Jordan Staal’s Obvious Impact

Jordan Staal is a big guy. At 6’4″ tall and 220 pounds, he is built perfectly to play the center position in the NHL. At 26 years old, he still has a lot of hockey to play.

When Staal broke his left during a preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres last September, it was widely accepted that he would be missed by the team.

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Just how badly he would be missed was immediately evident. The Hurricanes went into the season full of hope under their new coach and promptly lost every game in October. The team had a much better November and then struggled in December, going 3-11 to close out 2014.

Executive VP and General Manager Ron Francis stated the obvious in April:

Staal returns

Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

The New Year brought with it new possibilities as Jordan Staal returned to the Hurricanes’ lineup. In Staal’s first game back on January 2nd, the ‘Canes beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1. Staal notched a point in the win.

Carolina would go on to a 7-5 record in January, at times showing streaks of being a good team as they had in November when they started the month 4-0. The addition of Staal to the top line with his brother Eric seemed to be a natural fit, and one which would provide much-needed offense for the Hurricanes.

Staal not enough

Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal - Photo By Andy Martin Jr
Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal – Photo By Andy Martin Jr

Unfortunately the return of Staal was not enough by itself to get the ‘Canes to the playoffs. They finished the season a dismal 12 games worse than they had the year before. Their rookie coach Bill Peters often changing up the lines on a nightly basis. Any continuity or chemistry that might have been gained from consistency in the lines was not to be found.

The truth is that this team has two of the game’s biggest stars in Eric and Jordan Staal. Both are highly paid and both have won a Stanley Cup – Eric with the Hurricanes and Jordan with the Penguins. Two brothers who are big guys with a lot of NHL experience just did not have enough to carry the team to the playoffs.

Jordan Staal finished his 46-game season with 24 points. Eric Staal finished up the entire season with 54 points. Neither brother played to their full potential or up to fans’ expectations, but perhaps having been injured gives Jordan a pass. Coach Peters said Eric played some games with a broken foot that apparently very few knew about. Does Eric get a pass, too?

Umm, No

My colleague with The Hockey Writers, James Tanner suggested recently that the Toronto Maple Leafs should “Pursue Jordan Staal at all Costs.” Tanner points out some interesting statistics, such as,

“This past season, only the widely considered best defensive-forward in the NHL, Pavel Datsyuk put up better possession numbers than Jordan Staal’s 59.54 CF%.”

Tanner also noted,

“Staal is not only one of the games premier defenders and penalty-killers, but when he was on the ice this year (5v5) his team had the puck for nearly 60% of the game. That is incredible.”

Thanks for making my points in a “stat guy” kind of way. But, James, in my humble opinion, the Hurricanes are not going to trade Jordan Staal to the Leafs. Why would they want the often-hated Phil Kessel?

Besides that, he and his wife just had a child and they’d certainly much rather live in Raleigh, right?

Offense, offense, offense

What the Hurricanes need to do is come up with a consistent top line, with or without Jordan Staal as a part of it, and draft well. Their fourth line was their most consistent group this season and Victor Rask has emerged as a real NHL center in only one full season of play.

The Hurricanes need offense, as I wrote a few days ago in “Hurricanes Promising Offensive Opportunities.” If they draft well and can begin to field a consistent group of players on the ice, they have genuine potential to improve.

Jordan Staal made a real impact on the Hurricanes this past season, and he should make an even bigger impact next season.