Not to go all Counting Crows here, but this has been a long December. With one game left in 2013, the Canes are 4-5-4 on the month, with just 2 wins in their last 10 games. Only Edmonton and Minnesota have less points in their last 10 games than the Canes. Whether you look at individual stats or team stats, you’ll likely want to throw up afterwards. That being said, let’s take a closer look at the stats and see just how much steam is coming off this pile of crap.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Eric Staal. Is there a less noticeable “superstar” player in the NHL than our captain? If you brought someone to their first hockey game and wanted to give them a list of Canes to watch in order to appreciate the game, how many players would you list before Eric? For a guy who is the face of the franchise and is in the top 5 salaries in the league, the captain does little to inspire either the fans to cheer or apparently his teammates to win. Yes, his knee was severely injured this offseason. Nearly everyone on the ice any given night isn’t 100%, and if you’re on the ice, you should perform at a high level. If not, sit out and rest up.
We’ve seen the up-and-down nature to Eric’s game as it pertains to coaching changes. Once a new guy comes on board, he’s one of the best players in the world… for a while. Around one year into the new coach’s tenure, he always seems to revert to lazy, take WAY TOO DAMN LONG TO GO OFF ON A CHANGE Staal. But even in previous seasons, his perceived lack of effort was forgiven to an extent because he produced. You could count on him to shoot the puck, and put up an average of a point per game. Aside from his rookie year, Eric has been in the top 20 in total shots and has averaged at least 3 shots/game every year. That’s the type of consistency we enjoy. In fact, since 2005-06, only Alex Ovechkin has more shots on goal than Staal.
This season, Staal is 34th in the league in shots, and is averaging less than 3 shots per game for the first time in 9 seasons. Not only is he shooting less, but his shot % is the lowest it’s been since he was a rookie. He’s not a sniper like Stamkos, Toews, Datsyuk, etc., he’s a volume shooter. Against Tampa last Saturday, he had ZERO shots on goal in 19:55 time on ice. The Eric Staal that was a dominant player and took over games set the tempo by forechecking and putting pucks on net. The Eric Staal we’re seeing this year is letting the game come to him and taking what’s available rather than dictating to the opponent. He’s -17 on the year, “good” for 4th worst in the league.
Since Eric was named captain, the Hurricanes have not made the playoffs. We realize that correlation does not equal causation, but let’s see the other teams that have a playoff drought of at least 4 years and how stable their on-ice leadership has been.
Team: Years Since Playoffs/ # of Captains
Edmonton: 7 seasons/ 4 captains
Atlanta/Winnipeg: 6/ 4
Columbus: 4/3 (no captain last 2 seasons)
So every other team that has gone as many seasons without making the playoffs has changed who wears the “C” at least once except for the Hurricanes. What’s that old saying about the definition of insanity? However, Eric’s not the only one out there worthy of receiving the finger point of blame (not to be confused with the Fingerpoke of Doom). Here’s the other guys who hopefully got coal in their stockings:
Tim Gleason: First off, a pairing of Tim Gleason and Mike Komisarek should never, EEEEEEEEVER be a thing. We’ve got no idea what in the hell happened to the solid 2nd pairing, reasonably fleet of foot, physical defenseman who JR signed to a deal paying him $4M per through 2016 with a no-trade clause. Right now his play is the most iron-clad no trade clause you’d ever need.
Tuomo Ruutu: Speaking of disappointing performances from well-paid players with no-trade clauses, it’s
everyone’s favorite the only remaining Finnish player on the team. Like Gleason, Ruutu also has a contract that runs thru the 2015-16 season, but Ruutu is paid $4.75 million/year. This season, he’s played 34 games, and has 8 points and is -17. That, in case you’re wondering, sucks.
Alex Semin: Yes, he’s missed time due to a concussion, and allegedly had a wrist injury earlier in the year, but that’s not a good enough of an excuse for a talent like him getting $7 million to only have 14 points, just 4 goals, and shoot 5.3% on the year.
Jordan Staal: Sure he’s been a good defensive forward. Folks who look at zone starts likely appreciate that Jordan typically starts in outside the offensive zone, but finishes his shifts there. That’s good. What’s not good is his offensive production. He’s got just 18 points on the year. Here’s the big problem: Jordan Staal hasn’t really been any better than Brandon Sutter. And we gave up a 1st and a prospect to get the luxury of paying an extra $3 million/year for the next 10 years. HOORAY!!
Jiri Tlusty: Remember when he scored 23 goals in a shortened season? That was awesome. His play this year has not been, as lowlighted by his turnover against Columbus. Here’s hoping this season can be blamed on his appendix.
That’s all the vitriol we can take for now. Any miserable individual performances we’ve missed? Come back tomorrow for a look at how lousy the team statistics are!