Hurricanes’ Justin Faulk Is Still Leading

He’s been there for years, just not in the spotlight. This leader on the Carolina Hurricanes has even been named captain in the past, albeit in a weird way. But now, Justin Faulk is stepping into the spotlight as he helps his team move forward in pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Favor comes and goes in every sport. Today’s “flavor of the month” can be next week’s “biggest letdown.” Athletics is often a vocation judged in the moment more than by the body of work.

Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk in 2015. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Therefore it was no surprise when some Hurricanes fans began to call for the end of Faulk in the offseason. Even early this season, various trade scenarios circulated that included Faulk. Thankfully, more reasonable thoughts prevailed.

Justin Faulk’s Early Years

Faulk has had some memorable seasons with the Hurricanes. He turned heads early as these comments from Mark Jones of the Bleacher Report in 2015 illustrate: “The Hurricanes’ second-round selection in the 2010 draft has quickly emerged as the future face of the franchise and one of the bigger rising stars in the league today.”

Faulk ascended as a leader through solid defensive play and as surprising contributor on offense. In 2015, he opened the season with 12 power-play goals in a row. His growing status as an elite player was off and running.

Faulk has had his ups and downs over the years. While he has been named to the NHL All-Star team three times, the expectations that were initially thrown his way were somewhat unrealistic. Fans became restless when he was not superman night in and night out and suddenly the Hurricanes’ defensive anchor became expendable to some.

But, Faulk’s leadership never waned even though it was not loud or self-promoting. The ‘Canes defense grew under his leadership, with players like Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce growing into elite defensemen.

Faulk Leading in Weird Scenarios

Faulk wore the “C” last season along with Staal. The dual-captaincy was weird and the brainchild of then head coach Bill Peters. Peters was bent on avoiding naming Justin Williams the team captain and came up with the dual approach. It was probably better than the four-alternates Peters used the previous season, but not by much.

True to form, Faulk was not negative when I asked him about it at the end of last season. He said:

“I think Jordan and I are comfortable with each other…Between the two of us, we get along obviously really well. We understand each other really well. We know what to expect from each other and what each other brings. I don’t think that’s taken away anything from us or changed our approach our day and how we carry ourselves in here.”

Faulk Still Leading

While he did admit it was a weird scenario, he didn’t criticize Peters or anyone else, a leader through and through. When his team needed him Wednesday night in Game 3 against the Islanders, Faulk again did what leaders do:

That goal by Faulk sent the crowd into a frenzy, giving the team added energy to stay the course and eventually win Game 3, 5-2.

Faulk is no longer wearing the “C” on his Hurricanes sweater. He is an alternate but nobody really cares about that stuff right now. Captain Williams is doing what he does – lifting the team to heights nobody thought possible – and Faulk is doing what he does. He is quietly playing great defense and scoring when it counts in ways that also lift the team higher. It’s called leadership, and that is Faulk at his best.