The Carolina Hurricanes will rely on Jordan Staal in the Playoffs.
As the Carolina Hurricanes prepare for the playoffs, let’s take a deep dive into the predictions for the top players on the roster, Jordan Staal is up next.
Jordan Staal has had his fair share of critics this season; and while I think constructive criticism is usually fair, I have a hard time disliking the Carolina Hurricane captain. He fits the role of leader well with a dominating presence on the ice and a willingness to take ownership for the team’s shortcomings after the last horn has sounded.
Unfortunately, Staal has transformed from a fan favorite to a declining veteran in some Caniac’s eyes. There’s no doubt about it, Staal’s point production has declined over the years. However, I think his role has shifted to that of a defense-minded center who keeps puck possession to feed opportunities to other players.
Caniacs tend to consider Staal from these two perspectives: either he’s a lackluster point producer on the decline that needs to go, or he’s an outstanding defensive center that defines puck possession when he is on the ice. I tend to think of Staal from the second perspective and I think the coaching staff does as well.
I’m not saying that Staal couldn’t score more; in fact, I certainly think Staal has the ability to increase his point production and fans have seen evidence of this with seasons close to 50 points. But to believe that Staal’s worth is defined by his point production is completely misguided.
The defining narrative of the Jordan Staal story should be his defensive contributions, which are nothing short of excellent among NHL centers. His Corsi For % (defined by Hockey Reference as a percentage which shows how often the team was controlling the puck when this player is on the ice) is 52.9 %.
I think the decision to pair Staal and Williams on the same line is an excellent choice. The outstanding showing against the Pittsburg Penguins on March 8 was a glimpse of how the pair can perform together. Staal provided the assist for both of Justin William’s goals.
Unfortunately, the Canes have to rely on more than defensive capability from a center. That is why I can’t criticize fans who acknowledge Staal’s lackluster point production. While he may drive play towards the net and produce opportunities for other players to score, he has to find a way to score himself.
For the impending qualifying round contest against the New York Rangers, point production is obviously going to be critical. As the imposing center, it is important that Staal continues to define puck possession. The Rangers thrive on capitalizing on turnovers, so by taking that avenue away the Canes can keep every important lead.
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This is a key for the Canes during the Rangers series that I wrote about prior that applies especially to Staal: shoot the puck early and often. Staal does not have the best hockey hands, but this shouldn’t keep him from taking shots. Overwhelming the net with shots is a surefire way to get on the board quickly and stay on top.
During the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Staal produced a respectable 10 points in 15 games in his only playoff appearance as a Cane. I think Staal is a defining player for the Carolina Hurricanes whose contributions to the team won’t fully be appreciated until he has hung the gloves up. I believe he will show up big for the playoffs and lead the team to victory.
Question For CC Readers: What do you expect from Staal in the Playoffs?