If your team didn’t make the playoffs this year, every cap to the season will start by saying it was a disappointing season. It was. There were expectations, there was hype, there was a blockbuster trade; that doesn’t secure wins. More often than not, blockbuster trades don’t live up to their expectations. Fans and analysts set themselves up for failure when they expect nothing but greatness from a team that looks unstoppable on paper.
The New York Rangers have struggled to put together a dominant season that would see them cruise right to the Stanley Cup Final. Expectations are a dangerous thing to have. Rick Nash came in after receiving a get out of jail free card from Columbus. Marian Gaborik struggled after this addition, and was eventually moved to Columbus in exchange for some grit. It seemed to work out well for both teams.
The Minnesota Wild squeaked into the playoffs this year after acquiring both highly touted free agents in the offseason. Zach Parise from the New Jersey Devils, and Ryan Suter from the Nashville Predators. I guess it worked, because throwing all that cash at Parise and Suter just got them by and into the playoffs. As Don Draper would say to skeptics, “That’s what the money is for!”.
It was 22nd day of June when Jordan Staal was married, traded, and rewarded with a large contract all in the same day. Moving from his draft town of Pittsburgh where he was a fan favourite and productive centre for 6 seasons- winning the Stanley Cup in 2009- Staal was now starting a new chapter of his NHL career. He would join his older brother Eric, current captain of the Hurricanes, and his youngest brother Jared who is in the Hurricanes system.
It was a Staal invasion on the state of North Carolina that was welcomed with open arms. The Canes did give up talented centre and proven producer Brandon Sutter, but the trade off seemed equal. Both players are still so young. Jordan’s injuries the past few seasons seemed to be a spell of bad luck as he cut his foot in the playoffs, which became infected, required surgery, and a ton of recovery time. Next, while joining the team in practice, he blocked a shot and broke his right hand. Absolutely frustrating for a young NHL all-star just trying to get back to work.
All injuries aside, Jordan was healthy when he was traded, and made his return to play in the Winter Classic, along with the playoffs in a bizarre series with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Could my dreams of all the Staal brothers playing on one team at the same time come true? Well, almost. I don’t see the Rangers giving up Marc Staal anytime soon (which would be a great help to the Canes defense, by the way) which leaves me with one option: all the Staal forwards playing together! And it happened.
With the Hurricanes officially eliminated from the playoffs and not a snowballs chance they could get there, Jared Staal was called up from the Charlotte Checkers- the Hurricanes AHL affiliate. He is the youngest and fourth Staal brother whose rights were acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes in 2010.
One of the coolest things for these four brothers has to be the fact that they not only have watched each other grow, be drafted, and pay their dues in many leagues; but they all made it. They all had the same goal – be an NHL player. They have all made their own dreams come true, and as a professional athlete, nobody can do it for you. Henry and Linda Staal are often pictured at games when their boys are playing each other. Now with three of their boys playing with the Hurricanes, it will be much easier for them to see them all play.
One of the greatest feats for any hockey family is the ability to play together, not against each other. No example is greater than that of Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty. They are the only father-son-son combination to play in the NHL together. After retirements, charity games, and a lot of research, Gordie admits his wife Colleen did all the leg work for making his dream of playing with his sons come true. It is the one achievement he is most proud of when he looks back at his career.
Playing two full seasons with the Hartford Whalers of the WHA – which are now known as the Carolina Hurricanes- Gordie, Marty, and Mark helped changed the course of NHL history allowing 18-year-olds, which is now the norm, to be drafted starting in 1974. The previous draft age was 21- and without this rule change, Gordie and his sons would not have been able to play with each other because Marty was underage at the time. Not only will the feat of father-son-son most likely never be repeated because Howe was 52 when he retired after the 1979-80 season, the ability to play with your family members professionally will always trump a contract.
Every season comes with its fair share of injuries that contribute to struggles, slumps, or in some rare cases- like the Pittsburgh Penguins when Sid goes down- a resurgence of energy to push on.
The Hurricanes lost Cam Ward in March to a knee injury that saw him miss the rest of the regular season. Concussion issues hampered the season of Jeff Skinner for a handful of games. These are two huge losses to the Canes, and their record without these two players shows the impact they had on their team when in the lineup. Most recently Jay Harrison took a nasty wrist shot to the face, all while not wearing a visor (Didn’t the Staal’s talk to you about safety?) and left the game bleeding profusely. All in all, the Canes were quite fortunate on the injury front this year.
Holes On Defense
It’s no secret the Hurricanes have a pretty solid few lines up front that include three Staal brothers, a Skinner, and a Semin. That’s some scoring power. What they don’t have is an experienced defensive core that can bolster the team and really help veteran and proven goaltender Cam Ward.
The current roster lists four defenseman at the age, or over the age of 30- Marc-Andre Bergeron, Joe Corvo, Tim Gleason, and Jay Harrison. The most elite defenseman playing for the Hurricanes is Jamie McBain. In 40 games, he scored 8 points and racked up 46 shots on net. For a defenseman, that’s not too bad. Next in line is rookie Justin Faulk. In 38 games played with 5 goals and 10 assists for 15 points and 76 shots on goal, Faulk has shown the beginning of a long NHL career. That being said, this is where the wealth ends in terms of defenseman for the Canes.
Defenseman Keegan Lowe, son of Kevin Lowe is in the Hurricanes system drafted in the 3rd round 73rd over all. His stats are quite standard for a defenseman playing in the WHL. He has had a lot of trouble with his ankle which kept him out of a handful of games for his junior team the Edmonton Oil Kings. With 31 points on the season and a +38, he has shown steady improvement since his first season with the Oil Kings. He also appeared in 15 playoff games with a goal and 6 assists for 7 points.
A first round 12th over all selection of the Hurricanes in 2011 was defenseman Ryan Murphy. In an emergency call up he played 4 games with the Canes this season with 2 penalty minutes, 0 points, and a -4 rating. The stats don’t say what they should about the talent he possesses and the potential he has to be an elite defenseman. His style of play makes him a liability but if he can really hone his skill set and become a disciplined defenseman he could be a great addition to the lineup.
Best case scenario for the Hurricanes? They win the draft lottery and are able to build from the back out starting with Seth Jones. He is the most highly touted prospect coming into the 2013 NHL draft, and there are reasons why. He is a 6’4″ 206 pound 18-year-old defenseman from Plano, Texas. He’s massive, and productive with nothing but room to develop and grow. He has also never been a minus in his career. In 61 games for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, he is a +46. In 15 playoff games, he is a +13. Let’s win the lottery.
It’s a bit of a sore subject to the people of Carolina, but it must be looked at considering the amount of talent that laces up the skates for the Canes. John Tortorella’s job is on the line if he can’t get the Rangers past the first round this year. They’ve had success with him before, including playoff success. Something has changed, and nobody will know exactly what it is, but he is hanging on to his job by the skin of his teeth if the Rangers fail to be competitive in the playoffs.
The same goes for head coach Kirk Muller.I wrote about the possibility of Muller losing his job this summer, and we’ve already seen a hasty firing of former Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher. He experienced success, but when the team plummeted, he wasn’t given much time to turn things around. In a small market like Tampa, they need to win and have fans come to the games in order to be competitive and successful. The same goes for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Kirk Muller came in replacing Paul Maurice early on in the 2011 NHL season. He finished that season with a record of 25-20-12. A new season meant all the players would be accustomed and willing to adapt Muller’s systems. This season ended with a record of 19-25-4. This is a significant change compared to what he was able to do with a team that did not use all of his systems.
I believe Kirk Muller deserves more time with the team, but Guy Boucher would be the first to tell you, you don’t always have time.
Six to The Worlds
The talent on this team cannot be denied. What happened when this team came together for the shortened season in January and started playing, nobody really knows. It didn’t quite come together for an extended period of time. The Hurricanes lead the Southeast division in March. A different team lead in that division for every month of the season.
— Ben Raby (@BenRaby31) April 24, 2013
That being said, six Hurricanes are headed to the IIHF World Championship from May 3-19 in Finland and Sweden. Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, and Jeff Skinner will be representing Canada. Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain will be representing the United States. Jiri Tlusty will represent the Czech Republic.
The final record of the 2013 Carolina Hurricanes through their 48 game shortened season is 19-25-4. This is the opposite of many expectations, and as a non playoff team it is a disappointing end to the expectations NHL fans had.
Carolina managed to finish the season below .500, and couldn’t put together a streak of enough games to compete for a playoff spot. This marks the fourth year they have missed the playoffs and have missed with a record below .500 two out of four times.
There could be a major off season shake up for the Hurricanes, whether that is defensive, through the draft, or with coaching. One thing is for sure- the Staals are staying, and so is Alex Semin.
Katie Flynn is a News Editor at theScore and theScore App as well as an NHL Analyst for H4TV Sports News.