Jeff Skinner was already Carolina’s best forward but he finally reached elite status with a 63-point, 37-goal campaign, his best since winning the Calder Trophy as a rookie. Don’t be surprised if he gets the captaincy this summer.
Carolina used the fifth overall pick in 2013 on Lindholm, but he struggled to produce offensively since. That changed last year. From our brethren at Canes Country:
According to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, among forwards who skated at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 play, Lindholm was 7th out of 351 players in terms of 5-on-5 primary assists per 60 minutes.
That’s about as good of a metric as we have to determine the quality of a playmaker, and Lindholm was downright elite in what turned into a breakout year for him as the season wore on. The only players who finished ahead of him were Ryan Getzlaf, Connor McDavid, Nick Schmaltz, Johnny Gaudreau, Henrik Zetterberg, and Evgeni Malkin. I’d say that’s decent company to be in, wouldn’t you?
Meanwhile, rookie winger Sebastian Aho flirted with the Calder Trophy race with 24 goals and 49 points.
They finally got it in 2008, and it was then that Pierce earned a piece of the Discount Yankee Jerseys franchise lore for himself. His Game 7 duel against LeBron James in the second round of the playoffs was worthy of Bird and Dominique. He made a huge play to close out the Pistons on the road and later won the Finals MVP against the Lakers. When he raised the banner that fall, he broke down on the court.
They still might surprise. They still might linger around the top of the Central, and they might even surge with Quintana and Abreu coming around. But I regret my take from November. The warmer start than anticipated doesn’t change that.