Justin Williams has left the door open to return to the Carolina Hurricanes at some point during the upcoming season, but the team can’t rely on that possibility as part of their identity moving forward. For that reason, the team will replace him as captain, at least at some point. “Be perfectly clear on it”, head coach Rod Brind’Amour told the Associated Press, “He’s not part of the group. We’re moving on as if he’s not going to be here. If he comes to us in January or February and says, `Maybe I want to come back’… it’s not going to catch us by surprise. He’s earned the right to make that decision”. Veteran forward Jordan Staal echoed the sentiment, saying “as of now, we’re moving on from Willie as our captain and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Of course, Staal was on of two co-captains in Carolina in the season prior to Williams’ arrival, alongside defenseman Justin Faulk. Before that there had been no captain since the departure of the face of the franchise, Eric Staal, in 2016. It doesn’t appear as though these Hurricanes will let the captain role lie dormant in Williams’ wake as they did Staal, but Brind’Amour did say that it may take some time to name a replacement. The younger Staal and Faulk are both strong candidates to take over again. Top young players Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho are also top options. For his part, Staal believes there are actually a number of possible players who can fill the role: ”I think as a core, as a group, we’ve got a lot of good kids and a lot of good leaders. ’Usually, as a captain, there’s a lot of guys beside him that are helping him out. I think Willie was a great leader, but as a core, I think there were a lot of great guys that showed up every day ready to work.”
- On ability alone, Peyton Krebs should not have been the No. 17 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The talented young forward out of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice (formerly Kootenay) was talked about as a possible top-five and certainly top-ten pick last season. However, Krebs tore his Achilles tendon during off-season training prior to the draft and teams became fearful of how it might affect his development. Krebs tumbled down the draft board until the Vegas Golden Knights felt his skill was too attractive to pass up. It seems the team already has a plan in place to best manage the injury as well. The Athletic’s Jesse Granger received word from GM Kelly McCrimmon that Krebs will remain in Las Vegas under the supervision of the team’s medical staff and conditioning team for as long as the Knights deem necessary. The club wants to keep a close eye on their new top prospect’s progress rather than send him back to junior and hope for the best. In fact, Krebs will not re-join the ice until he is game-ready. Early expectations were that Krebs could miss the entire 2019-20 season, so it could be that he doesn’t return to WHL action until this time next year. But if that’s what it takes to ensure that Krebs’ injury doesn’t further set his development back by taking the ice too soon, both team and player should be amenable to the arrangement.
- Rookies Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling are undoubtedly aiming to make the Montreal Canadiens roster out of training camp. Both are high draft picks with considerable skill who should be ready for the highest level. However, head coach Joel Bouchard of the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, feels they should at least begin the year in the minors. He tells Sportsnet’s Eric Engels that, while his main objective is to graduate players to the NHL, he thinks the duo could benefit from a stint in the AHL and has spoken to both about the possibility. Bouchard lays out the difference between the two levels and why two players that Montreal hopes will be core forwards at some point may be better off starting in Laval, especially in a season where the Canadiens feel they can be playoff contenders:
The NHL is a performance league, it’s not a development league. We’re not making decisions for the same reasons. For Claude (Julien), everything is about now… Claude can’t do what we do. He doesn’t have the time. I put players in situations where they’re 100 per cent going to fail, face-offs on their wrong side just so they can learn. Claude can’t do that. It’s not like I’m doing it all the time like I want to lose the game… but at the end of the day, it’s about development.