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08-07-2009, 09:03 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Raleigh, NC
Country: United States
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Definitely a tough call but I went with Whitney. Here's why:

- Every team needs scoring and playmaking from its tops six. Whitney can do both and is an especially good playmaker. When Staal and Cullen are one-two down the middle this ability takes on ever more importance. Whitney has averaged a bit under a point/game in Carolina and his low in assists, 36, is more than Staal had all of last year. Cullen has had more assists than goals only one time in Carolina and there really isn't another playmaker like Whitney who can play top 6 minutes.

- He can score at even strength, another essential trait from a top 6 winger. Aside from his first year here, where he was mostly a 3rd liner and PP specialist, the majority of his goals were at ES and his playmaking on the PP has been very consistent in setting up others from his halfwall position.

- Leadership. He has toned down his goofy side quite a bit and over the last two years he has become a better and more vocal leader. That's important after having lost Stillman's influence and the still-developing leadership of Staal. He has a calming influence it seems and is willing to speak up and speak out when Brind'Amour sometimes takes the less-is-more approach. He has had an unquestioned influence on LaRose's development too.

- I don't know what triggered but I saw more battle in his game last year than ever before. No, he hasn't developed a nasty edge and he still way behind his fellow Smurfs, LaRose and Eaves, in the hitting department but he much more consistently fought for pucks. In years past he gave up easily, wouldn't take a hit and seemed to be allergic to backchecking. It may have been the Maurice influence but to me, it was a noteworthy improvement. It has hardly made him a defensive stalwart but he isn't the liability he once was.

- He contributed a high level with an injury and without complaint. Not much was made of it and he never complained about it but he has a serious enough finger injury that it required a pin. I remember seeing the splint and bandaging on his finger in interviews for the longest time but he never made excuses even when he seemed to mis-hit the puck on a nightly basis (I initially thought he needed to have his eye sight checked).

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