This is part one of a two-part series. Tomorrow the defensemen, goalies and late-season call-ups will be graded.
It was a rough season for the Hurricanes team as a whole. Despite that some forwards had excellent seasons, while others disappointed. Here’s the grades for the Canes forwards from highest to lowest:
Jiri Tlusty: A Tlusty had a career season scoring 23 goals and adding 15 assists but the most important part of his season was the chemistry he created between him, Alexander Semin and Eric Staal. Without Tlusty, Staal and Semin’s season may not have been as successful. During the months of March and April, Tlusty also kept his scoring at a good pace, while the whole team fell apart.
Eric Staal: A- Staal had a rough 2011-12 season, but really bounced back this year. He lead the Hurricanes in points and finished sixth in the NHL for assists and points. However, as the leader of the team, he needed to help the team get back on track during the eight-game losing streak. Unfortunately Staal and the team took too long to earn a win and fell out of the playoffs.
Alexander Semin – B+ Semin had a similar season to Staal, bouncing back from a rough 2011-12 season. However, Semin also showed that he could also help out on defense, an area that most thought he didn’t excel in and played on the penalty kill. Semin would have recieved a higher grade, but he went through a seven-game span without scoring a goal, which hurt the team during its losing streak.
Jordan Staal – B Jordan Staal’s season did not go as well as some had hoped. The younger Staal’s season started out well helping to create secondary scoring for the offense, but also hit a rough patch that took him a while to come out of. However, he did perform his defensive duties to a high level, as he has done all of his career, which earned him a higher grade.
Tuomo Ruutu – B- It was a trying season for Ruutu, who came back from a hip injury earlier than expected, but took some time to adjust to the game. The Finnish forward ended up scoring four goals in his last six games, looking much better than when he came back from the injury. Ruutu deserves his grade because he came back from injury early and tried his hardest all season, which finally paid off near the end.
Jeff Skinner – C Skinner did not have a good season by his standards. The left-winger only scored 24 points, a much lower point-per-game rate than he scored in his first two seasons in the league. It may have been playing with a new center (Jordan Staal) or the shortened season, but Skinner could not be relied on for scoring goals like he was last year. The late-season move to center may help him moving forward as he did well in the spot in the few games he was used there.
Kevin Westgarth – C Westgarth is a fighter with not too much to his game, but he did his job in 2013 engaging in seven fights in 31 games. The Hurricanes have no tough guys, besides Westgarth, so he did play a small part for the team. In the last three games of the season, the 29-year-old also scored two goals and added two assists.
Tim Brent – C Brent plays the fourth line and does his job well, but had a bad year in the offensive category. He did not score once and only had three assists. Brent is playing with less skilled players, but most teams can expect a few goals from their fourth line during the season. Brent is a UFA this summer and the Hurricanes may choose to replace him with someone more suited for the fourth line spot.
Tim Wallace – C Similar to Westgarth, Wallace does not have a big role on the team, but he did OK for the Hurricanes. He only scored once in 29 games, but was noticeable in some games. Wallace is also a UFA this summer and may not return to the Hurricanes.
Chad LaRose – D The 2013 season was not friendly to LaRose. He suffered an injury and only scored two goals. The lack of offense is most likely from not playing with Eric Staal anymore, but LaRose still played with Jordan Staal some games and was not able to contribute to the offense. LaRose is a UFA this summer and may not receive a contact offer from the Hurricanes.
Drayson Bowman – D When Bowman entered the league, he came with a lot of potential, but has since failed to live up to expectations. The left-winger only scored two goals and three assists in 37 games and most games seemed invisible. Bowman needs to take the next step to become a regular forward in the NHL.