I was pretty excited to read the news that Riley Nash and Tim Wallace would once-again be members of the Charlotte Checkers for this weekend’s trip to Oklahoma City. (Even though Wallace’s assignment in Charlotte would last only about five hours!)
I was also pleased that Nicolas Blanchard was getting the opportunity to stay in Raleigh. Blanchard’s presence with the Hurricanes is a huge loss to the Checkers, but I can’t think of a player who has worked harder and given more heart, soul and grit to the team in each of the six full seasons as a part of the Hurricanes organization.
And when I heard about Wallace and Nash, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Hurricanes had enough healthy players to field a full roster for their final games, and since it’s now public knowledge that Alexander Semin has a concussion, it’s obvious the Hurricanes weren’t healthy enough for tonight’s game.
So of all of the potential players the Hurricanes could have recalled, they chose Jared, youngest son of the famed Staal clan. And the more I think about it, the more I like it.
Jared does not have the same skill level his older brothers did at his age. He’s had a much steeper learning curve adjusting to life in the American League during his time with the Checkers, but there has been a huge amount of improvement. He played more games than ever this year in Charlotte, and the number of minutes played also increased.
This year, it’s almost as if Jared’s physicality has finally matured into his body. He’s finishing checks and using his size to overtake opponents. He’s played more minutes, and been more of a threat on the ice than in the previous two years I watched him play. Jared might not be the offensive scoring machine his brothers are, and doesn’t have the smooth skating stride of them, but he’s come a long way. He still looks surprised when he scores during practice, and as it was pointed out on Twitter, isn’t really an offensive force, but not every player needs that to be their role. His seven points this year (4g, 3a) in 52 games are about average for his scoring in the AHL… last year he had eight (3g, 5a) in 44 games. But honestly, despite what one might see on the score sheet, Jared Staal is a much improved player this year, and if he continues to get grittier, maybe the NHL could be in his future. He’s got size, genetics, and all kinds of potential, he just needs to keep working hard to get there.
Jared might not ever win a Stanley Cup like Eric and Jordan, or wear a letter on his sweater in the NHL like his three elder siblings, but he has a potentially bright future if he can focus and continue to improve as he did this year. I’m pretty confident Eric, Marc and Jordan will never win a Kelly Cup, but Jared has one with the Florida Everblades, and that is something to be proud of.
Did Jared Staal deserve an NHL recall over guys like Zac Dalpe, Zach Boyhuk, Chris Terry or a handful of others in Charlotte? Probably not. But let’s be honest, the Hurricanes season is done, and as a fan of the Charlotte Checkers, I applaud the Hurricanes for doing what they can to make it fun for the fans in Raleigh and booster the lineup in Charlotte, a team with real playoff potential this off-season. And a third Staal in the lineup in Raleigh is certainly newsworthy. Having one of the superstars and NHL caliber guys from the Checkers won’t change the fate of the Hurricanes, so why not build on the FUTURE of the Canes, and support the AHL squad for what seems like the first time all season.
Also? With the lineup in Charlotte these days, there’s nothing even close to a guarantee that Jared would have been one of the lucky 18 skaters to play against the Barons on tomorrow. There was a time that a dozen guys were injured in Charlotte, but that number is dwindling, and there are more healthy scratches available each night, and Jared would have been one of five or six skaters fighting for a spot on the fourth line. So the entire Hurricanes organization is better off with him in Raleigh, exciting the national media, and letting the Checkers excel as they have the potential to in Oklahoma City this weekend.
Good luck tonight in Raleigh, Jared. I’m sure many of us will be cheering you on in your NHL debut!
P.S. I will definitely e wearing my “Party like a Staal brother” t-shirt today in honor of the game! #LetsGoStaals