No one on the Carolina Hurricanes deserves the Captaincy more than Jeff Skinner.
Critics of “Captain Jeff Skinner” will point to his past tendencies of drawing frustration penalties, playing too emotional, and his inconsistent play. Before 2016 these critics may have had a point. But last year Canes fans saw a different side of Skinner.
Last season, the Markham native almost single-handedly took Carolina to the playoffs in the month of March. On February 29th, the Hurricanes sat in the cellar of the Metropolitan Division. Then Jeff Skinner happened. Scoring 21 points in the last 19 games, he brought the Hurricanes within two games of the last wildcard spot before the team eventually sputtered out down the stretch.
Assuming Jeff Skinner plays 82 games this year, he will have played the fifth most regular season games in a Canes sweater in franchise history. He is also the second highest franchise goal scorer behind Eric Staal. Skinner has done so while sharing a line with players like Nathan Gerbe, Patrick Dwyer, and Riley Nash. That is a cruel and unusual punishment for a player the caliber of Jeff Skinner.
Throughout the eight-year playoff drought, there haven’t been many bright spots for the Raleigh franchise. Dropping attendance, countless relocation rumors, and a sometimes unwatchable product on the ice has plagued Canes fans since 2009. At times, Skinner has been the only shining light in an otherwise dim place.
Skinner exudes leadership qualities off the ice as well. Last October, the 25-year-old announced he would start “53’s Difference Makers.” The program honors and recognizes local teachers at home games and gifts them with tickets, monetary donations for their classrooms, jerseys and other various gifts.
Since Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers in February of 2015, the Hurricanes have been devoid of a true veteran leader. Almost three years later, Skinner should be handed the reins.
The best player on the ice and one of the most fun players off it; Carolina is Jeff Skinner’s team.