This unfortunately creates a horrific situation like the one being currently experienced by the Hurricanes. There is nobody leading the team. Captain Eric Staal would be the obvious choice, however that’s not happening. Staal has spent the season underperforming and playing inconsistently. His angry outbursts have been happening more and more often. His disconnect with line-mate Alexander Semin has been completely obvious the whole season, even when they got occasionally lucky.
What about goaltenders? Wouldn’t a starting goaltender be one of the leaders? Obviously not, since Cam Ward figured he was done being that guy and decided to become awful. Anton Khudobin could have stepped up big time, but was content to sit in the back of the plane quietly. Of course, what was Justin Peters going to do?
Did anyone else step up? Jeff Skinner was having a brilliant season for a while, but never emerged as a top-line guy. Was this by choice? Of course not, Skinner doesn’t set the lineup. But to keep him on the lower lines prevented him from becoming a true leader. Furthermore, he seemed to be distant from many members of the team, and not his normal jovial self from seasons past.
The worst offender in all of this is head coach Kirk Muller. It seems to be a taboo thing to do in Carolina, but it’s time to finally admit that Muller is a horrible coach. He lacks passion — properly directed passion, anyway– and too often puts on a happy face during trouble. Furthermore, he has refused to put together real lines that make sense, plays defensive strategies that don’t even work on PlayStation, and has not really found a true identity for himself or the team.
As questions continue to go up about where Carolina’s season went wrong, the bigger issue is to whom these questions should be directed.