The thing with that, though, is that much of his woes this season had little to do with his abilities as a player or a captain. His leadership abilities still need a little work, but he is in no way the train wreck that other NHL captains have been in the past. On top of that, Staal has spent far too much time on lines that just made no sense at all for him. The pairing of Alexander Semin and Staal on any line whatsoever, after the display of the first half of the season, is a mistake that would only be made by a 15-year-old playing XBox. Great lines are not made by simply throwing big names together.
The times Staal was matched with his younger brother Jordan showed some flashes of chemistry and comfort. It wasn’t until late in the season that the elder Staal was shuffled around to the wing or any other unit. He was underperforming on the obviously mismatched line he was on, and it took until the spring for Kirk Muller to realize he can move the captain around.
Staal has been a victim of poor coaching this season and perhaps seasons past. The key with any player — not just Staal — is to find where they are comfortable. Place them in situations and pairings where their talents are complemented and they complement others. This never happened with Staal, as Muller took a page out of former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith‘s book and forced players into a system regardless of ability. It’s not wise to take advice from the guy who held Michael Jordan to less than 20 points a game.
Staal belongs anywhere but with Semin. He belongs on a line tailor made for his abilities — a line that he can anchor with speed and creativity on either wing. Should that line not work, put him somewhere else. The entire season was spent trying to force the square peg of Staal-Semin into a round hole. This cannot happen again and is beyond detrimental to the Hurricanes’ future plans.