After four preseason games, Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller cannot be too pleased with the state of his team. They have been outscored 17 to 9 in their three games and few players have stood out as positives. Some may have even cost themselves with poor play, allowing others to jump them in the depth chart.
Muller says the "door" probably has been shut for some players. Didn't name any names.
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) September 21, 2013
At the end of last year, with the fate of the team already decided, Muller gave Jared Staal a few games in Raleigh to get a taste of his first NHL action. He largely held his own, looking fairly capable, though it was generally understood that not much should be made of it; he had only scored 7 points in 52 AHL games that season.
But with Muller wanting a “bigger” fourth line, the youngest Staal may be in the thick of the competition for a roster spot.
At 6’4’’ 210lbs, Jared has the build of his brothers, if not the scoring prowess. Adding a bit of nastiness to his game would make him an ideal candidate. The opportunity is there to join his brothers in Raleigh.
It’s not as if anyone else has stepped up to grab a slot in the bottom six–Muller has largely been disappointed with those in the running. The scoring just hasn’t translated for some players, and if they’re not checking or hitting, then they’re not contributing.
At barely 23-years-old, Staal has the benefit of being one of the youngest players remaining in camp. He’s still learning and still developing, though he, along with a host of other players competing for a few spots, are waiver eligible. Making the team could come down to more than just merit. Who is most likely to be claimed, and who would the Hurricanes’ want to lose the least?
It might still be an uphill battle for Staal to make the team, but Saturday night’s game in Montreal may have been his best chance to make a great impression. Again Muller rolled the trio of brothers together, but, this time, eyes were focused on Jared. Everyone knows Eric and Jordan will make the team, but a strong showing may have put Jared right there with his siblings. He made several nice plays defensively, and even recorded an assist on Drayson Bowman’s first period goal.
With the ‘Canes completing their fourth game in four days, the second round of cuts should be expected as early as Monday. If Jared makes it through again, it won’t be based on a silly “three Staals” gimmick. He’ll have earned it.
Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7