Can Staal get back to his dominant old self?
With Marc Staal returning to the line-up tonight, speculation will begin (again) as to whether the timing of his return is right, and whether Staal will ever be able to return to his previous best. In addition to the obvious chase for a playoff spot, and the continued (prolonged) acclimatisation to the new coaching staff, the Rangers will need to treat the second half of the season as an audition of sorts for Marc Staal.
There’s no question that Staal – at his best – is an elite All Star calibre defenseman, capable of shutting down the league’s best scorers, while also contributing offensively. However there are a boat load of questions regarding his durability, the task of re-projecting his long-term potential, and subsequently measuring his relative importance to the Rangers. In addition, the club needs to consider the financial risks that come with committing to such an injury prone and potentially concussion-vulnerable player.
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The steadiest of the steady (Elsa/Getty Images)
Suit kicked off our annual midseason grades yesterday with his review of Alain Vigneault and the coaching staff. As Suit mentioned in his preamble, we all hand out ‘performance grades’ around the mid-way point of the regular season and just after the commencement of the playoffs. As always, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization.
We do not take these grades lightly. Each grade is very well thought out. For the defense, I graded based on two areas: on-ice performance based on role on team, stats (both traditional and #fancy) based on role. It’s important to note that I stressed role on the team. This means that a player like Dan Girardi will be graded based on his role as a shutdown performer, and Michael Del Zotto on his offensive contributions.
A quick note about the numbers being used: Goals-Assists-Points, Corsi, OZone starts, Quality of Competition faced. Details here.
Ryan McDonagh (6-17-23, 51.3% Corsi, 47.4% OZ starts, 29.6% ToTm QoC)
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Per Seth Rothman, both Ryan Callahan (knee) and Marc Staal (concussion) are with the Rangers on the current road trip. Staal has been out since the December 7 loss to New Jersey, and Callahan since the December 10 loss to Nashville. Staal has been skating for a few days now, and it was rumored that he would return on this road trip. Callahan was supposed to be out 4-6 weeks with his MCL sprain, so news of him traveling with the team is a bit of a surprise. The team needs both of them back in a hurry.
Per Larry Brooks, concussed defenseman Marc Staal is skating again, having taken the ice yesterday and after practice today. There is still no timetable for his return, but Staal said that this concussion is nowhere near the same as the last concussion he had. The sooner Staal returns the better, as the Rangers could really use a boost on the blue line.
Update: Per Pat Leonard, Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot will be scratched tonight. Dorsett and Arron Asham will dress in their place.
Per Steve Zipay, Derek Dorsett (wrist) was back on the ice for this morning’s skate. Dorsett has been nursing this wrist issue for a while, and the Rangers could really use his spunk back in the lineup.
Marc Staal was not on the ice, as expected. He is suffering from “issues” that may or may not be concussion related.
The team is calling it a neck issue for now. (Update: It’s a concussion)
Staals are brothers
Today we’ll explore a subject that is near and dear to all of our hearts and livers, NHL players who are (or are they??) brothers. This topic comes about every time the Rangers play Carolina and Sam and Joe have a party over reminding us that Staals are brothers, which has become a fairly popular drinking game amongst the Rangers fan base who enjoy adult beverages from time to time. This has led me to wondering about other potential brothers, so here we go….
Last Name: Staal | Relation: Brothers
Yes, they’re brothers. Just look at them – seriously, they all look alike. The four brothers (from oldest to youngest) – Eric, Marc, Jordan and Jared – have all had more than just a minute playing professional hockey. We can thank the patriarch, Henry, for building the boys a rink in their native Thunder Bay and imbedding hockey into them at a young age. Eric has been captain of Carolina since 2010, with Jordan serving as one of his alternates since he was traded in 2012, and Marc has been a Rangers alternate captain since 2010. Jared hasn’t quite broken in yet with the Carolina organization, but it’s safe to say the genes in this family are pretty decent. Spanning from ages 23-29, the brothers have over 1,500 NHL games played with over 1,000 points (and remember, Marc is a defenseman), two Stanley Cup wins, two World Junior golds, and one Olympic gold medal. Not sure if the Rangers fans have quite forgiven Eric for concussing Marc in 2011, but next time you think your family gatherings are awkward, imagine what their Christmas must have been like that year, as Marc missed the first three months of the 2011-2012 season due to post-concussion symptoms.
Fun fact: Jordan and Eric got arrested at Eric’s bachelor party in 2007.
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MDZ: time to be a difference maker
One game does not a season make. That is why the Rangers enter tonight’s game with plenty of reason for optimism. On the flip side, your boys got some making up to do.
I want to see Michael Del Zotto start to impose himself on games more. He has the talent to be a top pair defenseman and is more talented than a guy like Dan Girardi but does he have the decision making and will to be more consistent? I’ve said it before but this is such a pivotal year for MDZ.
Speaking of Dan Girardi – not many Rangers (your King included) have yet to distinguish themselves this season but Girardi has had a particularly sloppy start. Several turnovers and he’s been caught out of position often. The Rangers need more from Girardi.
Keeping on the defensive theme – when you concede 14 goals in your first three games there are multiple issues to solve but Marc Staal is arguably the only defenseman so far that has been solid at either end of the rink. On paper the Rangers have good depth. On the ice, it hasn’t translated as it should. Is that all down to the new system being implemented?
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Norm Hull/Getty Images
Last night, the Rangers lost their 2013-2014 opener in Phoenix. It was neither pretty nor particularly encouraging. Sure, there were some bright spots; Brad Richards showed signs of life, Marc Staal looked great and the defense as a whole looked much more active in the offensive zone.
Since the pre-season started, the staff here at BSB has been preaching patience. There has been a ton of upheaval even though there was very little roster turnover from last year’s team. Not only has there been the difficulty of a coaching change and all new systems implementation, but the Blueshirts start the season on a 9-game road trip.
Derek Stepan got a late start on camp due to his contract situation and two top-6 forwards in Callahan and Hagelin are out to start the season; not to mention the disappointing camp from Chris Kreider.
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Best case: Johnson is an adequate depth defender and is significantly better than Stu Bickel in spot duty.
Worst case: Johnson is no better than Bickel and the Rangers are back where they were last year if top-six blueliners get hurt.
Best case: Stralman continues to be an unsung hero for the Blueshirts and finally earns the attention he deserves with a standout campaign, including some gaudy power play numbers.
Worst case: Stralman’s hold on the #6 job loosens and Justin Falk pushes him for playing time. Read more »
Training camp is here, the hockey world is back full time and the Rangers have what appears to be a significant amount of questions as they enter first camp under Alain Vigneault. Let’s hit the musings to open the season.
Derek Stepan: Over his first three years in the league he outscored highly rated youngsters such as Jeff Skinner and Evander Kane. He deserves a significant pay rise; it’s a lot harder to produce in a market such as New York than outposts such as Carolina or Winnipeg. That said, I’m in Sather’s corner; you do not give up your strong negotiating position. However, there has to be a comprise. Stepan is a smart kid; he should not risk his immediate future by missing camp.
Johan Hedberg – he should be cheap, knows the division but indirectly he is a huge acknowledgement by the organisation that – as is the case with Biron’s current situation – if the organisation loses Lundqvist or Biron then there is a huge vacuum of talent at the goaltending position. No one internally is anywhere near the NHL level.
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