Commentary

Canes have mixed feelings about World Championships

ldecock@newsobserver.comApril 11, 2012 

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The Carolina Hurricanes' Eric Staal (12) celebrates his goal with teammates Jeff Skinner (53) and Justin Faulk (28)during the second period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Nashville Predators at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 28, 2012. Skinner and Faulk will continue to play in world competitions later this year; Staal decided to stay home with his new son.

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

— For some players on a team that misses the playoffs – as the Carolina Hurricanes have the past three years –

the season doesn’t end right away. Invitations go out almost immediately to participate in the World Championships. This year, a surprising number of Hurricanes turned them down.

As many as 15 players were invited to play for their countries, but at this point, only six are going, not including coach Kirk Muller, who will serve on Team Canada’s coaching staff.

For many, the decision was easy. Rookie defenseman Justin Faulk, who starred on the U.S. World Junior Team, jumped at the chance. Patrick Dwyer will also play for the United States, which invited six Carolina players.

Jeff Skinner, who played for Canada last year as a rookie, was thrilled to be asked again; Cam Ward will go for a third time, in part to help bolster his case to be part of Team Canada for the 2014 Olympics, if the NHL decides to participate.

For Americans Chad LaRose, Brian Boucher and Tim Gleason as well as Brandon Sutter (Canada), Andreas Nodl (Austria) and Joni Pitkanen (Finland), nagging injuries or ongoing recoveries made their decisions for them. None will go.

For others, there are other variables in play. Jamie McBain has been invited to play for the United States, but he’s also a restricted free agent, which means an injury could seriously affect his financial future.

“I should know in the next couple of days,” McBain said.

Sometimes, refusing to go, even for legitimate reasons, carries a political price. Tuomo Ruutu wasn’t sure whether he was going, and he’d hear about it back home if he doesn’t. Eric Staal expects some backlash north of the border for his decision not to play for Team Canada, but it’s a small price to pay with a 3-month-old son at home.

“I’m comfortable with the decision I made,” Staal said. “I think people can respect I have a newborn child at home and I need to be with my family. I always put hockey first. Right now, I feel like I need to put family first.”

For Muller, who will also do television work in Canada during the NHL playoffs, it’s been a long year already. He moved twice, from Montreal to Milwaukee to Raleigh, put two kids in college and has a third going next fall. But working the worlds is a great opportunity to scout players – after coaching the United States in 2005, Peter Laviolette brought Matt Cullen back with him – and from Muller’s perspective, the season isn’t over yet anyway.

“You always expect to be working until June,” Muller said.

It’s not what Muller or anyone wanted, but for some of the Hurricanes, the season isn’t over yet – just not as many as usual.

DeCock: luke.decock@newsobserver.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or (919) 829-8947

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