Canes’ All-Decade team has Finnish flavor, two Staals, consummate captain

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Canes’ All-Decade team has Finnish flavor, two Staals, consummate captain

Post by admin » Tue Dec 31, 2019 6:15 am

Jordan Staal began the decade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, with a Stanley Cup ring, and ends it as the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Eric Staal, Jordan’s oldest brother, once was the Canes captain, a Stanley Cup champion and a franchise fixture before being traded.

The past decade was one of transition for the Hurricanes, from ownership to the front office to the roster of players and their captains. Only the home arena stayed the same but it, too, had a name change from RBC Center to PNC Arena.

Picking an All-Decade team could be as simple as reeling off the players on the 2018-19 roster, beginning with captain Justin Williams. After all, it was the only team in the decade to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs and gave Canes fans badly thirsting for another taste of playoff fun and games a good, long drink.

But not so fast. That would overlook the contributions of others who thrilled the Canes faithful with Tim Gleason type toughness, or a Calder Trophy winner they called “Skinny.”

Here’s one man’s guess at a 20-man All-Decade team:

Centers

Start with Staal and Staal. Eric provided the offense and Jordan, traded to the Canes in 2012, has been rock-solid on defense and in so many areas. “Jordan wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s going to give you everything he has every night,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour says.

Sebastian Aho, now in his fourth season, has been an NHL All-Star, has the look of a star and now is paid like a star. A good fourth-line center on this team could be Derek Ryan, who was undrafted and played in Europe before establishing himself in the NHL.
Wingers

First up: Williams. Just two seasons — for now — with the Canes in the decade but what a two years. He was the consummate captain in 2018-19, offering leadership, skill and the guile that made him a three-time Stanley Cup winner. He won the first with the Canes in 2006. He wanted another last season. Now “stepping away from hockey” but not officially retired, he could be back for the start of the new decade.

The Canes have had a Finnish feel for years, beginning with the rambunctious Tuomo Ruutu and the understated play of Jussi Jokinen early in the decade and ending it with playmaking Teuvo Teravainen on Aho’s line.

Jeff Skinner was selected the NHL’s best rookie in 2010-11 and dazzled fans at the 2011 All-Star Weekend in Raleigh with his teen-icon charm. Skinner’s eight years with the Canes produced 204 goals — and sold a lot of No. 53 sweaters — before “Skinny” was traded to Buffalo in 2018.

Elias Lindholm never fulfilled his promise but played with an edge in his five years with the Canes. Erik Cole had 26 goals in his final Canes season early in the decade and remains in Raleigh, a team ambassador.

Any good team needs a fourth-line energizer and hustler. Someone like Chad LaRose. “Rosey” was a fan favorite, once went nose-to-navel in standing up to Boston’s towering Zdeno Chara and joked that he could be the best player on the ice if they didn’t use a puck.
Defensemen

Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen gave the Canes contrasting D-men early in the decade. Gleason was a stay-at-home defenseman who gave no quarter, and Pitkanen an elite skater (and another Finn) with offensive flair until a broken heel ended his career.

Gleason and Pitkanen came to the Canes in trades but Justin Faulk was drafted and developed by Carolina into an NHL All-Star. “Faulker,” who combined rugged play with a heavy shot in his eight years with Carolina, could be paired with Ron Hainsey, a veteran presence who spent parts of four seasons with Carolina and mentored such young defensemen as ...

Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. Neither was a first-round draft pick by the Canes but together have become All-Star worthy types on the back end and fixtures of their own as a new decade begins.
Goalies

Cam Ward was always a lightning-rod player for the Canes, perhaps a victim of his own early success after being the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP as a rookie on the 2006 champions. But No. 30 left after the 2017-18 season as the franchise leader in wins, games, shutouts and saves.

The Canes’ had a long list of backup goalies, from Justin Peters to Eddie Lack to Scott Darling. But Petr Mrazek’s fire and steady play helped the Canes end the NHL’s longest playoff drought last season. Who can forget Mrazek’s “We’re in! Yes!” shout on the bench on the night the Canes clinched the playoff berth last season?

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