Players

It is time for the Rangers to make Marc Staal a healthy scratch

The NY Rangers defenseman has been one of the worst in the league so far

Marc Staal has been a career New York Ranger, and prior to the past 4-5 years, a relatively beloved one at that. Staal made the immediate jump to the NHL for the 2007-2008 season after two more seasons in the OHL, and he made an immediate impact. He was the first home grown guy to make an impact and really paved the way for others in the runs the Rangers had in the early 2010’s. However as the NHL has evolved and as Staal has aged, he’s become less effective and more a liability. Unfortunately, gone are the days of watching him one-arm Alex Ovechkin to the ice as he crosses the high slot.

Staal has been below replacement level for quite some time now and unfortunately hasn’t gotten better with a coaching and deployment change. Perhaps part of this was due to the combination of Alain Vigneault and David Quinn still insisting he be out there in high pressure situations (see: 2017 playoffs). The thought process was sound, but it is now a full two seasons later, Staal two years older, and a new coach with a simpler system. Staal is still down right bad. And it is rough to watch for a career Ranger who has given everything to this team.

How bad, you ask? Well, it’s real bad.

Staal has been so bad that he single-handedly takes double-digit shot share down with him while he is on the ice. This is also an over simplified version. Here’s the full version. The Rangers average 18 shot attempts for fewer and 15 shot attempts against more when he’s on the ice. The team CF% goes from 32.5% with him on the ice to 46.8% without him on the ice. The team xGF% jumps from 30.7% to 40.6% with him off the ice. Sure, the team is still bad without him on the ice, but that’s one helluva negative impact when on the ice.

Even for those who aren’t overly stats inclined, it’s clear as day while he’s on the ice. The Rangers are pinned regularly in their own zone when he’s out there. It’s no coincidence, and it’s just a disaster for a guy who is playing 33% of the defensive ice time right now (15 minutes a game with him out there, 30 minutes without at even strength). Also worth noting that this is all at even strength, so penalty kill (where Staal plays) and powerplay (where he does not) are not included here.

If the Blueshirts are intent on holding players accountable for poor play, then Staal’s name should be at the top of the list. He, on his own, is making the Rangers a bottom-ten team. If the Rangers want to win games, then the decision to bench him is clear. They have the cap space to eat his salary in the press box, and Brendan Smith has been producing better numbers all along anyway.

There are two sides to the fence here. The first is that this is a rebuilding season and the Rangers are tanking, in which Staal’s presence is a frustrating need. We don’t know how he is in the locker room, but in this scenario he’s eating ice time while other kids develop in the AHL. The second is that the coaching staff believes he is part of the solution, and they need him to win games. To that, see the last sentence of the above paragraph.

If the Rangers intend to win games this year and put a team on the ice that isn’t bottom-ten or bottom-five, then the biggest difference maker decision is to scratch Staal, as painful as it sounds. Move Smith back to defense where he belongs, and you have yourself a lineup that still isn’t overly great, but won’t get as caved on a nightly basis as we’ve seen.

The Rangers have a history of loyalty to their players, and it is showing with Staal. This is the hardest part of the rebuild, saying goodbye to players that have spent their careers in New York. They’ve done it already with Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh. It’s time to do the same with Staal.

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27 Comments

  1. Including the cap hits of Girardi and Shatt, this defense is worth $31m a year which is remarkable. The entire leftside of the defense is abominable and not just Staal. Hajek has been absolute garbage (I cannot believe the Rangers targeted him in that horrific McD trade; thank god we draft Lunkvist with that pick), and Skjei is maybe a NHL third pairing guy. Overall, the only bright side so far this season has been Fox who I didn’t really expect to be this good. Trouba has been decent, but he’s not the dominating presence that we hoped for (he just randomly pummels the puck at net and his dzone presence isn’t great and he’s been embarrassed at times in pre-season and the regular season). And TonyD continues to be a space cadet in his own zone.

    Another big issue is that our PK continues to be comically bad. Hank’s 5v5 numbers are excellent, but on the PK everything we give up is wide open high danger shots in the SLOT! We saw that last year as well, where for the first half of the year, Hank actually was really good at 5v5, but was getting lit up on the PK (that vaunted Staal/Pionk pairing really did its best to get us Kaako). Of course Quinn in all his glory ran Hank into the ground in the first half of the season and afterwards really wasn’t the same (Georgiev constantly being sent to Harford during that time, for minutes was remarkable).

    On the PK, I assume it is coaching, because in the past Hank has been able to make up for the lack of talent. The past two years he has not. The thing that ultimately makes me laugh is that our FO probably believed they had a playoff team on their hands once they signed Panarin and Trouba. I just don’t think they can assess the squad at all.

  2. Can we at least sit Staal in one of 2 back to back games?

    The problem as I see it – DQ and Lindy have trust in players reputations and not their on-ice performance. Fast is a great team guy. Does it translate to points? I don’t think so. Tony D is a head case – unsure if this is still true. Staal is a shutdown defenseman – also not sure this is true anymore. We need an analytics guy to work with the coaching staff. Explain why defensive pairings without Staal work better – by the numbers. Maybe this would also help the PK and the PP.
    Analytics might also make McKegg and Haley expendable.

  3. Good read Dave. I’ve been howling at the moon and my TV the past few years over Staal’s terrible play and the situations he’s put in. He’s not up to it and it’s hurting the team. He can’t clear the puck out of his zone and it often ends up on the stick of the opposition. You’d think he’d learn to flip it high out of the zone the way Boston does whenever they’re pinned down in their own end.

    Which brings me to the other part of this situation…the coaching. Linsey Ruff has been in charge of the D-corps and PK for a few years now and he is just not good at coaching, teaching, or implementing a system that his players can succeed in. I’m not a technical fan, but I don’t see many adjustments being made year over year much less game to game. I think I read today where our D is dead last in the league in a bunch of categories. Ruff has got to go!

    Yes, Staal is past his prime, but the coaches aren’t helping him either. I remember when Girardi was past his prime playing for the Rangers. He looked done…stick a fork in him done. Then he signs with Tampa and I see him being utilized differently there and he was solid for them. He even scored a goal, joining the play, against the Rangers last year. My point is, and you touched on this in your article, the coaches need to place Staal in situations he can be successful in, like 3rd pairing…with a few press box nights in between. He makes too much $ to scratch every night, but he should be scratched often.

    1. Thank God someone has finally mentioned Ruff. He is a complete disaster and has no business coaching in the NHL. The defensive structure is non-existent as evidenced by the free entry into our zone. It’s as if the team is afraid to stand up at the blue line. This is structural and has nothing to do with personnel. When it is easy to gain entry you chase and when you chase you are not possessing the puck. Lindy Ruff is a huge part of the problem in NY, bottom line !!!!

      1. I’m trying to figure out if you’re being facetious or not when you say “finally someone mentioned Ruff.” I double checked and this is your first comment on this site. So I’m going with you missed these:

        https://blueseatblogs.com/2019/10/11/ny-rangers-continue-to-give-up-the-blue-line-on-opposing-rushes-by-design/

        https://blueseatblogs.com/2018/12/27/breaking-down-the-defensive-zone-issues/

        https://blueseatblogs.com/2019/02/14/the-rangers-have-a-ruff-problem-to-address/

  4. You do not need corsi stats.Your eyes don’t lie.He is horrible.He doesn’t have pereferal vision.He allows the forwards to constantly play the puck when he is first one in corners.He is a shell of his former self.3 major injuries have destroyed a good dman.Lindgren should have made team or play Smith as a dman not a 3rd line forward.You weaken another line.

  5. Let’s not forget the role injuries have played in his career. I still believe that if he had two good eyes he wouldn’t be nearly the disaster he’s been in the defensive zone the last couple of years — not to mention the affect it’s had on his offensive skills. He really needs to consider retiring next season and do us all a favor. Certainly a guy though that the organization should be happy to keep in the family.

  6. Then again, maybe analytics are just crap. Any evidence that they are useful?? What teams rely heavily on analytics? Which don’t?Are the analytics teams more successful? Or does none of this matter as long as it fit the narrative.

    I did an analysis a some time ago and discovered that scoring was maybe 1/4 shot quantity and 3/4 PDO. Yes, because of sample size error, we can measure quantity more accurately, but so what. Not saying Staal is great, but a defenseman who strives to give the goalie shots he can handle can be more valuable than one who restricts shots.

      1. PDO is more important than possession. It is however harder to measure. As long as management is smart and devote their primary focus to getting good PDO players, possession stats (when computed as a team stat) give reasonable indications of likely success. But if management becomes delusional and regards possession stats as everything, you will get good possession teams that are abysmal.

  7. Unfortunately Stall is a mentor to all these young guys and it definitely shows in Skjei. PLEASE STOP doing the knee drag in your own zone!!! The Rangers need to rid themselves of Ruff. He is not in tune with the modern game.

    1. The Rangers have a history of loyalty to their players, and it is showing with Staal. I could not have said this better…….With all due respect to Ranger leadership….enough of this and let the kids play. I would rather see youngsters stumble than see some of the vets on this team taking away spots from the youngsters and stumbling themselves.

  8. “The Rangers have a history of loyalty to their players, and it is showing with Staal. This is the hardest part of the rebuild, saying goodbye to players that have spent their careers in New York.”

    I’ve been saying this for at least three years. WTF is the FO thinking? Marc can thank Eric for his concussion that led to the current slippery slope he is on. The good old days of Marc, and Dan as the top pair are long gone. So is Dan, while Marc drags this team down every night. If the objective is to win the lottery pick again, please continue with this course of action. If the objective is to field as good a team as you can, while developing kids, sit Marc. Better yet, ship him out to Lancaster Pa, they have beautiful fields for that old work, or should I say plow horse to graze. Marc should be sent to the glue factory, he’s done with!!!!!!!!!

    The Rainman Trio can start having fun again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Marc Staal is a class guy. He is a role model for the young players on the team. He and his old partner Dan Girardi never take a shift off. They leave what they have out there on the ice game in, game out. I will never denigrate Marc, or Dan Girardi for that matter.

    Because he is a character guy, and because he wears the ‘A’ on his jersey, I doubt that we will see Marc sitting in the press box much, if at all. It would seem wise to do it when they play some back to backs or the schedule gets heavy. He is an older player after all. It would also seem that his minutes should be sheltered. However, I get the distinct impression that DQ, like AV before him, and Gorton too, think of Marc’s play and place in the lineup far differently than us fans. So even though I think it is obvious that his role needs to be reduced, I will be surprised if it happens. I’d like to see the guy take a role as a coach perhaps, and sooner rather than later, but I doubt that is going to happen at this time.

    1. Peter

      What you say may be true, but the man is also selfish because if he really cared for the Rangers, and his pride, he’d call it a day. On numerous occasions I said he should be given a position with the organization upon retirement, but the guy insists that he can play. But my eyes tell me otherwise! Bottom line, if he had any pride at all, he’d walk into the front office, and do what Nasland did, walk away from the game with his head held high, knowing the Rangers would make good on his monies due him. Until that day comes, he’s open game for these types of posts from the fan base. Sorry to sound so cold, but life can be a bit*h!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. I think that it is likely that Marc does not view his play like we do. In that regard he is reinforced by the coaching staff, who trot him out to play every game. So Walt, he doesn’t think he is hurting the team or being selfish. That is probably why he is also in no rush to retire.

  10. Staal ain’t going anywhere till the day his contract expires. If only the Rangers were this loyal to Sergei Zubov & James Patrick in their day!

  11. How good would Alexis Lafreniere look next to Kaapo Kakko? Play Staal all the minutes he can (and cannot) handle.

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