Jordan Staal Back V Habs Does Not Guarantee Turnaround

Jordan Staal is predicted to be back Monday, December 29th when the Carolina Hurricanes face off against the Montreal Canadiens in Raleigh. According to this report from NHL.com last Sunday, Hurricanes coach Bill Peters indicated that Staal may return at that time. Earlier in the week, @theScoreNHL also tweeted Monday as the possible target for his return:

A return prior to 2015 for Jordan Staal would be viewed as nothing short of remarkable. When he broke his right fibula September 23rd against the Buffalo Sabres, the prognosis for his recovery was 3-4 months. That prognosis could prove to be on the shorter end if in fact he returns on December 29th. Coach Peters has had him in contact drills and if all goes according to plan, Jordan Staal will make his regular season debut versus the Habs.

Line shakeup?

Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer indicated a few days ago that Coach Peters has said that “When center Jordan Staal returns to the lineup he will shuffle the lines.” What does that mean and who will be shuffled and where? Traditionally Jordan Staal has been the center on the Hurricanes’ second line. He has been a big presence with a solid reputation on the penalty kill. But, as I wrote last week, the current second line of Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, and Elias Lindholm are beginning to gel nicely. I’d hate to see that particular line disrupted.

Of course, I’m not Coach Peters, but I believe strongly that ‘Canes success will begin to emerge as this line continues to find its way. Jeff Skinner is a proven goal scorer, and Elias Lindholm is emerging as such.

Victor Rask is growing into a legitimate NHL center and is improving with every minute on the ice. Jordan Staal returning to the lineup has the potential to be a very big positive for the Hurricanes, but my hope is that it will not come at the expense of this growing line.

Here is an idea that could prove interesting, as both Jordan Staal and Andrej Nestrasil both make their way back from injury:

Coach Peters has a propensity to shake things up and try various line combinations. Where and with whom Jordan Staal winds up consistently will be a process for him to figure out. It will certainly be a trial and error approach at the beginning. Let’s hope that Coach Peters will find the perfect combination for Jordan Staal, and that it will be a big lift for the ‘Canes.

Fatigue much?

Jordan Staal will not skate out onto the ice and be on fire, lightning fast and burning it up. He has been skating and training very hard, but the pace of the game is much different from, “a morning skate.” It will take time for him to be fully back up to live game speed. How much time is anybody’s guess. The likelihood is that it will take some time for him to be at 100% in all aspects of his game.

Fatigue is something that he will need to conquer. And it is something that he will conquer – in time. How his play will impact the Hurricanes is still a mystery. Certainly it will bring a big boost to morale. And as he gets his legs fully back to skate his normal number of shifts, that impact should be greater. It will just take time and live-game experience.

Jordan Staal and Expectations

My colleague with The Hockey Writers, Philip Botti wrote recently about the expectations that the return of Jordan Staal will have for the Hurricanes. Botti pointed out that he has not been known to be a prolific goal-scorer, and asserts that the return of Jordan Staal is not likely to reverse the fortunes of the team this season. I tend to agree that his return will not be an immediate miracle cure, but I believe it will be positive.

He does have the experience of having won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has shown streaks of excellence at times. But remember, last year a lot of ‘Canes fans were lamenting the mediocre play of Jordan Staal. His return could prove to be a real boost, or not. He may be the presence and spark that the team needs to begin to win consistently. Or he could join Alexander Semin as a target of frustrated fans wondering why a player making superstar money is not playing like a superstar.

One thing is certain. It will be fantastic to see Jordan Staal back on the ice for the ‘Canes. If he returns Monday as expected, it will be a special night in Raleigh. Here’s to Jordan Staal’s return and win over the Montreal Canadiens. That won’t guarantee a Carolina Hurricanes turnaround, but it would be a very welcome start.