Jordan Staal doesn’t try to deny it or hide his feelings.
The Carolina Hurricanes center misses his big brother, Eric.
For the first time since being traded to Carolina in June 2012, Jordan Staal will go into preseason training camp knowing his brother will not be with him.
“I miss having him here,” Staal said Friday. “It’s definitely different not having him around.
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“It is what it is. It’s a business and we understand that. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is.”
Eric Staal the Canes’ team captain since January 2010. He had a big hand in Carolina’s Stanley Cup championship in 2006, helped them reach the Easterrn Conference finals in 2009 and was the face of the franchise.
And then No. 12 was gone. Staal was traded to the New York Rangers on Feb. 28, joining brother Marc Staal on the Rangers but leaving Jordan behind.
Jordan Staal was not happy with that sudden turn of events. He came to Carolina, then signed a 10-year contract extension, with the intent of playing with Eric and the two helping the Canes get back in the playoffs for the first time since ‘09.
Jordan Staal believed that could happen last season. But the decision was made by general manager Ron Francis to deal Eric Staal – and then veterans Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles – as the NHL trade deadline approached, add assets and look to the future. Eric Staal became a free agent in July and signed a three-year contract with the Minnesota Wild.
It’s definitely different not having him around.
Canes’ Jordan Staal on Eric
Francis and Canes coach Bill Peters say there’s no urgency to name a new captain, give someone the “C.”
“It’s an important letter to give out,” Francis, a former Canes captain, said Friday. “There’s a lot of responsibility and guys take it different ways, and you don’t want to affect the individual, either, where he’s focusing more on that than on being himself and playing the game.
“There’s lot of things you look at in making that decision. You want to make sure both sides are comfortable if that’s the road we’re going to take.”
It’s possible Jordan Staal could be named captain. It’s also possible the Canes go into the season with alternate captains.
“I haven’t thought about it a whole lot or talked to anybody about it a whole lot,” Staal said. “With Eric leaving everybody knows how big of a hole that is, in that aspect of the room. It’s not going to all fall on one guy’s shoulders. A lot of guys will have to step up in different roles regarding leadership, including myself.”
Jordan Staal, 27, played 82 games last season and the 6-foot-4, 220-pound forward was the Canes’ workhorse. He had 20 goals, the most since coming to Carolina, and 28 assists. His plus-6 rating was a team-best.
“I thought he took a lot of strides last year,” Francis said. “I think he used his size better and felt more comfortable in using it and taking the puck to the net, realizing how tough it was for people to stop him with that size and skill set.
“I don’t think he’s going to change as a person because his brother’s not here. He’s that kind of guy, good with his teammates, good off the ice with them. I would expect more of that from him moving forward.”
Staal centered wingers Andrej Nestrasil and Joakim Nordstrom on what was a formidable line last season until Nestrastil was injured. “They’re fun to play with and they make my life a lot easier,” Staal said.
Having big brother around made things easier, as well. The two could ride to practices and games, talk things over. That has changed but Jordan Staal said there will be no difference in his play on the ice.
“I don’t think my role is going to change a whole lot,” he said. “I think I’m going to be playing the same kind of minutes, the same style and with the same linemates, so it doesn’t really change for me.”