In a draft year where there are many great players to come out, picking early is not quite as easy...it's amazing to go back and look at the talent taken in just the first round alone. Having the #2 overall pick in a draft, I know it's usually like shooting fish in a barrel, but it's my opinion that the Hurricanes really did nail it with the second player taken in the 2003 draft.
In retrospect, of all the choices to be had, do you think Staal was the right choice for the franchise, and if not, who would you have chosen instead?
Yep, only player that would make me hesitate to take Staal over is Weber. Who was a 2nd round pick so there was little to no indication at the time he would be anything near this. We made the right choice with what was available.
I still think it's a no-brainer. "Franchise" center who is the captain. He's had 7 straight 70 point seasons while being as durable as any human playing hockey can be. Plus, he hasn't said anything too idiotic to the media.
Problem with assuming the Canes would still have Weber (if they drafted him) is how the Canes dealt with defensemen back then (and even to some extent now). I suspect they would have either rushed him to the NHL or become impatient and trade them away before he made an impact in Carolina.
That was one hell of a draft class! One of the best in many years. I don't think anyone in the Canes organization has an regrets about drafting Staal. But I bet more than once, someone in Pittsburgh has looked at the talent taken in that draft and cried about taking Fleury #1 overall. I wouldn't take him in my top 5 in hindsight! The Panthers actually did quite well with their trade, in my opinion, and would have done better if they were a decent franchise able to develop talent.
I will say that I've been impressed with Staal's growth as a player, especially with regards to becoming a captain.
When he first came into the league, he didn't have that captain mentality (even though it was obvious from the getgo that he would be the next in line after Brindamour). And even when Brindamour retired, his first year as captain wasn't exactly a shining example of his maturity.
But lately, he's been getting better about that. I remember he called himself out after a particularly poor game (against Phoenix, I believe) and how he needed to be better. And then the ad in today's paper is seriously impressive (even if it's all just fluff, it does make me feel better).