Although he just turned 28 earlier this month, Jordan Staal has nearly 700 NHL games under his belt and is one of the most experienced players for the Hurricanes heading into 2016-17. He spoke with 99.9 The Fan ESPN Radio over the weekend to talk about the upcoming season. Adam Gold of WRALSportsFan transcribed some of the highlights:
On not having his brother (Eric) around for the first time in Jordan’s tenure with Carolina:
“I’ve always had Eric five minutes down the road here, so for him not to be here, especially for my wife and kids, it’s different….it’s definitely a new chapter for our families, but that’s the way it goes sometimes and we’ll move forward.”
Eric Staal was dealt to the Rangers (where one of his other brothers, Marc Staal) plays prior to the trade deadline last season. He moved on to Minnesota this summer, inking a three year, $10.5MM deal with the Wild that could turn into one of the better bargains of the offseason if he can show signs of returning to his past form.
On how he has changed since being acquired by the team:
“I’m much stronger mentally. There are still times when I beat myself up a little too much, and that impacts my game negatively, but I’m getting better at that. It’s always a work-in-progress.”
On what it would mean to be named captain, replacing his brother:
“It’s a big deal. To be a captain of an NHL team is huge. When you grow up, you dream of just playing in the NHL never mind being the leader of a group. There’s no question it would be a great honor for anyone on this team to accept that responsibility. Especially this team, with the history of great captains here, it would be an incredible honor as well.”
He has to be considered a strong favorite for the job having been one of the alternate captains since joining the team in 2012. Defenseman Justin Faulk wore the other ‘A’ last season. However, the team could opt to not name a captain to start the season and go with three or more alternates.
On the makeup of the team:
“I see a young and exciting group. I’ve been on teams like that in Pittsburgh, and I see here a lot of the same things. We’re definitely young, and we can be immature at times — hockey wise — but I see a good coach that will find a way to make the best of the players we have. I’m very excited to see how this season unfolds. I believe we have a great group. We were right there last year, and whether or not we take the next step, we’ll see. But, I think the right group.”
The Hurricanes’ projected roster has an average age of just 26.3 with no fewer than 12 players under the age of 25 including five of their top six defensemen.
Carolina is in the midst of a lengthy playoff drought having missed the postseason for the last seven seasons and has only made the playoffs one time in the past decade (2008-09 where they made the Eastern Conference Final). They did, however, improve their point total by 15 last season (from 71 to 86) and are seen as a team on the rise, in large part due to the young roster they boast. For the Hurricanes to end the streak, they will be counting on Staal to have another big season after putting up 20 goals and 28 assists in 2015-16, his highest point total since joining the team.