Through five games New York Rangers head coach David Quinn has given alternate captain Marc Staal an average of 16:46 TOI/GP. For Staal, 31, that’s a noteworthy drop from the ice time he saw last season under former head coach Alain Vigneault. So, what has Quinn gotten out of the Rangers’ longest-tenured skater thus far?
Through five games Staal has one assist, eight shots on net, and three minor penalties. A closer look at the numbers tells us that Staal has a -3.6 relative Corsi for percentage (only Adam McQuaid’s -4.36 rel CF% is worse) and has been a negative influence on his partner Neal Pionk’s possession numbers. To be clear, we are definitely looking at a small sample size here and we need to tread carefully with five game sample sizes, but these numbers are not atypical for Staal — and that’s the point.
It’s worth nothing that Staal also hasn’t really passed the eye test (as subjective as it is). He has seven hits and seven blocked shots thus far, which seems low for a player of his reputation. His only point of the season was a pass that deflected off of an Edmonton Oilers’ skate and went straight to Mika Zibanejad. Unfortunately for Staal, the appearance of a new coach has not cured him of the miscues that have become far too frequent for him over the last few years.
Last week, Tom Urtz Jr. wrote about Staal, Pionk, and accountability. And really, this article is just a continuation of the discussion that Tom started on October 9.
According to Corsica, Staal and Pionk have skated 34.52 together this season at evens. The pairing has a Corsi differential of 26 for and 51 against for a net differential of -25 and a 33.77 Corsi For percentage. They also have a Relative Corsi For percentage of -16.48, a Goals For percentage of 0, and a Relative Goals For percentage of -46.15. However, the pair’s PDO sits at 92.31 which suggest they have been a tad unlucky. Overall it has been bad, but it’s also a small sample, so it’s worth comparing to last season.
As we all know, Quinn scratched Kevin Shattenkirk against the San Jose Sharks after giving him just 7:29 TOI against the Carolina Hurricanes. Heading into that game, Shattenkirk had not looked quite like himself. At the time, many took Quinn’s decision to scratch a player he has a lot of history with as a clear message that everyone was going to be held accountable.
So, will Quinn scratch Staal like he has scratched Shattenkirk and Pionk (twice)? If he is measuring by performance and the need to evaluate young players, he absolutely should. But we don’t really know how Quinn is measuring the performance of his players just yet, do we?
What we do know is that Staal has the lowest average TOI on the Rangers’ blue line through five games. So, maybe Quinn is aware that Staal is not exactly a bulwark of defense. One would think that the next logical step for Quinn would be to let Staal watch a game or two from the press box, especially in the second game of a back-to-back that’s on the road — for instance, the Rangers game in Washington against the Capitals on October 17.
Figuring out what to do with Staal is a big test for the Rangers’ new bench boss. Staal is a popular, likeable player, but he is no longer a reliable top-four defenseman in the NHL. We’ve heard that Quinn cares about analytics and we’ve heard that accountability is central to his identity and philosophy as a coach. If both of those things are true, Staal should be sitting sometime in the near future so that players like Pionk, Tony DeAngelo, and even Fredrik Claesson can get some ice time.
Full disclosure: I decided to write about this piece before seeing that Dave Shapiro of Blue Seat Blogs had published something similar. Here’s a link to his take on the Quinn and Staal situation for those who are curious.
Possession data courtesy of Corsica.Hockey and NaturalStatTrick.com