Taylor Hall, Artemi Panarin, Filip Forsberg, Phil Kessel, Nathan MacKinnon, Mark Scheifele, Max Pacioretty, and Blake Wheeler all have one thing in common.
None of them have scored as many goals as Jeff Skinner over the past two seasons. It’s okay, though, because they aren’t alone. Only 18 players have outscored #53 since the start of the 2016-17 season.
Another thing that those eight players above have in common? Their names aren’t making rounds through the rumor mill the way Skinner’s is.
What started as speculation quickly turned into a legitimate rumor last week, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the Carolina Hurricanes are open for business on every player on the roster not named Sebastian Aho. To boot, he said that Skinner isn’t only available, he is likely to be moved.
Now, let’s not pretend that big changes couldn’t or shouldn’t be made, because they should. You will have a tough time looking Tom Dundon in the eye and saying, in the midst of the NHL’s longest active playoff drought, that everything is fine.
Dundon is not the dog in the burning room meme.
That said, there are ways to make changes that don’t include trading a player whose “off year” was scoring 24 goals and putting 277 shots on goal.
Even with the influx of talent (Aho, Zykov, Svechnikov, etc.), there is a spot in the top six for Skinner, and adding talent to the team should only make him more impactful as he won’t be the guy garnering so much attention from opposing teams moving forward and he should actually get some more quality offensive players on his line both at even strength and on the man advantage. This is still a guy with an elite skill set with the puck on his stick.
Among all skaters who skated in more than ten games last season for Carolina, Skinner ranked third in points per 60 and primary points per 60 at 5-on-5 (behind just Aho and Teravainen), was tied for first with Aho with 18 goals at even strength, and logged a 55% shot attempt differential. To boot, his expected goal differential was second-highest among forwards, trailing just Derek Ryan, whose great numbers were helped by playing with Skinner.
You get the picture. Even last season (a down year from his 37-goal campaign in 2016-17), his number were great. While there are a lot of things you can look at with him that can be negative(defense, physicality, etc.), he’s still just as valuable as almost anyone on this team and, unless you know for certain that he isn’t willing to re-sign after the 2018-19 season - after which he will be an unrestricted free agent, you can’t just trade him for the sake of wanting to “shake things up”.
Even in that scenario, though, you have the option of bringing him back to the club, letting him see if things for him and the team are different with Rod Brind’Amour as head coach, and then if things continue to go poorly, you have the option of letting competing teams get into a bidding war for him near the deadline and you can maximize your return.
The only way it makes sense to trade Skinner right now is if you’re getting a deal you absolutely can’t refuse (which seems unlikely given that McKenzie said the return on him right now could be surprisingly low) or he is very clear about absolutely not wanting to play for this team. The latter, though, hasn’t been displayed at all by Skinner in the media.
Above all else, the thing that would hurt the most about Skinner being moved right now is the time that was wasted.
If #53 is dealt elsewhere, so too will be one of the few redeemable parts of the last seven years of grueling, sometimes unwatchable hockey played by an organization that has, time and time again, failed to be what they could/should have been.
It will also be an example of how a young player’s star career has been wasted. The Canes had a young stud on their hands and, thanks both to their own incompetencies and the shortcomings of the player in the face of their incompetencies, let nearly a decade of it go to waste - piddling away the twilight of it putting him on a line with Derek Ryan while in the dog house of a coach who didn’t know how to use him properly. You can blame a lot of people for the dumpster fire that has been the past seven years, but Jeff Skinner is not one of them.
It doesn’t make sense that, after all this time, this team is now dead set on winning next season and they, in turn, want to trade one of the players who can help this team win the most. For the life of me, it just does not make sense. Does trading your second-best goal scorer really change the culture in a positive way? Or is it just a scape goat for the fact that, from top to bottom, the organization has been poorly run for a long time?
This is not the first time Skinner has found himself in these trade rumors, but this time it feels more real. It actually looks like it will happen. And if it does, it will be a huge shame.
For now though, all we can do is wait - wait for more rumors to circulate and, possibly, for Skinner to be dealt elsewhere. If/when he gets there, he’ll have a great year, and the Hurricanes will just have to hope that the return they got back won’t make them look foolish for the next five to ten years.
I hope that it doesn’t get to that point, though.