One of the Hurricanes main motives for making the big trade for Jordan Staal was to make the team deeper down the middle and give them a scoring center who they can trust against other team's top lines. So far, most would consider Jordan's performance underwhelming for what the Hurricanes gave up for him. At least going from a goals and points perspective. He scored at a 52-point pace last season while being a -18 and this year, he is on pace for only 38-39 points in a full-82 game season. Those are pretty mediocre numbers for a player making $6 mil. per year but there is obviously more to Jordan's game than what shows up on the score sheet.
I've been one of Jordan's biggest apologists since his arrival in Carolina and a lot of it has to do with the role he plays and how good his two-way game is. As most know, he is one of the best players on the team in terms of being able to drive the play forward and he usually does it while matched up against the opposition's best forwards. He did very well in this area last season. Next to Tim Brent & Jussi Jokinen, he was Carolina's best forward in this regard last year and he played tougher minutes than those two and his numbers are similar this year. With him on the ice, the Hurricanes are owning 53.9% of the 5v5 shot attempts, so he is still doing his job of being a play-driving center.
Jim Rutherford recognized this in an interview with ABC 11's Mark Armstrong, where he noted that Jordan is "matched up against the other team's best players every night" and that "it's not all about scoring goals with him." So he basically knows what Jordan's role is and how much he contributes away from the score sheet. Although, a look into quality of competition stats reveal some interesting things about him and the Hurricanes forward matchups this year.
Going by on-ice quality of competition, the Hurricanes first line has actually seen tougher assignments than Jordan's line and qualcomp stats show that the Canes first two lines have basically seen the same level of opponents this year. I've noticed some strange things with the Hurricanes matchups this year. I mentioned how much Manny Malhotra has been relied on in the defensive zone for basically every faceoff and that's led to him being out there against other team's top lines and there's been a few games where Eric Staal's line has gone head-to-head with the opposition's best.
It's hard for a coach to have complete control of the matchups every game, especially on the road, so there have been some games where Jordan hasn't played the toughs. Muller has also not been afraid to go power-vs-power at home, but how often has this happened? Enough for us to say that Jordan's role as a shutdown center is a little overstated? After the jump, we'll look at the Hurricanes matchups against some of their common opponents this year and see what exactly Jordan has been up against.no comments