It is hard to believe that just eight seasons ago Jordan Staal was hoisting up the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh. Just three years later he was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now, he is currently a part of one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League. The Carolina Hurricanes have 68 points and things aren’t looking much better. Carolina is trying to develop a young team through the draft, which validates the Hurricanes’ 28-27-12 record as this can be a rough process.
Coach Bill Peters and the management have bought into this process and look to stick to it. In order for this to work, it is time for the Hurricanes to cut their ties with the last remaining Staal brother in the organization.
It seems odd to imagine watching a Hurricanes game without seeing at least one Staal brother roam the ice as the family has been rooted in the organization since they achieved their first and only Stanley Cup in the 2005 season. His older brother, Eric, is one of the greatest players in franchise history and his little brother, Jared, once shared a line with both of them. There is a fourth brother, Marc, who plays for the New York Rangers.
These times are gone, as Eric Staal was traded last year to join Marc Staal at the New York Rangers. He then signed a three-year contract this summer with one of hockey’s best current teams, the Minnesota Wild. It was difficult to see the eldest Staal go, but it was necessary as he was eating up an enormous amount of cap space while generating hardly any productivity for the team. Jared Staal was cut by the organization in 2015 after spending most of his time with the Hurricanes’ minor league affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers. His release was cited from a lack of results on the ice and increasing concerns of his work ethic.
This left Jordan alone and gave him the opportunity to become the face of the franchise and etch his name into Carolina history. Instead, Jordan Staal has netted only 17 goals since Eric’s departure. With the opportunity to be the team’s leading forward, he has only scored 13 goals this season. That is not what was expected from him when he signed a 10-year $60,000,000 contract back in 2013. In fact, if you were to add up his entire goal count since arriving in Carolina (64) and look at his $6,000,000 annual salary, he is earning $468,750 per goal.
So, why the drop off? Why has Jordan failed to capitalize on the opportunity to become the leading playmaker? You have to factor in that Staal spent much of the 2014 campaign injured with a broken leg. He has also missed significant time due to a concussion. Aside from injury he has lacked the intensity and leadership his older brother exemplified.
While Staal is listed as a center, he can split his time out wide at wing as well. He has a great ability to ride the boards before cutting to the goal. However, this ability is hindered when he runs into stronger defenders. His lack of strength is very apparent when watching the Hurricanes play as he often loses the puck past the blue line in one on one situations.
His inability to score is also reflected in the rest of his numbers as he already has 25 assists this season after tying a career high 28 last season. While spreading the puck around has helped, he needs to contribute more to the scoring department, with left wing Jeff Skinner taking a hold of Carolina’s scoring responsibility with 23 goals so far this season. It is also imperative that he pick things up offensively as forwards Joakim Nordstrom, Phillip Di Giuseppe, and Brock McGinn have only combined for 11 goals this season.
The lack of help from younger players is only putting more pressure on Staal. In order for coach Peters’ system to succeed, older players like Staal must step up and lead the way. This is something that I don’t think Staal wants. A player of his age must be more than just a leader on the stat sheet but in his attitude as well. It is apparent that the culture that won the Hurricanes the Stanley Cup 10 years ago has left, and the Staal family was a large part of it.
Nobody likes cutting ties with long time players, especially if there is a lot of history. In order to take the team fully in a new direction the front office needs to re-examine Jordan Staal. His cap hit is not nearly as suffocating as Eric’s was and there is plenty of money to go around with the Hurricanes having a projected $16,090,158 in cap space this season.
Perhaps the team can trade him away to New York for another Staal brother reunion. Perhaps he picks up his play at the end of the season. Perhaps there are teams out there with bigger plans for the middle Staal brother. Whatever the case, Carolina needs to decide what direction they truly want to take this team in and if Jordan Staal is a part of it.