A look at the 2013-2014 stat line for Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal is very revealing. Zeroing in on the heading “PP” says it all. A lone number 1 sits above the number 274 which shows NHL rank. What is “PP” you ask? It
stands for power play goals. Captain Eric had 1 power play goal last season, which was a stout 274th in the NHL. This speaks volumes about the recent past and possible future for the ‘Canes.
I’m not a “stat-geek”
But I do think that Staal’s line is fascinating. A quick comparison to the “PP” total in 2005-2006 shows 19. This was the season Carolina brought Lord Stanley’s Cup to Raleigh. In contrast, over the previous four seasons the Captain had 12, 7, 3, and last season’s 1 respectively. From a Cup-winning high of 19 all the way down to 1. The trend is not unlike the team’s overall performance over the same time-frame. In ’05-06 the Hurricanes notched 95 power play goals as opposed to just 41 last season. If one is looking at the team with a very narrow view, it is clear that the power play is an area that needs immediate attention and help. New head coach Bill Peters was most recently a defensive coach with the Detroit Red Wings. It goes without saying – although I’ve been saying it for the past few years – the Canes need help on the defensive end of the ice. Coach Peters will aim to strengthen the intensity and overall scheme on Carolina’s end of the ice. GM Ron Francis has made moves
with a skew toward size and an eye to shoring up the defense. If effective, this will help the goal-tenders immensely. Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward were often put in very difficult situations last season that a more cohesive defense should help them avoid in 2015-16. Time will tell.
But the real truth is that the Hurricanes need to be more effective on the power play.
“Gee Mark, aren’t you a genius?” I’m not trying to be former ‘Canes goalie Kevin Weekes come back to Raleigh to opine about the obvious. (He’s doing great work with the NHL Network.) But any time at all spent watching the recently completed Stanley Cup Playoffs, gave glaring recognition to the fact that playoff teams are vicious about attacking the net on the power play. It’s a mindset – one that I believe Eric Staal had at one time – and still can draw upon to provide power play leadership as captain of the Hurricanes. Nothing has been more frustrating of late when watching the ‘Canes than their passing the puck back and forth, into the wall, back out over the blue line, back and forth… I don’t think I am alone in believing that to score in this league; the puck has to be projected toward the general vicinity of the net. Most of the fans that I have interacted with here in Raleigh spend a lot of time lamenting the lack of shooting the puck on the ‘Canes power play. In addition to strengthening the defense, fans are hoping that Coach Peters will ignite a strong, aggressive, oft-shooting power play. It will be an essential element of any Carolina return to post-season play. Much was said in the Raleigh media during former Kurk Muller’s waning days as head coach. A recurrent theme was that he tried to get Eric Staal to fit into a mold in which he was not comfortable. I believe strongly that the Captain will come out of the gate strong this season – unencumbered by last season’s injury – and get the Hurricanes off to a good start. I believe he will demonstrate leadership befitting of the “C” on his sweater, and that the power play – his and the team’s – will be better than in the recent past.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.