While the Carolina Hurricanes‘ win on Thursday night was pretty huge, there is a more important story right under the surface.
Jeff Skinner is the truth.
The Carolina forward recently returned from a stretch on injured reserve stronger than ever and a completely changed player. Skinner had never been a slouch having won a Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2011 in addition to earning a spot on the All-Star Team. While he hasn’t had a bad season in the NHL so far something about the last three games has placed Skinner on a completely new level.
His two goal performance Tuesday night against the division rival Washington Capitals was an hors d’ourve for the main course Thursday against the Nashville Predators. With Nashville’s roster in some variety of disarray, that game could have gone either way. Nobody anywhere predicted Skinner’s move into beast mode notching his first career hat trick.
It’s not just the hat trick, though. Skinner has always been an offense-first type of player and a perfect example of the new razzle-dazzle, hybrid style being sported by the younger generation of players. These are the kids raised on watching Mike Legg‘s “Michigan Goal” on YouTube. While the old guard of North American players cling to the grind-it-out, unselfish, “blue collar” game advocated by old schoolers like Don Cherry, these ways are antiquated. It’s the goal-oriented shock and awe style played by Skinner and other younger players that is the future of the league.
This style is the one thing Carolina has refused to adopt. Whether it’s been the coaching style of Kirk Muller or Paul Maurice before him, the flash has been discouraged. This is wrong for a number of reasons, not the least of which is this is where the league is heading.
Skinner’s first two goals in Nashville may have been recorded with assists, but they were all his. He didn’t pass the puck and shouldn’t have. He had the open lane on both goals and the bag of tricks to make it happen. Nobody is sure if Muller has given Skinner the “fire at will” signal or if he’s just taken matters into his own hands. Either way, it’s putting points on the scoreboard, and that is a great thing in any universe.
With the San Jose Sharks coming to town Friday night, it behooves Carolina to literally let Skinner do whatever he wants and just follow his lead. The wins will happen.