Grading The Rangers: Marc Staal


The names on the list of defensemen left to evaluate are rapidly coming to a close. Today, we’ll examine Marc Staal.

The anchor. The backbone. The crown jewel of the Rangers defense. These are all ways to describe what Marc Staal means to the New York Rangers. He, along with his partner Dan Girardi, are the guys relied on to shut down the oppositions best players. You would think when you have to take regular shifts against the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Steven Stamkos that some players might shy away from the challenge. Not Marc Staal, who whole-heartedly relishes the chance to shut down the NHL’s elite players.

Let’s take a closer look at the 2010-2011 season that was for Marc Staal:

What We Expected:

For Marc Staal to continue to be the best shutdown defenseman the Rangers have. When paired with Dan Girardi, they are the Rangers #1 defense pair. Coming off a 2009-2010 campaign with 178 hits and nearly 100 blocked shots (97 to be exact), it was easy to assume Marc Staal could improve on those numbers.

Additionally, the goal was to add some more offense to his game. Since John Tortorella took over as head coach, he’s always thought Marc Staal had the skills necessary to become a solid, two-way defenseman, urging Staal to join the rush and take more shots. The most Staal ever scored in a season was 49 points (11g, 38a) in 2005-2006 with the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL. However, Torts sees the potential in Staal and wants him to take the next step in his game.

How He Did:

Marc Staal easily surpassed his expectations to have another fine season on Broadway. He finished the regular season with 109 blocked shots, following an identity and style of play the Rangers developed during the season and sustained throughout. While hits did go down (140) and plus minus was only +8, Staal has earned the full trust and respect of his teammates and coaches. How many nights did you hear Torts proclaim how good Staal played or was key to victory? Nearly every single game.

Staal’s offensive numbers (7g, 22a) were similar to his prior season but when you look closer you see that Staal contributed in different ways. In his first 3 seasons, Marc Staal did not record a single special teams point. Granted, he didn’t see much time on the power play and when he’s on the penalty kill its to play defense not score. However, going along with his expectations this season, Staal saw some limited action at the point on the power play this season. Remarkably, 4 of Staal’s 7 goals were with the man advantage.

Perhaps Staal most memorable moment occurred on November 15th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Down 2-1 after giving up 2 goals in the 3rd and being shorthanded, Marc Staal took the puck end-to-end and scored shorthanded with less than 2 minutes to go to tie the game. The Rangers would do on to win in OT on a beautiful passing play by Brandon Dubinsky & Ryan Callahan.

However, the one thing you did was Marc Staal worn down towards the end of the season due to the incredible amounts of ice time he logged this season. On average, Staal was on the ice for more than 27 minutes a game. This was most evident in the 5-game playoff series with the Washington Capitals, where Staal’s game seemed to slip a tad, where his turnover in OT of Game 1 lead to Alex Semin’s GWG. However, this was a rare blemish on an otherwise successful season for Marc Staal

Final Grade: A

How can you not give Marc Staal anything other than an A? He exceeded his expectations once again this season, continued to grow & improve as a player, and wore the “A” on his sleeve for the first time in his career, displaying the leadership of his teammates on the ice every night. Him and Dan Girardi are the engine that drives the Rangers’ defense and will continue to drive it hopefully for the next decade. What’s most remarkable is at 24 years old, we still haven’t seen the best of what Marc Staal has to offer.

Going Forward:

Prior to this season, Marc Staal signed a 5-year, $19.875 million dollar deal so he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. With a cap hit just south of $4 million, it’s a bargain for New York when, in a couple seasons, the Rangers will have a great defenseman at a very reasonable cap hit. He’s already established himself as one of the better shutdown defenseman in the NHL. If he can add an offensive element to his game, while maintaining his defensive prowess and maybe adding more of a nasty edge as well, then Marc Staal could be one of the NHL’s elite defenseman.