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Tracking the Storm

Staal Starting Fresh

Thursday, 08.07.2014 / 1:00 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Staal Starting Fresh
With an altered approach to offseason training and a new coach behind the bench, Staal has a fresh outlook on the upcoming season.
At the end of the 2013-14 season, the fifth straight year in which the Carolina Hurricanes had missed the playoffs, captain Eric Staal once again faced the media in a haze of disappointment.

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He was dejected, and he was blunt.

“I know everybody is frustrated,” he said. “I know our fans are frustrated. Management, staff, players, everyone is. That’s not a secret, and that needs to change.”

He was asked how it could change.

“Bottom line: We’ve just got to get better, all-around.”

Looking inward, he had a series of candid conversations with the team’s new general manager, Ron Francis.

“They were good talks. He was letting me know where he stood and what he expected,” Staal said. “It was a good, honest conversation as far as what I thought our team needs and where we could go.”

Staal changed his diet and his offseason training routine, as he and Jordan worked with a trainer in Connecticut.

“I was actually really loving it. It was a great program, and we were working really hard and seeing results,” he said. “It definitely has made a difference, and I feel good.”

“He’s taken all of those steps to give himself that opportunity to be the player he wants to be and we need him to be,” Francis said.

An unfortunate core muscle injury and subsequent surgery slowed down his summer workouts, but it was something Staal wanted to correct when he had the chance.

“The word ‘surgery’ never sounds good. But it would have been something that would have probably plagued me throughout the season if I didn’t get it fixed,” he said. “I had the opportunity to get it done quickly, and now it’s about rehabbing properly and making sure I’m back to 100 percent for the start of training camp.”

Rehabbing from this injury, Staal said, has already been smoother than recovering from the knee injury he suffered last summer at the World Championship, something that admittedly contributed to a slow start.

“It’s not as tough to overcome as a knee injury,” he said. “The rehab has been a lot easier and a lot better. I’m feeling pretty good already a week after.”

While Staal was in Raleigh in late July to discuss possible courses of action for his injury, he met with head coach Bill Peters.

“He’s got a great plan and a good outlook, and he’s excited about the players we have and being able to put them in situations to succeed. He’s got ideas for what can make our power play and penalty kill better,” Staal said. “You could tell just by talking to him that he was excited about working with the guys that we have and getting the best out of everybody. That’s all you can ask for as a player.”

Hampered by a slow start, Staal posted 61 points (21g, 40a) in 79 games in 2013-14. His shooting percentage was an abnormally low 9.1 percent, and his shorthanded tallies (2) outpaced his power-play goals (1). Even still, he led the team in points and assists, and he recorded 31 points from Dec. 31 on, notching seven multi-point games along the way.

“The one thing you want from your captain is you want him to be your hardest-working guy. He’s got to be in on the forecheck, he’s got to backcheck and he’s got to compete and battle hard in every shift on every night,” Francis said. “The leadership of the team in the locker room doesn’t necessarily come from one guy. It comes from a lot of different areas. I know when I was captain, I leaned on a lot of guys. Roddy was the same way.

“The simplest thing for him to do is just go out and put the effort in and everything else will sort of take care of itself.”

Staal will turn 30 years old near the end of October. In his 10-year NHL career, he’s been to the playoffs twice, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 and progressing to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009.

“My career isn’t going to be forever, and I want to play in the playoffs,” he said in his last meeting with the media after last season. “I’ve been here a long time. I love it here, and I’ve had success here. I know and believe that we can again, and I can be a part of that.”

With an altered approach to offseason training and a new coach behind the bench, Staal has a fresh outlook on the upcoming season. The ultimate goal, however, remains constant.

“We have to make the playoffs. It’s been too long. It’s been extremely frustrating for us as players and obviously for the fans and people within the organization. We’re going to put pressure on ourselves to do that, to get back there. At the same time, we’re going to start with the process, the work ethic and the details and build from there day-by-day,” he said. “We need to be optimistic, excited and positive, not hanging our heads and worrying about what’s happened in the past, but also being ready to push ourselves and add that pressure to get back to where we need to be.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 42 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 47 9 19 -13 28
E. Lindholm 47 9 11 -11 20
J. Tlusty 40 12 7 -11 19
J. Skinner 42 10 9 -7 19
R. Nash 47 7 12 -4 19
N. Gerbe 43 5 13 -3 18
V. Rask 47 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 45 1 14 -6 15
C. Terry 34 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .918 2.30
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45