Marc Staal has been a constant on the Rangers blue line for 11 seasons. He plays a quiet game, but his experience has helped the team find its way back to winning games.
When the playoffs concluded last season, many knew the New York Rangers would have to do something to change the look of the defense.
Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were both mentioned as potential buy-out possibilities before the team could make any improvements on the blue line. General manager Jeff Gorton and the coaching staff decided it was best to buy-out Dan Girardi and keep the familiar No. 18 on the roster.
Ultimately, it has turned out to be a good decision for the team and for Staal.
When training camp broke, Marc Staal began the season on the third defensive pair with newcomer Anthony DeAngelo. The thought was Staal could play with DeAngelo and eat up some minutes so that the top four defensemen could get a break when needed throughout the games. That plan didn’t work out too well, as DeAngelo was sent down to the Harford Wolf Pack early in the season.
Marc Staal, however, slowly found his game and he has now been playing consistent minutes all year long. Staal has been played on all three pairings this season. He has been partnered with Ryan McDonagh, Brendan Smith, and Nick Holden just to name a few. His stay-at-home style enables whoever he is partnered with to be aggressive as they know Staal will be able to handle whatever comes his way.
Staal’s awareness on the ice is something that cannot be taught. He rarely turns the puck over or makes the ill-advised pass across the ice where, at times, players get in trouble. His physicality and long reach along the boards always gives him the ability to win the battles for the puck. Staal will engage in hits whenever he can, but he is smart enough to not let a hit take him out of position on the ice.
Marc Staal is not going to be the defenseman that will score a lot of goals or rack up the assists. That really has never been his game. This season, he only has one goal with four assists and is a plus-two. For his 11-year career, he has scored 38 goals along with 123 helpers. His value to this team now is what it has always been: His success on the ice with his speed and punishing hits.
Staal is averaging just over 17 minutes on the ice per game this season. His career average is right around 21 minutes. Granted, his average has dropped a little as has his status on the team. He played bigger minutes when he was on the top pairing earlier in his career but when this season began, no one expected the consistency he has given the team. In his last five games, he is averaging 16:21 minutes on the ice.
His old-school style of clearing out in front of the net helps out his goaltender frequently.
Woof Staal pic.twitter.com/STMNHH6AZA
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) December 6, 2017
An example of this was the last game he played in at Pittsburgh. Patric Hornqvist was in front of Ondrej Pavelec as the goalie was covering up a loose puck. Staal knocked him over like he was a feather.
Marc Staal may have lost a step or two over the last few years, but that comes with the game, especially in professional hockey. He still has a ton to offer the Rangers.
The team has been struggling a little on the back end this season, yet a lot of that is not on Marc Staal, though fans may think otherwise. Staal has given a lot to this team; his injury to his eye a few years back is the one thought of most. No one can ever challenge his character or his heart. The man will play as hard as anyone in the league and will always choose the team first.
No one knows what the Rangers will do with Staal as the season concludes. He has three more years left on his contract at $5.7 million per year, which includes a no-move clause.
One thing is certain regarding Staal; he will give his team everything he has to get this team wins. That could lead to one more attempt at winning it all in June.