If you fell behind over the weekend, a complete set of clickable links for ‘report card’ articles including Brock McGinn, Phil Di Giuseppe and Joakim Nordstrom from over the weekend are at the bottom of this article.
Viktor Stalberg’s starting point for the 2016-17 season
Viktor Stalberg was signed as an unrestricted free agent for a one-year deal at $1.5 million per season. He was coming off a solid but not necessarily spectacular season as a depth forward with the New York Rangers. In 2015-16 in 75 games with the Rangers, Stalberg posted a respectable 9 goals and 20 points in 12:12 of ice time. He played on the penalty kill and was a solid depth forward. Perhaps more interesting for considering Stalberg’s starting point is considering the Hurricanes’ situation. The team was coming off a 2015-16 season that saw a revolving door of fourth line wings struggle to build even a serviceable fourth line. Francis more or less cleaned house and started over letting Riley Nash, Nathan Gerbe and Brad Malone depart. Jay McClement was still under contract, and Brock McGinn who logged some time on the fourth line was still in the mix. Stalberg was brought in very specifically to help solidify a fourth line built around Jay McClement.
Viktor Stalberg’s 2016-17 season with the Carolina Hurricanes
Viktor Stalberg landed right where originally intended starting the season at right wing on the fourth line next to Jay McClement. His impact was felt almost instantly. Stalberg was fast, aggressive and positionally sound on the forecheck such that opponents were less able to move the puck out of their own end and hit the neutral zone with speed. Along with Joakim Nordstrom who eventually found his way to the other wing, the duo solidified the fourth line as intended, and all three players were regulars on the Hurricanes’ penalty kill that led the entire league until a few key players, including Stalberg, departed at the trade deadline. And along the way Stalberg found his scoring touch. A scoring burst in late November and early December saw Stalberg collect 4 goals and 2 assists in 8 games right when the Hurricanes were clinging to life for the 2016-17 season. And before being traded Stalberg finished with 9 goals and 12 points in 57 games before being traded. The 9 goals prorate to 13 goals over 82 games which is pretty impressive considering Stalberg’s limited ice time, no power play time and fourth-line line mates. That prorated even strength goal-scoring total would have been enough to beat Staal, Lindholm, Teravainen and Rask which is impressive. He also excelled on the penalty kill both in terms of killing penalties, but also in terms of being dangerous offensively with 2 shorthanded goals and numerous other chances.
Grading Viktor Stalberg
Graded as: Fourth-line forward and penalty killer.
Grade: A. Stalberg excelled in every aspect of his job. He played a key role in solidifying a fourth line that struggled the year before. He was tremendous on the team’s strong penalty and chipped in a couple shorthanded goals to boot. And he provided above average depth scoring when one considers his role. As far as a fourth line forward goes, there is nothing more one could have asked from Stalberg. He gets bonus points on top of that for netting a third-round pick (the one that turned into Scott Darling even) at the trade deadline.
This brings up the important point of grading by role. To say that Stalberg gets an A for his role is not the same as saying that he should be in a higher role or is better than a player who gets a B in a different role. While I think Stalberg’s speed, size and defensive acumen makes him a potential fill in on a higher line, I do not think he brings quite enough offensively to be a regular on a scoring line. He is just a great fourth-line/depth forward, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Looking forward to 2017-18
After being traded at the trade deadline, Stalberg is obviously not currently in the mix for 2017-18. He will be an unrestricted free agent once his season with the Ottawa Senators wraps up, so a return is at least possible. This summer Francis needs to balance building a solid roster with leaving some room for youth to seize roles if they rise up in training camp. Even still, I would love to see Viktor Stalberg brought back on a similar contract to last season. Though he played in a limited role, he was just so good at it. At the right price, he fits on the fourth line or could slot as a #13 if the kids prove ready to play at the NHL level now.
Previous report card articles