NEW YORK -- Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let’s get to it.
With the season approaching, how are Eric Staal and Alexander Semin progressing from their injuries? – Ryan (@NoFearmx2314)
Both are progressing as expected. According to head coach Bill Peters, Eric Staal, who suffered a core muscle injury during offseason training, is slated to play in preseason games four and six, which would be Sept. 30 in St. Louis and Oct. 3 versus Buffalo in Raleigh.
For his part, Staal said he feels just fine.
“I feel pretty good,” he said on the first day of training camp. “I foresee no issues as far as how the year starts.”
Peters said he’s still looking to get Alexander Semin, who had wrist surgery early in the offseason, into a preseason game at some point, though one has yet to be determined.
This question was posed to me before Tuesday night’s game in Buffalo, but obviously now the biggest question is how Jordan Staal’s injury affects the make-up of this team in the near future.
Staal, who suffered a broken bone “down low in the ankle area” according to Peters, will be out for an undetermined about of time; the team will have more information after he undergoes further testing and evaluation in Raleigh.
With Staal penciled in as the team’s second-line center, and occasionally perhaps skating alongside his brother, a gaping hole opens up in the lineup. How to fill it will be a question that the team tries to answer in the coming weeks.
“It opens up huge opportunities for people,” Peters said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “We don’t have a guy we can plug in to replace what he does at 6’4”, 230. But we have guys who can do it by committee. We haven’t had enough time to wrap our head around it, to be honest with you, without knowing how long he’ll be gone for, but we’ll come up with a plan that allows us to have success.”
Any updates on alternate captains? – Eric V. (@Eric_vonHaam)
Peters said after practice on Monday that the team had not settled on who would be the alternate captains this season.
“We’re just not going to give out the letters without knowing our group,” Peters said. “We’ll take our time to figure it out.”
In addition to Jordan Staal, who wore the “A” all of last season, the Canes have on their roster a number of skaters who served as alternate captains at one point or another from a season ago, including defensemen Tim Gleason and Justin Faulk and forward Jay McClement, who wore the “A” in Toronto last year.
Of course, with Staal now sidelined for an undetermined amount of time, the conversation could get more interesting as the season nears.
“We have a real good leadership group, and it goes real deep. There’s more than just the obvious guys. Sekera is a very good leader, Gleason has been outstanding,” Peters said after Wednesday’s skate. “There are guys that emerge, and as a coaching staff, we have to figure out who the actual leaders are.”
Who would you like to see wear an “A” for the Canes this season? Let me know in the comments below.
What are three reasons why I should be optimistic about this season’s team making the playoffs? – Zack L. (@zllewallen)
1. New coaching staff + new front office = new ideas
If you’ve attended any of training camp thus far, there is a noticeable pace on the ice. There is a noticeable attention to detail. There is a noticeable structure. Assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour has been leading dedicated power play practice, and assistant coach Steve Smith has led penalty kill instruction. A new coaching staff brings new ideas, and that it something in itself to be excited about.
In the front office, Ron Francis is, of course, now leading the charge as the team’s general manager, and he’s surrounded himself by smart hockey people in Brian Tatum, Ricky Olczyk and Mike Vellucci. They too have new ideas; as Francis said in his introductory news conference, “I am my own man.”
2. Rebounding and growing
Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Cam Ward each have an opportunity to rebound from last season. Even though Staal led the team in points with 61, he was slowed right off the start due to his offseason knee injury. Semin would ultimately pot 22 goals, but he was also hampered by an early-season wrist ailment. Ward had to fight his way through injuries, and his resulting statistics were uncharacteristic. It’s doubtful that all three have similar years this year.
Not to mention, Elias Lindholm is one year stronger, one year bigger and one year more experienced than he was as a rookie. The same can be said for a guy like Ryan Murphy, or someone like Zach Boychuk or Victor Rask or Chris Terry – players that can parlay their experience in Charlotte into a full-time roster spot in Carolina.
3. It’s a new season
A new season. A clean slate. A fresh start. And anything can happen. Why not be optimistic?
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you’d like answered or you want to reminisce about LOST 10 years later, you can reach out to me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes.