When the Carolina Hurricanes traded Brandon Sutter, prospect Brian Dumoulin and a first-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jordan Staal, Canes fans expected a legitimate number-two center with the ability to play both sides of the puck.
In Staal’s first season in red, the 25-year-old recorded 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 48 games. Respectable numbers, but not enough for a center that was expected to help lead the offense.
This season, Staal got off to a slow start and Hurricanes fans immediately jumped on his back, wishing the trade could be erased. It wasn’t until the ninth game of the season that Staal recorded his first goal of the year.
But in the past few games, Staal has shown why GM Jim Rutherford was willing to let go of so many assets for the second-overall pick in 2006.
In the past seven games, Staal has four goals, but it’s not only the score sheet Staal has impressed in.
Lately, he’s been hard on the puck, which has helped create chances for his linemates. Staal along with Nathan Gerbe and Elias Lindholm have combined for a strong second line for the Canes that was missing last season.
Staal has also helped in the defensive end, like he always has, and is an invaluable penalty killer.
Some reasons for the recent influx of points could be that luck is finally paying off. At the start of the season Staal, and then-linemate Patrick Dwyer were getting a ton of chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Maybe now things are starting to even out and Staal is earning those goals he should have had earlier.
Lindholm could also have an effect on Staal as it gives the center an offensive wing option. Dwyer and Staal always had great chemistry, but Dwyer is not the offensive player that Lindholm is.
Then there’s also the addition of Manny Malhotra. The veteran center takes most of the defensive draws that usually go to Jordan, who is now allowed to take a few more offensive shifts.
But watching Staal’s game, he seems to be harder on the forecheck more than he ever was last year and is going to the dirty places to get the puck. Keeping up that type of play may be the most important part for Staal to continue the current point production he is on.