Gameday #21: @ Carolina Hurricanes



PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ Carolina Hurricanes

PNC Center, Raleigh, NC, 7:00PM, Root Sports, NHL Network (local blackout)

No doubt about it, if you’re a fan of the Pens or of hockey in general, this is an emotional game. It almost feels like you’re talking about a videogame to say, for the first time in his 7 year NHL career, Jordan Staal will be playing AGAINST the Penguins. And make no doubt about it, Staal is a great player, and absolutely a guy that young hockey players should strive to emulate. He leads with his play, he excels in all facets of the game except for the power play, and he’s basically just a good guy. I know I speak for Mike (at the least, haven’t asked Andrew) when I say that J. Staal will continue to be one of our favorite hockey players, no matter what team he plays for.

With that said though, it’s important to understand why Staal is gone. You can believe whatever sappy narrative you want to believe, he wanted to play with his brother, he had outgrown his role in Pittsburgh, or whatever the case may be. But in reality, it all comes down to money. I’m not saying that Staal wanted more money than he was worth, it’s just that his skills weren’t really worth what the Hurricanes ended up paying him for, at least not in the eyes of Ray Shero. There are so few teams in the league that can even claim to have a serviceable number 2 center, let alone a perennial MVP-caliber player at that position, let alone a possession control monster like Staal as the number three option. The only way for Staal to realize his true market value was to move to another team, one that needed a #2 center. As such, Jordan Staal’s trade might go down as one of the strongest “true” hockey trades of all time, both teams got stronger, and all the players who moved got to a “better” place than they had been before.

There might be truth to the statement that Staal had outgrown his role with the Penguins, you could see it last year, he didn’t want to take all the defensive zone faceoffs, all the tough checking assignments, he got to spend nearly the entire year playing second line center and he seemed to relish the opportunity to play offense. As such, Sutter is in many ways more useful than Staal, he’ll never question his role or look uncomfortable doing it. No doubt Staal has been good for Carolina but Sutter has been exactly as advertised here in Pittsburgh: a competent point getter, good on faceoffs, and solid in his own zone, when you factor in the other pieces of the trade, Brian Dumolin, and one of the CHL’s best defensemen Derrick Pouliot, the final value of this trade could like significantly different down the road.

So what it all comes down to is, don’t be afraid to cheer for Jordan Staal, he’ll probably always be remembered for images like this:

But don’t fret that the Pens made the wrong choice, they’ll be in the same situation again, and they’ll probably do the right thing, again.

No point commentating on who the starting goalie will be, I’m sure you can figure it out. No other line changes are expected although Bortuzzo looks to be in over Despres tonight.

The NHL is trying to make this into an event that’s bigger than it really is. Just ask the league how Alexander Semin’s first game against the Capitals turned out, they should probably chill out.

The Calgary Flames are trying to land Ryan O’Reilly on an offer sheet. Offer sheets are the most gutless things in the league, and I’m not just saying that because O’Reilly would look great in a Pens sweater.

And I thought hurricane season was over. Go Pens.

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