by PuckStopsHere on 10/31/11 at 03:18 PM ET
Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes is off to a surprisingly poor start. He is a player the Carolina Hurricanes depend upon who hasn’t produced. In 11 games, he currently has five points and a league worst -13 +/- rating. Only one of his points comes at even strength, where he has really struggled.
At age 27, Staal should be in the prime of his career but he hasn’t been producing. He hasn’t fit in with any linemates so far this season and he has been tried on several lines. He has faced some tough competition. The highest level of competition among any Carolina regular. Perhaps it is time to better protect Staal and play him in less challenging positions until he gets on track.
Staal has received Selke Trophy votes in the past and has been valuable in his own zone. So far that hasn’t happened this season.
Carolina is a team that could be on the playoff bubble. In a good year they could be a playoff team and in a bad year they could miss. They need Staal playing better for the good year to occur. The Hurricanes have won only four of their 11 games, but because they have three regulation tie points, their record still looks acceptable.
Some suggest that Staal’s problems are psychological and go back to last season when he hit his brother Marc and gave him a concussion. Marc Staal has not played since.
Every year one or two players who are proven stars struggle at the opening of the season. Last year Ilya Kovalchuk was a good example of this. He recovered and had a solid finish to the season as his New Jersey Devils turned things around. He received some bad press and razzing from the fans for that start when the Devils struggled at the beginning of last season. Eric Staal in Carolina is a candidate to be that player this year. He is likely to not get things as bad as Kovalchuk did because Carolina is more of an anonymous organization and fewer people will notice his poor play.
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