Since his arrival in 2003, Eric Staal has shown he is one of the franchises most dominant players. During the 04-05 lockout, Staal stepped onto AHL ice for the Lowell Lock Monsters, which was possibly the best decision of his young career.
After Staal’s tremendous sophomore season he’s consecutively recorded more than 50 points per season. Although it is hard to top his career high numbers, there could have been more production out of the Thunder Bay native.
The 2011-2012 season may have been Staal’s worst season to date. His lackadaisical style of play didn’t demonstrate the player we all know Staal to be capable of being. In February of 2011, Eric laid a hit, which appeared to be clean, on his brother Marc of the New York Rangers. Eric’s hit on his brother caused the concussion his brother suffered from that kept him out of action for about a month shy of a year. "I wouldn't say it has kept me awake at night, but it's tough," Eric Staal told NHL.com. "If I could take it back I probably wouldn't hit him knowing where we've gone and what has gone on since then. But it was one of those plays, bang-bang, happens so quickly, and I hit him hard."
NHL Eric Staal Huge Hit on Brother Marc Staal 2/22/11 (via NHLHockey95)
That same season was the first time Staal heard his name buzzing as a trade possibility. Rumblings of the possible Ontario native to be a Christmas wrapped present for the Toronto Maple Leafs came about in December of 2011. However, General Manager Jim Rutherford put a quick stop to the rumors stating that he had no intentions of moving Staal or Cam Ward. However, the Hurricanes eighty-sixed Paul Maurice for the second time in franchise history and was replaced by former Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller. Muller ended his first season as head coach above .500 going 25-20-12.
Hockey has it’s mental components and it was clear that gaining the responsibility of being a captain, trade rumors, and having his mind distracted by his brothers well being took a toll on his game. Staal finished the 2011-2012 season with 24 goals 46 assists for a third season of 70 points.
Another lockout in 2012-2013 shortened the NHL season to 48 games. It wasn’t enough to make a coaching change the previous season as the Hurricanes added Alexander Semin and brother Jordan Staal to the roster during the off-season with both players signing contract extensions. The new additions, the coaching change in full effect, and Eric’s brother Marc returning to action sparked new life into the captain as he finished the 48 game season with 53 points.
Fast forward to present day and we have Eric Staal leading the Hurricanes for the month November in points with 10 while he ended a seven game point streak Friday, November 29 against the New Jersey Devils. "Eric’s really picked up his pace. His pace is quicker now. He’s going more direct. He’s faster, he’s hungrier and he’s got his confidence again," Muller told CarolinaHurricanes.com. "When he’s going like that, now he looks like a power forward who’s tough to contain." As mentioned before, there is a mental aspect to the sport and Staal has what he needs to get the job done. Staal has 20 points in 27 games so far and that number is only going to increase at the rate he’s going. It has been an "up-and-down" month for the Hurricanes according to Muller. The test for Staal now is to lead the Hurricanes in the search for consistency and get the team who has not qualified for the playoffs in four years to clinch playoff berth. December’s first game for Carolina showed complete dominance as they easily took care of the Washington Capitals 4-1 with Staal adding 2 assists on the night. It appears Staal's rough patches have only made him better.