Over the weekend, the Carolina Hurricanes accelerated a process that was bound to take place over the offseason, at the very latest.
They parted ways with forward Ryan Dzingel.
Brought in to be a complementary top-nine scorer, Dzingel had a particular role in mind. Early on, he fit in that role and produced well enough to justify his $3.375 million price tag. Alongside Eric Haula and then-rookie Martin Necas, he was very dangerous out of the gate, producing to the tune of four goals and 15 points in his first 22 games with the club.
His production fell off precipitously, though, to the point that he managed just four assists and nary a single goal in his final 23 games of the 2019-20 regular season.
Entering his second season with the team, the hope was that he would find his footing again and return to being a quality offensive player, but obviously, that didn’t happen.
The Canes finally bit the bullet and cut him loose on Saturday night in a deal that sent him back to the team that got him in the league, the Ottawa Senators. In return, the Sens sent Carolina forwards Cedric Paquette, who made his Hurricanes debut on Monday night, and Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk was promptly put on waivers, sent to the AHL, and then traded to Toronto.
So, that’ll do it for the Dzingel era in Carolina, and it was one that certainly didn’t deliver on the promise it once had. Though, to be honest, it was a relatively surprising signing when it happened. The way he played in Ottawa and Columbus didn’t seem like a good fit whatsoever. He didn’t appear to be a guy that Rod Brind’Amour would love throwing out there in multiple roles.
“Dzingel was a good player for us; it just wasn’t the right fit as far as finding him the right role,” Brind’Amour said of the trade after their win in Dallas on Saturday. “It just didn’t quite work out. Nothing against him. I thought when we did have him in the right role, he was fine; it just wasn’t going to work out that way.”
The Hurricanes now get a player in Paquette who can serve a specific role and not hurt the team doing it. The trade is a fresh start for pretty much everyone involved, all while creating more of that coveted cap space. For those reasons, the Canes made out pretty well with the trade.
Through 13 games, the Hurricanes are 10-3-0, and their leading goal-scorers are... Brock McGinn and Nino Niederreiter with seven apiece.
You could have certainly made more of a case for Niederreiter being a top scorer before the season, even if it would have taken some belief in him turning it around in a fairly significant way (which he has), but McGinn?... Brock McGinn?...
After his two-goal evening against the Blue Jackets, McGinn has seven on the season. A vast majority of them have come with him on the top forward line alongside Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov or Teuvo Teravainen.
While he is on quite a hot streak right now, it’s not just his finishing ability that is contributing to the Hurricanes' strong start. He’s just playing well. The Canes are absolutely lethal offensive when he is on the ice, and while that likely has more to do with his linemates, he is doing more than just keeping up with the more skilled guys. He retrieves pucks, maintains offensive zone possession, pushes the puck up the ice in transition, and places himself in goal-scoring areas. He isn’t playing a complicated game, and he shouldn’t be.
In 13 games this season, McGinn has tied his total goal output from 63 games last season. At this rate, I like his odds to get another one or two or ten.
While we’re on the topic of unexpected high scorers, what the hell is going on with Jordan Staal?
Since returning from his stint on the COVID protocol list, Staal has been otherworldly. He casually scored two more goals last night to raise his season total to six - just one goal off of the team-lead. Over his last 10 games, Staal has six goals and 14 points.
I’ve long joked that if Jordan Staal had any touch in the offensive zone, he would be the best player in the universe. And... well, yeah, kinda.
He has always been a dominant defensive player, an unshakable possession driver, and an almost unparalleled scoring chance producer at 5-on-5. Still, his inability to make fine plays in front of the net to actually capitalize on those chances has made the difference between him being an elite top-six center and an elite third-line center.
The thing he lacked for so long is now present, and it makes him a totally different animal, but if you ask Brind’Amour, nothing has changed with him. He’s just doing the same things he’s done for almost ten years in a Hurricanes uniform. And there’s nothing wrong with that sentiment. Staal is literally doing the same things that he has always done, but there is one pretty significant difference.
He scores now.
Surely, his league-high 35.3% shooting percentage will stay there forever, and his 110.8 PDO won’t regress at all, right? Right?... RIGHT?!?!