Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal does a lot well for the Canes, but it’s about time he begin to turn it up a notch.
You can just about taste it. The Carolina Hurricanes are touching distance of the red line that divides the contenders from the pretenders. Just 4 points back of a playoff position, Carolina is looking to do everything they can to push for the postseason. In order to get there, center Jordan Staal must step up his game to lead his team to the promise land.
In the past 3 games, Jordan Staal has 3 assists. So, wait a minute, why does he need to step it up? Well, he is feeding the hot hand. All three of those assists were to Derek Ryan, who is just scoring at will for Carolina. Right now, Ryan is driving the offense on that line, not Staal. The center is just along for the ride.
There is nothing really wrong with this right now of course. It doesn’t matter as long as Ryan keeps scoring, but he surely won’t continue potting goals at his current rate. Once he starts to dwindle, so will Staal’s numbers. When that time comes, Staal’s underlying issues will be front an center. Over the last few months Jordan Staal is not creating enough offense for the Canes.
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After a dominating performance against he Capitals on November 12th (almost two months ago), Staal only has 2 goals. In that time frame, he has played 19 games, 14 of which were pointless outings for the alternate captain. As the highest paid player on the Hurricanes, that simply doesn’t cut it.
Of course, Staal draws all the hardest defensive assignments every night, forcing him to think about his own end first. However, something is just not clicking right now. Take last night. Staal had two shorthanded breakaways and failed to convert either one. Just one goal from either of the chances helps Carolina win in regulation rather than in overtime. The goal scoring instincts aren’t there for Staal.
It is not all bad from Staal though. The fact he created two shorthanded breakaways in penalty kill is incredible. In fact, one of his two goals since Nov. 12 came shorthanded. His presence makes Carolina’s penalty kill the benchmark in the National Hockey League. Lastly, every Jordan Staal praising wouldn’t be complete without mentioning his stellar faceoff skills.
That’s all great, but he needs to show some more for his team. The guy needs to begin to drive offense himself, rather than tagging along the hot hand’s ride. That means looking to shoot more. It would also be helpful to start finishing his chances like the ones from last night against the Bruins. Finally, Staal needs to park himself in front of the net more. Too often he is off to the side looking for tips. He is a massive human being. If he put just a bit more effort into standing in front of the goalie, his offensive production would rise very quickly.
It is vital Staal’s offense turns up a notch. To do so, he must park in front of the net and shoot more. If he can do that, he will be an effective offensive center. Carolina would see improvement on their power play and see more goals up on the board. Having Jordan Staal step it up a level would really give the Canes a chance to reach the postseason.