As we, the Caniacs, sit in May watching the playoffs without our dear Storm playing for the 5th straight year, many questions are being asked about players who seemed invincible in years past. We saw fan-favorites like Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason get traded, while other players’ dedication and motivation were questioned, including Cam Ward and Eric Staal, the last remaining players from the 2006 cup team.
Eric Staal, in particular, was highly doubted toward the end of this past season. His point total for 2013-14 was 61, compared to last year’s lockout shortened 53, and the prior year’s 71. So, he has faltered in production, but not enough to be calling for his head in the manner that many of the Hurricanes faithful are.
The main reason he was placed on the chopping block for the better part of the season was because of his visible lack of motivation. He stopped backchecking, his line changes were as nonchalant as they come, and races to the puck were never his to win.
And that may be because his knee injury from the World Championship’s last summer was acting up, or there may have been something personally he was dealing with, but it was obvious that he was no longer the Eric Staal that was once leading this team in pretty much everything.
Of course, he still led the team in points last season, which is scary, considering how many people saw him fall off a bit . Not even Jeff Skinner or the enigma himself, Alexander Semin, passed Staal in points. But the question of the day is, do we really want a captain who is going to give up like Staal did?
The answer is no. We don’t want that captain. But we need Eric Staal. He is one of the best players to ever put on the Hurricanes uniform, and it’s time for him to return to form. In his exit interview, he said he has heard the criticisms of his play and no matter what anyone thinks, he is still here to play. That act alone answered my questions of his captaincy.
Eric Staal should and will be the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. But he needs to be better; he and everyone involved with the team knows that. I strongly believe he can wake up without taking away his “C”, and IMO, it would do so much more harm than good to remove him as captain.
Everyone is going to struggle. It’s inevitable. Eric Staal has struggled. But it’s time for him to come back to form, and for him to do that we all need to have some faith in him. He’s earned at least that. He belongs as captain of this team, and he will lead them into the playoffs again.