Canes’ Skinner: ‘You’re always ready to go when you’re playing well’
The subject was Jeff Skinner and how to get the best out of the winger if he remains with the Carolina Hurricanes.
"That's the question, isn't it?" Canes coach Rod Brind'Amour said Sunday. "If you want to give me some advice, I'd take it."
It's no secret Canes general manager Don Waddell has been shopping Skinner, looking for a trade partner. But Skinner also has a no-move clause in his contract that gives him final approval of any deal, and none has been struck.
"A lot of teams the last week have been focused on free agency and things potentially could heat up in the next short period of time," Waddell said Sunday.
It's possible Skinner, with one year left on his contract, might decide to sit tight and return. Bill Peters no longer is the Canes coach, and Brind'Amour commands an large amount of respect given his playing career, his place in the Hurricanes organization and seven years as an assistant coach.
While Skinner is a pure scorer, capable of 30 or more goals in any season, possibly 40, he rarely has worked as hard on the defensive end of the ice for the Canes. His minus-27 plus/minus rating last season, one gauge to his play at even strength, was one of the worst in the league and easily the worst of his eight-year career.
"I've been around Jeff, I know him," Brind'Amour said. "Jeff's one of the smartest players we have. He knows how to play. I think he hasn't been held quite to the standard we need to hold him to. I think if he is, and realizes, 'Man, I've got to do it that way or I won't get out here,' I think you'll see a different Jeff Skinner.
"That's what I'm hoping, is that he comes back with that attitude."
Skinner, 26, has been among the NHL leaders in takeaways -- he was second to Edmonton's Connor McDavid last season -- and has a quick, active stick. But positionally he gets caught out of place too often, his focus not as sharp in the Canes' zone as it needs to be.
Canes majority owner Tom Dundon is stressing more accountability from the players, the willingness to work hard in all three zones, and it's up to Brind'Amour and his staff to pull that effort out of the players -- and not just Skinner, if he's back -- more consistently.
With Skinner, it could be in how much ice time he receives, what line he's placed on by Brind'Amour.
"Now we've got guys to push him out of spots," Brind'Amour said. "If you're not going to quite dig in every shift then maybe you don't get every shift. That's definitely what I'm trying to preach and I've got to back that up.
"Now I have, from the top, the authority to do it that way, which is the right way. And Jeff, I think he wants that, too. We know he can do it. We just need him to do it every night."
Brind'Amour has spent much time mulling over his potential lines and lineup. Among the questions to be answered is whether to keep Sebastian Aho at center, where to place forward Micheal Ferland and whether to play the two "kids" -- teenaged forwards Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov -- together.
Ferland, a physical winger obtained in the recent trade with Calgary, might be best playing with Necas, able to keep other teams from trying to take liberties with the still-slender 19-year-old center. That's something Brind'Amour is considering.
And, of course, where to best fit in Skinner.
Brind'Amour said the departure of center Derek Ryan has been generally overlooked but could hurt in the faceoff circle. Ryan, who signed a three-year free-agent deal Sunday with Calgary, won 56.5 percent of his draws last season.
Brind'Amour sees the trade with Calgary -- forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin going to the Flames, Ferland and defenseman Dougie Hamilton coming back in return -- favoring the Canes.
"Does it change our dynamic? For sure," he said. "I like where we're at."