RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Hurricanes don’t have a captain. They think they still have plenty of leaders.
A young team hoping to finally break through to the postseason figures to take a leadership-by-committee approach to the season with nobody yet promoted to fill the captaincy void created by Eric Staal‘s trade last season.
Clearly establishing which – and how many – players will lead an inexperienced but promising team will be a top priority once training camp begins in the coming days. Of the 44 skaters on the roster, 32 of them are 24 years old or younger.
“With Eric leaving, everybody knows how big of a hole that is in that aspect of the room,” forward Jordan Staal said Friday. “I know it’s not all going to fall on one guy’s shoulders. It’s a team sport, and there’s going to be a lot of guys ready to step up in different roles regarding leadership, including myself.”
The Hurricanes somehow played their best hockey of last season immediately after they traded Eric Staal to the New York Rangers at the trading deadline, earning points in 12 of the 14 games that followed the trade to mount a last-gasp push for their first playoff berth since 2009.
With nobody wearing the “C” that was vacated by Staal, the Hurricanes are counting on multiple voices to help make up for it. Jordan Staal and defenseman Justin Faulk both wore the “A” as alternate captains last season and they expect their teammates – even the ones who won’t wear a letter – to step up and take ownership of the team.
Some of the players who’ll lead either vocally or by example include:
– Forward Jeff Skinner. He had team-bests of 28 goals and 51 points, and though he’s just 24, the NHL’s rookie of the year in 2010 is one of the longest-tenured players on the roster.
– Defenseman Ron Hainsey. At 35, he is the oldest player on the roster – nine years older than the second-oldest defenseman, Matt Tennyson, and has skated in 835 NHL games during his 13-year career.
– Cam Ward. While goalies aren’t captains, Ward is the last remaining link to both the Stanley Cup-winning team in 2006 and to Carolina’s last playoff team in 2009. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP in 2006 was given a two-year, $6.6 million extension that allowed him to avoid free agency and stay with the only NHL organization he’s ever known.
“There are a lot of guys in the room that lead, and if that’s the way it is, I don’t think it changes much,” Faulk said. “Guys are still going to do their same thing, whether there is a captain or not, and that’s what we’ve kind of had the last couple of years, even with some of the older guys.
“It’s been good. … There always is more than one guy that’s doing their part to step up in different ways,” he added. “Not everyone leads the same way and it’s good to have a bunch of guys with differing opinions.”