Luke DeCock

Noah Hanifin a curious All-Star, but Canes could benefit in long run

The Canes' Noah Hanifin (5) celebrates his game winning goal with Jeff Skinner (53) after he scored against the Panthers' Aleksander Barkov (16) and James Reimer (34) during the overtime period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Dec. 2, 2017. The Canes beat the Panthers 3-2 in overtime.
The Canes' Noah Hanifin (5) celebrates his game winning goal with Jeff Skinner (53) after he scored against the Panthers' Aleksander Barkov (16) and James Reimer (34) during the overtime period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Dec. 2, 2017. The Canes beat the Panthers 3-2 in overtime. cseward@newsobserver.com

The NHL All-Star Game will be a terrific experience for Noah Hanifin, and the Carolina Hurricanes will benefit from that in the long run to be sure. It should be nothing but healthy for the 20-year-old to interact with some of the game's elite players and maybe learn a thing or two.

That's good. In a best-case scenario, being around the other All-Stars will be a wake-up call for Hanifin, who even as his offensive game matures in the middle of his third season in the NHL still has an extraordinarily long way to go in his own end. (In a worst-case scenario, he would get the message that he's made it as an NHLer and can relax.)

Still, the fact that Hanifin would be picked as an All-Star remains baffling to anyone who actually pays attention to this team, especially after Tyler Johnson stole his soul on the game-winner in Tuesday night's loss in Tampa Bay, but that's all part of an All-Star selection process that's flawed to say the least and, in the end, pretty inconsequential anyway. The NHL picks the All-Stars with little or no regard to what teams want, and most of it is focused on delivering star power for television, leaving teams like Carolina as an afterthought.

So there's no point in getting worked up that Hanifin was picked over more deserving defensemen like Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, or that the current 3-on-3 format built around divisions means the NHL annually takes four seconds to check whichever Hurricanes defenseman leads the team in scoring. Usually, that's Justin Faulk. This year, it's Hanifin.

Of course you'd prefer to see your best players honored and of course Slavin and Pesce and Sebastian Aho (and others) are more deserving, but it's probably better for the Hurricanes if they get that weekend off, even if the team likely now owes Hanifin a $212,500 bonus it never, ever thought it would have to pay.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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