Apr 3, 2012, 2:53 PM EST
From ESPN (Insider):
Depth on defense is a bit of a concern for the Rangers, and there’s a big difference if Staal is playing like a bottom-pair defenseman rather than a guy capable of playing on the top pair. “He’s gone, for me, from a Norris trophy candidate to a guy playing in the five- or six-hole, and he looks like it,” one coach said. “If he can get anywhere near that level, it’d change things … but I haven’t seen signs he’s getting better.”
Our scout isn’t quite as concerned. “He’s not great but certainly plays well within reason. He’s better than most at operating at 80 percent,” he said. “I think he’ll be able to take his game to a very good level. I’m not so much worried about him as I would be injuries [on defense] in general.”
By the numbers, Staal’s a fourth defenseman rather than a fifth/sixth — he’s fourth amongst all Rangers blueliners in time on ice per game (19:44), shifts per game (23.5) and shorthanded minutes per game (1:37).
Regardless, it’s a far cry from his role of last season, when he averaged over 25 minutes a game in the regular season before getting bumped to 28:01 per night in a five-game playoff loss to the Capitals.
As for this year, Staal missed the first 36 games dealing with the effects of a concussion suffered last February. While he has seen more ice time recently — there were three games in March where Staal played over 24 minutes — one wonders if he’s still out of sorts after missing what amounted to half the regular season.
One final note: Come playoff time, it’ll be interesting to see if Tortorella ever goes back to last year’s dynamic shutdown pairing of Staal and Dan Girardi. The two were often used to neutralize the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby but, with Girardi averaging over 26 minutes and night and now flourishing with partner Ryan McDonagh, it would be hard for Staal to get back in that mix.
- PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Kings win Cup, Martinez the OT hero 0
- Welcome to PHT’s top 14 stories for 2014 0
- Scott suspended four games for punch that was ‘neither predictable, nor acceptable’ 22
- Sharks’ Scott has hearing for his punch to Jackman 29
- (Video) PHT Extra: Christmas wish lists from around the NHL 2
- PHT interviews Don Maloney, who knows he has a big trade chip in Vermette 7
- Backstrom to start for Wild, who need their goalies to be ‘better’ 13
- NHL on NBCSN: Avs challenge Blues after narrow losses to St. Louis 6
- Gaudreau’s first hat trick helps Flames stun Kings 7
- Fowler after Ducks’ win vs. Sharks: ‘We never give up’ 1
- Sabres aren’t happy with league’s decision regarding Bartkowski (73)
- Report: NHL won’t hold hearing for Bartkowski hit (55)
- Video: Who are the Bruins targeting in trade talks? (47)
- Video: Bartkowski delivers controversial hit to Gionta, fights Foligno (47)
- Could Malkin be the next player to be fined for diving? (42)