Beyond The Benches

Go Beyond The Benches w/ Hurricanes Jeff Skinner

Expectations for the Carolina Hurricanes competitiveness in the Eastern Conference were low coming into the season, however many did not foresee the club being virtually out of the playoff-race before the halfway-point of the season. The Hurricanes sitting at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division was not in this seasons plan either.

Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner talked about his club’s play to Beyond The Benches after a 2-1 shootout victory against the New Jersey Devils on December 23rd.

Skinner was happy that the Hurricanes were finally able to help backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin, get his first win of the season. Khudobin was 0-8-2 before facing the Devils last week.

“It’s nice to get Dobey (Khudobin) one,” Skinner said. “He’s been battling for us and playing really well for us. He did a great job in the game and in the shootout; stopping all their shots.”

At just 22-years-old, Skinner is already a seasoned-NHL regular. A native of Toronto, he was selected by the Hurricanes in the first round (7th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He won the Calder Trophy as the league’s best-rookie in the 2010-11 season.

Skinner is a natural goal-scorer, but he is struggling offensively this season, as is the entire Hurricanes roster. He has just eight goals and eight assists through 31 games.  For Skinner, who has two 30-goal seasons, that is not good enough especially with the Hurricanes 10-21-4 record.

“Everyone is competitive in here. Everyone wants to win and no one is happy where we are,” Skinner said. “We don’t really have a choice besides just put your head down, stay the course, and keep working.”

Many coaches describe the NHL as a 3-2 league, meaning that you need to be able to consistently score at least three goals per game to realistically be a winning club.

“We get down a goal early and it’s a little bit tough for us to score,” Skinner said. “But the guys did a great job battling back, getting a goal, and getting it to the shootout where Dobey (Khudobin) did a good job.”

As one of the leaders in the locker room, a certain level of responsibility falls on the shoulders of the player’s who have the talent to contribute offensively.

“The way the year’s gone so far we’ve been losing tight-games, one-goal-games, and we just need to find a way to get over that hump and get on the right side of those games,” Skinner said. “Tonight was an example of one of those games.”

While the playoffs are almost certainly out-of-the-question for the Hurricanes, there may be a light at the end of this dark tunnel. The Hurricanes currently sit 29th overall in the NHL standings, 3 points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers. This draft year is predicted to be the most-talented group of players in over a decade.

The current Carolina-team does not want to hear talk about this year’s draft class.  They are concerned about winning games and playing solid-hockey. However, if the Hurricanes continue to struggle, then they may end up with a franchise-saving player in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the upcoming 2015 Draft.

James Stolfi is a journalist from the New York metro area covering the NHL Metropolitan Division. He can be contacted on Twitter @JamesStolfi