Muller to Staal: “I don’t need you to be Superman”

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New Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller had a lengthy discussion with Canes captain Eric Staal prior to tonight’s game against Florida.

What words of wisdom did the new bench boss offer?

“I just said to him, ‘I don’t need you to be Superman,'” Muller told The News & Observer. “I told him, ‘I just want you to go out here tonight and be my hardest-working player. Just play hard, have fun, enjoy the game.’

“If he’s a better player, and 19 other guys out there are better tonight than they were yesterday, then we’re a better team. He doesn’t have to take the burden of having to do everything. … All he has to do is go out and lead by example. Play hard, do the little things, great body language and have fun and just be the player that he is.”

Getting Staal out of his season-long funk is at the top of Muller’s to do list. Not many teams rely on or have more invested in a player than Carolina does with Staal — he’s the team captain, the holder of most franchise scoring records (since the move to Carolina, that is) and the highest-paid player by a longshot — Staal makes almost $2 million more than the next highest-paid ‘Cane, Cam Ward.

This could explain why Muller’s taking the “you don’t need to be Superman” approach. Words like ‘burden’ and ‘accountability’ have been synonymous with Staal’s struggles this season, so lightening the mental weight could be the first step in reclaiming his game.

One final thing to consider regarding Staal’s struggles: At last year’s trade deadline, ‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford acquired Cory Stillman from Florida and reunited the Staal-Stillman-Erik Cole line. The trio was stellar down the stretch and a driving force behind Carolina’s playoff push, but Rutherford failed to bring back Cole (who signed in Montreal) and Stillman (who retired after failing to reach a deal with the ‘Canes.)

Considering Rutherford then spent $14.25 million on Tomas Kaberle and Alexei Ponikarovsky, people are now wondering if he shouldn’t have done more to retain Staal’s running mates.

Memorial Cup champion goalie Appleby signs with Devils

Ken Appleby
The Canadian Press via AP
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Ken Appleby never got drafted, but his efforts during the New Jersey Devils’ training camp have earned him an entry-level contract, per the Bergen Record.

Although no team saw it fit to take him before the preseason, the 20-year-old is coming off of a very strong season. He had a 2.08 GAA and .924 save percentage in 50 games with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. He went on to lead them to a Memorial Cup championship and earned the the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy as the tournament’s top goalie.

Appleby is the fifth goaltender the Devils have under contract after Cory Schneider, Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood, and Yann Danis. He’ll likely begin the season in the ECHL.

Alexandre Goulet and Jacob Sweeney also participated in the Devils’ training camp on an amateur tryout basis, but both of them have been released.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL stars weigh in on McDavid

Connor McDavid
The Canadian Press via AP
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Some of the NHL’s top players discuss Connor McDavid‘s potential and the hype surrounding him. (Toronto Sun)

While we’re on the subject, Wayne Gretzky recalls what it was like for him going into the NHL and what’s in store for McDavid. (Edmonton Sun)

Sam Gagner is about to start a key season in his career. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

It’s time for the Washington Capitals to make some tough calls, particularly when it comes to Derek Roy. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

With Raffi Torres hearing scheduled for today, here’s a look back at his suspension history. (San Jose Mercury News)

The Chicago Blackhawks have gotten their championship rings. (NHL.com)