Jordan Staal admits that the Carolina Hurricanes are a different place this year without his brother around.
“There’s increased responsibility all over the place,” the Canes’ alternate captain said during the team’s annual media day at PNC Arena on Friday. “He’s such a big hole in our room, and there’s definitely a lot of other guys who will need to step up and fill the leadership role. It’s something I’ve prepared myself for, and hopefully I can do the job.”
Last year was a year of change. The Canes jettisoned a good number of the old guard, including former captain Eric Staal, now with the Minnesota Wild. 35-year-old Ron Hainsey is now the old man in the locker room, and all but seven players on the 50-man reserve list are 27 or younger.
But as the Canes enter a new season with lots of new, young faces, players like Staal, Justin Faulk and Elias Lindholm are ready to embrace their leadership role in the room. Entering his sixth season, Faulk admitted that it’s a bit surreal to think of himself as one of the old hands in the locker room.
“It’s a different position than I was in three or four years ago,” said Faulk. “I probably talk a little more in the room. You just have to help and make sure things go smoothly from coaches to players.”
For the first time since moving to North Carolina, the Canes will enter the 2016-17 season without a captain - at least, not yet. Faulk has been tipped to possibly serve in that role, and he would certainly welcome the challenge.
“I think anytime someone can be made captain they would more than embrace it; they would be really happy about it,” Faulk said. “But it’s not something I’m really thinking about too much. There are a lot of guys in the room who are good leaders and work well together. It’s a good thing to have.”
Victor Rask, entering his third season, is one of a few guys in the locker room who has transitioned from looking for advice and pointers from veterans to being one of those veterans who younger players look up to. It’s different, but Rask is far from alone in making that change on this team.
Rask (shoulder) and Lindholm (toe) are both coming off surgeries in the offseason, and each player said that there have been some moments of discomfort while preparing for the upcoming training camp, but that they are back to 100% entering camp.
Among the players the Canes are excited to see is Sebastian Aho, who dazzled with Team Finland at the World Championships and will play with the Finns at the World Cup beginning next week. Rask, who himself made the jump to North American hockey at a young age, spent part of his recovery time watching his future teammate at the World Championships, and he can’t wait to be on the same bench with him.
A regular feature of the annual media gathering, the media ball hockey game, was made poignant this year. The game, in which Team Ovies defeated Team Gold 4-3 in overtime, was dedicated to the memory of the late Jim Connors, the Time Warner Cable News sports director who died suddenly last November.
Below are Periscope videos of Staal, Lindholm, Faulk and Joakim Nordstrom.