Yes, it had to happen. While this report card probably won’t be the most cynical out of the bunch (that honor will probably go to Dan Girardi’s), I don’t know how many people will want to relive Marc Staal’s season, much less write about it.
I volunteered not because I like Staal a lot, but because it needed to be done. It’s time to rip the Band-Aid off and review the swirling torrent of pain and misery that was Marc Staal’s year with the Blueshirts.
Stats: 72 GP, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points, +9, 34 PIM, 70 shots, 19:11 ATOI
We all know Staal isn’t an offensively gifted defenseman but he took it to a whole other level this season. With only 10 points on the year, Staal finished tied for the second worst point totals of his career in a season, behind only his 2011-12 campaign where he posted five points in 46 games. Staal was never a huge offensive force but throughout his career he was never this inept, tallying 11 points in only 21 games not too long ago and scoring 20 points two seasons prior.
But now at 30 years old, Staal’s already subpar offensive game has seemed to deteriorate even further. Out of all NHL defensemen to average over 19 minutes of ice time and play in more than one game, Staal had the fourth lowest points per game rate. Or put another way, he was ranked 116th out of 119 defenders. And on his own team, his 0.14 points per game rate was ranked dead-last, even behind Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, and Steven Kampfer. Yes, the guys who were either just bought out, retired, or didn’t even spend a lot of time in the NHL. There are some serious problems when you can’t even beat out Steven Kampfer and I haven’t even begun to talk about Staal’s defensive play yet.
For those of you who watched Marc Staal play in person, it wasn’t hard to notice that his defensive game also took a hit this year. While he may not be the worst defenseman in the league, sometimes you couldn’t imagine what Staal was thinking on the ice.
Too many times Staal could be found out of position or hemmed in the defensive zone bleeding shot attempts. At a CF% of 43.9%, Staal finished with the second lowest rating on the team, only in front of the infamous Dan Girardi. Out of all NHL defenseman, Staal’s CF% was ranked 204th out of 242 defensemen who played in at least 12 games.
But what’s the icing on the cake is Staal’s salary, as he’s getting paid $5.7 million per year. Last season, Staal was the Rangers’ highest paid defender, making $1 million more than captain Ryan McDonagh, the heart and soul of the Rangers defensive group and entire team. But while McDonagh is making his measly $4.7 million, Staal is out there eating up 7.6% of the team’s cap space. With a cap hit similar to Hampus Lindholm’s and Duncan Keith’s, Staal is currently the 23rd highest paid defender in the entire league, yet doesn’t come close to providing nearly enough value. And therein lies the biggest problem in evaluating Staal.
The basis for judging Staal will always be grounded in failing to meet expectations. There was once a time where Staal could meaningfully contribute to the lineup, leaned upon as a solid defender. But even though we would all like the Staal of old to appear, those times are gone. At best, Staal’s a third-pairing defenseman now who should see limited minutes in a sheltered role. And to be honest, I don’t think he would be bad in that sort of situation. While I’ve spent the whole article talking about how bad Staal is (and poking fun at the fact that nobody even wanted to write his report card), I wouldn’t mind having Staal on my team as a sixth defender for around $1 million per year. But sadly, that’s not how things are. On the Rangers last season, Staal was a second pairing defenseman and a miserable one at that. It’d be nice to see how different things would be without factors beyond his control at play (like his usage and contract) but at the end of the day, Staal was an anchor to the team. His lackluster offensive play, down-right terrible defensive efforts, and failure to meet expectations almost force me to give him a solid F for the year. However, I’m a nice guy, so I guess I’ll go with a D- as Staal’s final grade.