With the 2013-14 season
mercifully coming to a close, it’s time to grade the players on their performances. Since this evaluation is nearly equal parts objectivity and subjectivity, there’s plenty of room for discussion. Also, my expectations for a 4th line player are far less than Eric Staal, so points don’t equate directly to grades. Additionally, I’m only grading skaters who played at least 20 games (and finished the season with the Canes), so there will be no grade for Aaron Palushaj, sorry. Let’s get to it, because who doesn’t love seeing report cards?!
Eric Staal: C- No, that C doesn’t stand for “Captain” in this case. He led the team in points (61) and assists (40), while chipping in 4 shorthanded points, which are good. However, he led the team in PIMs (74), only had 1 PPG, was -13, had his worst shooting percentage since his rookie season, and led the NHL in tripping penalties by a wide margin. All that combined, coupled with him “leading” the team to another early set of tee times gives him a below average grade from me. I have high expectations for one of the highest paid players in the league, and they damn sure weren’t met this year.
Jordan Staal: C Another underwhelming year for the big acquisition (and other lesser-known Shaq nicknames) of 2012. While he was unquestionable a solid defense player, and you can pull up all the fancy stats you want to support that, he’s paid to be and expected to be a solid 2-way center worthy of $6MM/year. 40 points on the year while playing 20 minutes a night doesn’t meet those expectations in my book. He has a solid season, but since I’m not a Swahili class at UNC, I’m not in the business of handing out good grades.
Alex Semin: C+ I hope I won’t incur the wrath of the Semin supporters by not giving him an A+, but I can’t say that his production met the expectations this season. Yes, we’ve now heard (officially) that he’s been battling a wrist injury that will require surgery. Yes, he missed time due to a concussion. All that considered, he had his lowest point total (42) since his rookie season. I’ll give him credit for being second on the team in goals, and for being far better defensively than many fans and media claim he is.
Jeff Skinner: B+ Only 4 years in the NHL, and Skinner now has multiple 30-goal seasons to his credit after posting a team-high 33 this year. His 20 PPP, including 11 PPG led the team by a healthy margin, and he was twice named the NHL 1st Star of the Week. Despite what I consider to be idiotic trade rumors, Skinner proved he’s a pure goal scorer and is able to create offense on his own, unlike much of the Canes. However, he had several goalless droughts of at least 5 games on the season, and was tied for last on the team (among players who finished the year in Carolina) in +/- at -14 .
Nathan Gerbe: B Brought in on the closest thing to a no-risk contract I can think of, Nathan Gerbe’s expectations were modest at best to start the season. His season started strong (5 points in 6 games), but production came back to reality soon thereafter. We learned this year that he’s a volume shooter and not a high percentage shooter, and despite being shuffled all over the place (as so many Canes were), Gerbe ended up with 31 points on the season, including 16 goals. Not bad for someone on a $550k contract! On the downside, he had 2 scoreless months (February and April) and only 5 points in the 16 March games. Not a great way to finish the year. All things considered, JR got his money’s worth on this deal.
Jiri Tlusty: C Coming off a surprising 2013 season, expectations were high for the former 1st round pick. Those predicting another big season from Tlusty were let down out of the gates, as he scored a mere 10 points in his first 39 games of the year, and looked at least that bad in the process. Thankfully he found his game in 2014 and had 20 points in his last 29 games.
Riley Nash: C Another middling grade for another mediocre season. Coming into the season, many (including some of us in 328) were expecting Nash to be a solid 3rd line center with some scoring touch. However, much like Tlusty, he was veeeerrrryyy slow to start the season. On the brightside, once he was paired with Lindholm and Skinner late in the year, those tree utes seemed to form some chemistry and became a pretty damn good line. He’s still young, he got better on faceoffs, and was at least serviceable defensively.
Manny Malhotra: C+ Brought in on a tryout with the Checkers, Manny quickly impressed many in the organization with his leadership, veteran presence, and ability to win ALL THE FACEOFFS. He made his debut with the big club in November, and was named an alternate captain within only a few weeks. While he struggled to score for huge stretches of time during the season, he was a good 2-way player, started the tradition of having the team salute the crowd after home wins (right?), and was 2nd in the NHL in faceoff percentage on the season.
Patrick Dwyer: D Thought about giving him a C-, but “D” seemed more appropriate since his stick is where the puck goes to die. Yes, he skates fast, but despite playing in the top-6 for much of the season, Dwyer mustered a meager 22 points. In my opinion, his inability to handle passes with his hands of stone brings down the offensive ability of whatever line he’s on more often than not. Great guy, yea yea yea, but results matter and his weren’t good.
Drayson Bowman: F Take all the playmaking skill of Patrick Dwyer, add the shooting accuracy of a Stormtrooper, the checking power of Avi Tanabe, and the toughness of mashed potatoes, and then you’ve got Drayson Bowman. In 70 games, Bowman only tallied 12 points (he had 13 in 37 games in ’11-’12) and shot an abysmal 5.0% on the season. What is the function of this item?
Radek Dvorak: F While I don’t think anyone was expecting the 17-year pro to come in and put up 35+ points and be an offensive force, I highly doubt anyone was expecting him to set a career low in points for a season (min. 20 games played). Half of his 4 goals on the year came in the first two games of the season, which means in the other 58 games he scored only 2 goals despite averaging over 10 minutes per game. Yikes! He did lead all Canes forwards in +/- at +3, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Andrei Loktionov: B+ Arriving in Raleigh last month as part of the Ruutu
salary dump trade, Loktionov was mostly impressive in his 20 games with the Hurricanes. He showed some good speed, good playmaking ability, and was noticeable (in a good way) on the powerplay. Small sample size for sure, but I liked what I saw from him.
Elias Lindholm: B This is a case where the numbers (9 goals, 12 assists) don’t tell the whole story. After being drafted 5th overall, Lindholm suffered a shoulder injury in training camp which made his adjustment to both the NHL level and smaller ice surface even more challenging. His NHL season didn’t start out with a lot of results, but early on he showed his ability to see plays develop, particularly on the powerplay. A trip to Charlotte for 6 games and playing in the World Junior Championships seemed to help him find his game and perhaps some confidence. While the points didn’t exactly start pouring in, his play was much improved on both ends of the ice and he seemed to be much more comfortable at center with Skinner on his wing down the stretch.
That’s all for the forwards. Defensemen and goalies will be coming your way later this week.