personalities flourishing without the harsh lights of lofty expectation and misguided criticism.

But, it's not hard to see why he's quickly become a fan-favorite in Raleigh.

Video: Scootering with the Three Amigos

I mean.

Tweet from @Canes: Just gonna leave this one here

Good guy, that Dougie.

Tweet from @AlyssaC61574239: Why do you think we struggled so much on the western road trip? Y���all predicted leaving with 4 points, and unfortunately we only left with 2. 😔

It was unfortunate to come back east last week with just two of a possible six points, but flying across the country and then playing three games in four nights is a tough stretch of hockey for any team. And, when you look at the road trip as a whole, the only night where the Canes truly didn't have their best was in Anaheim on Friday. Two nights prior in San Jose, their undoing was special teams. That game easily could have gone the other way if Evander Kane doesn't score three goals in the first period, two of which were on the power play.

But, in the end, the results are what matter, and the Canes didn't put forth enough of a total effort in their last two games in California to come out on the right side of them. After starting the season with a five-game winning streak, the Canes have dropped three of their last four games. It's time to turn that around.

"The San Jose game was actually a pretty good game. We did everything right, except our special teams got away. We pretty much dominated the game 5-on-5 with 2-to-1 chances. That's a good game. Unfortunately, the special teams didn't come through, so that cost us," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said on Sunday. "The game in Anaheim wasn't a great game. I didn't think the other team played particularly well. We didn't give up much, but we didn't generate enough to score. We've got to get back to doing what we do and get a little more … pressure on all zones. We just want to sharpen up."

Tweet from @bend302: How are the Canes going to address the ridiculous amount of minor penalties? The hookings, trippings, and holdings gotta go. #Tweetmail

The amount of stick penalties the Hurricanes have taken early in the season certainly are slightly concerning, especially with the aforementioned special teams performance in San Jose.

The Canes have been whistled for 39 minor penalties (plus one bench infraction) in their first nine games. That equates to 4.33 minors per game and nearly one-and-a-half minors per period. Of those 39 minor penalties, 12 were tripping, seven were interference, five were hooking and four were holding.

The good news is that these penalties are often the result of the Canes' aggressive style; they aren't retaliatory minors and are generally happening on plays that are otherwise well-intentioned.

"I think we work hard and are hard on pucks," Hamilton said after last week's game in San Jose. "I don't think they're necessarily stupid penalties. We're just working hard and getting our sticks in there."

The bad news is that these are still penalties, regardless of the intention or situation. There are too many lethal power plays in the league to tempt night after night, and the Canes are well-aware that taking gobs of penalties is not going to lead to sustained success. 

"They're calling lots of things. That's just how it is now. We've got to kill them, though. We've got to do a better job," Brind'Amour said the same night. "At the end of the day, you've got to kill them, and we didn't."

Tweet from @HHandorf: Aside from the players and coaches, how many other people travel with the canes?

The traveling party varies from trip to trip, but the essential traveling party consists, of course, of the players, coaches, medical staff and equipment staff. A communications and team services contact, whether that's Mike Sundheim and/or Pace Sagester, is on every trip. From time to time, a member of the front office, like President and General Manager Don Waddell, flies with the team. The broadcast crew, which includes John Forslund, Tripp Tracy and Mike Maniscalco (and, for the next few road games in his absence, Shane Willis), also travel on the plane for every FOX Sports Carolinas telecast (81 of 82 this season). I travel on every trip to report from the road, and we sometimes bring a camera along, as well. Occasionally, corporate partners or contest-winning Season Ticket Members - who are joining us on this short trip to Columbus - also tag along.

If that sounds like a lot to coordinate, it definitely is. The bulk of the planning for these trips, including the booking of hotels in every city, happens in the summer, but flexibility is a key. Be sure to listen to episode 108 of CanesCast to learn more about this process from Vice President of Communications and Team Services Mike Sundheim.

Tweet from @dabrams2021: #tweetmail - if Don Waddell and Brind'Amour come to you to ask your sage advice on whom to call up from the Checkers, which 2 forwards and which 2 dmen do you tell them?

Well, the very first thing I tell them is that they're crazy for coming to me to solicit such advice. In fact, I can't imagine even some twisted alternate universe in which this would be the case.

But, for the sake of this exercise, let's discuss.

Forward-wise, I'm looking at Morgan Geekie, who has totaled four goals and four assists in his first six games of the season. The Canes aren't exactly in need of a center right now, but we're also in a scenario where the GM and head coach are asking for the nerdy writer's advice, so just go with it. I'd also give another look to Julien Gauthier to see what he can do after taking some lessons from his first stint with the big club.

On defense, I'd give the nods to Roland McKeown and Gustav Forsling, both who I thought were solid in the preseason. Again, the Canes have seven defensemen currently on the roster, so they're not going to need one any time soon, but these would be my early-season selections.

Please don't tell Don or Rod.

Tweet from @katie_030305: @MSmithCanes What does the plus and minus mean for the players and how is it calculated? Sorry if I sound dumb😂

No question is ever too dumb for Tweetmail! My aim is that this mailbag is all parts informative, educational and fun.

While no question is ever dumb, some folks might argue that plus/minus is a dumb statistic. There is certainly credence to that! But, before we dive into why it's not so great, let's chat about how it's calculated. A player receives a plus when he is on the ice when his team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal. Conversely, a player receives a minus when he is on the ice when his team surrenders an even-strength or shorthanded goal. (Power-play and penalty shot goals are excluded from the plus/minus statistic.)

Pretty straightforward, right? That's part of the reason why the metric is so derided. A player could be totally uninvolved in a play when his goalie surrenders a bad goal, and he gets saddled with a minus. Or, a player could have just hopped over the boards as teammates race down the ice and score on an odd-man rush. Easy plus.

This is where analytics attempts to bridge statistical gaps and paint a fuller picture of a player's on-ice performance, and player- and puck-tracking data will provide an even deeper understanding of all of this.

If you're interested in learning more about analytics and what the Hurricanes are doing with data collection and analysis, I recommend my chat with Eric Tulsky, where he sheds a lot of light on his role and responsbilities as Vice President of Hockey Management and Strategy.

Tweet from @sworl17: With the Hornets night just announced, any chance for a Panthers one coming?

We'd love to! (Stay tuned.) #KeepPounding


Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you'd like answered or you also share an affinity for animal style fries, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes, or you can drop me an email.

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