The season has not started the way the Carolina Hurricanes had hoped and many factors can be to blame. Every team looks towards their leaders to carry them through difficult times and that starts with the captain, Jordan Staal. Like the Canes, Staal has also had a less-than-stellar start to the season.
Despite the ups and downs of the first 16 games, the Canes find themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division. As a whole, this team will need to improve and play more consistent hockey. The majority of these players have the capability to turn this around.
Can the captain turn things around or has his time passed?
Staal has provided great leadership in Carolina while playing some good, all-around hockey. Offensively, the 35-year-old has not been relied upon in the ladder of his career but defensively, Staal provides stellar play that is relied upon by Rod Brind’Amour.
Last season, the Thunder Bay, Ontario native had one of his strongest seasons in recent years and that included offensively. Some very timely goals helped shoot this team up the standings last winter and repeated another Metro Division title.
In the summer, the 18-year veteran became an unrestricted free agent. Being so close to the Raleigh community and Hurricanes organization, it was believed that Staal would take a “home-town” discount.
Unexpectedly, the former first-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Penguins not only re-signed with the Canes but for 4 more seasons. The cap hit was $2.9 million per season which was also slightly steep for his age and production.
Similarly, linemate Jesper Fast re-signed in Carolina for a multi-year deal worth $2.4 million per season. Again, an unexpected term and years.
Still, general manager, Don Waddell, was able to maneuver his roster and make some necessary moves in the off-season to balance out this roster with strong talent. The Canes were coming off another great season where they were 4 wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals and had won the off-season.
All is well.
Fast forward to now where the Canes have just two games before Thanksgiving and sit with 18 points. Staal is sitting with just 1 goal and 5 points. More concerning is the -4 that Staal has registered while playing the defensive center role he has grown accustomed to in Carolina.
The real problem so far is not stats but Staal looks noticeably slower against the opposition and is taking bad, untimely penalties because of this factor. His size has been a strength in the past but if he can’t keep up with his assignment it does not matter.
At the very least this line needs to be juggled as they all are looking a little old and combining this with the fact that Jack Drury is invisible makes the bottom forwards near useless right now. This puts too much pressure on the big guns to score. The same narrative as the last few seasons, unfortunately.