Marc Staal is a career Ranger. His effort on the ice is never in question. Primarily a defensive defenseman, Staal’s role on this team has shifted a bit. As he has aged and the game has changed, he’s shifted from a shutdown defenseman against top opposition to a bottom-four minutes eater. His role is not to score, but to prevent the opposition from scoring and/or generating sustained offense.
Since Staal isn’t a guy that is used to put up points, his 2-9-11 line is basically a bonus on top of his main role. The question then becomes how effective Staal is in that role. The answer is not overly good. But you knew that.
Offensive numbers aside, the Rangers were a better team when Staal wasn’t on the ice. That again shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, especially when considering Staal was mostly paired with Tony DeAngelo, who isn’t the best in his own zone. The Staal-DeAngelo pairing is a classic offensive-defensive defense pairing, but it does lack on the defensive side of things. Let’s be real, DeAngelo does the heavy lifting on that pairing.
On the penalty kill, another area where Staal is relied upon heavily, the results are the same. The Rangers simply perform better when Staal isn’t on the ice. This is due to Staal’s lack of any type of puck possession skills and the quality of other defensemen in the lineup. It is what it is at this point.
Trends over time again matter, and it’s worth noting that Staal did have a surge of great play in December through January, and then again into mid-February. Those surges got him barely above league average though, and the majority of his season was spent as a below average defender.
The main criticism of Staal is that the puck is a grenade on his stick. That’s been the case since his eye injury. Over the past few years, as the league has evolved, Staal’s lack of speed has been exploited as well. The new system of giving up the blue line helps him a little in terms of positioning, but it doesn’t do him any good in the grand scheme of things.
It is what it is with Staal. His contract expires at the end of next season, in which it is safe to assume the Rangers will part ways with the alternate captain.