Eric Staal has been the unquestioned leader on the Carolina Hurricanes since the day Rod Brind’Amour hung ‘em up. He wears the “C,” he’s annually among their top scorers, and sets the tone for his team in all three zones. But while the Hurricanes have gotten off to an average start, Staal has been a disappointment.
Pierre McGuire wondered one NHL Live this evening if there was more to his poor start. “I’m worried about Eric Staal,” McGuire said. “He’s a minus 13, he’s kind of mired in a huge slump… the ‘go-to’ guy on this team right now is Jeffrey Skinner and he’s 19 years of age. The second ‘go-to’ guy is Brandon Sutter. They need more from the captain—and I love the player.”
Mike Milbury asked the question that a lot of people are wondering. Is Eric Staal’s slow start related to the hit that he threw that knocked his brother (Marc) out with a concussion since last season? McGuire agreed that that the Carolina captain hasn’t been right in the early going. “There’s something wrong,” he said. “He’s not the same player.”
Staal’s numbers were alright in October. But the Hurricanes need him to be better than a 20 goal, 50 point player if they want to succeed this season. And that plus/minus rating? People can argue about the validity of the stat, but minus 13 is unacceptable for a guy that is supposed to be the leader. Is he shying away from the physical side of the game because of last year’s results? Only Staal can answer that question.
Going into tonight’s game against the Lightning, the Hurricanes are right about where a lot of people thought they’d be. They’re sitting a point out of the 8th spot with a record hovering right around .500. They’re average. Not an elite team, but not a cellar-dweller. They’re a team that has the potential to fight for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference—but they’ll need to maximize every bit of potential if they want to make it to the postseason this year.
Remember, they were the team that missed the playoffs on the last game of the regular season in April. If anyone knows the importance of every single point, it’s the Hurricanes. Getting Staal back on track will go a long way towards Carolina taking the next step.