Many of these player reviews won’t be very pleasing, but one that will be is mine: Marc Staal. Staal has been a bright spot on the Rangers blue line for years now, but this year was particularly trying for the young defenseman. With Wade Redden, Matt Gilroy, Michal Rozsival and Michael Del Zotto all playing like rookies (at least two of them were warranted); Staal was basically asked to take on the roll of number one defenseman and then some.
Although he wasn’t given a letter—no, the Rangers aren’t going to remove the "C" from Chris Drury and give it to him—he truly stepped up as a leader. Staal helped keep the back end out of chaos, when he was on the ice, and kept the flies off Henrik Lundqvist for the most part.
I’m not too sure any of us expected John Tortorella to take such an aggressive role in having Staal hone his offensive game. The experiment, however, was a failure; and incidentally threw off Staal’s defensive game at the start of the year.
But soon enough Tortorella realized that the idea was a failure, and he let Staal play his style of play. Staal bounced back pretty quick, and within a few weeks of seeing no power play time, he was back to his old self. Unfortunately he really was one of the only solid contributors on the blue line for the Rangers this season. That has to change next year if the Rangers expect to have any success.
Join me after the jumo for more.
The best part? His style of play included a career high in goals, assists and points; even without quarterbacking the power play. He surged offensively at the end of the year, and was scoring some clutch goals for the Rangers down the stretch. Obviously the Rangers can’t expect Staal to score 30 goals and put up 70 points a year, but if he can be a solid 10 goal 40 point provider no one would complain.
The best part of the entire situation? Staal is only 23 years old, and still has plenty of time to develop and fill out physically. His defense has gotten better over time, and we can expect that to continue as he continues to gain experience and confidence. On a personal note, I feel that this year was very trying for Staal. He was asked to take on a new role, his defense was tested early and in the end the Rangers didn’t make the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how he, in particular, bounces back next year. As much as well all say that this team goes where Lundqvist goes, this team truly goes where Staal goes as well.
As a restricted free agent this year, it will also be interesting to see what kind of contract he gets. I can guarantee that he will re-sign with the team—no I don’t have any inside information but I don’t need it—the only question will be for how much and for how long. The one thing we can be sure of is that Staal will be a rock on the back end for years to come.
Sorry that this recap is so short, but there really isn’t much negative to say about Staal. If you can think of any put them in the comments (at your own risk!) and let your voice be heard. Go ahead, the floor is all yours.