One thing that’s interesting about Jordan Staal, and that makes me excited to see him play for the Hurricanes, is the situation he found himself in during his last two years in Pittsburgh. Pretty much everyone knows about the Penguins’ injury problems, if only because pretty much everyone finds it difficult to avoid news about Malkin and Crosby. What’s less well known is how much Jordan Staal stepped up in Crosby and Malkin’s absence.
Prior to the Penguins’ injury issues, Staal was very firmly a third line center. As a shutdown center, he was excellent, but as with a lot of third line centers, he didn’t have a lot of opportunity to gain some scoring flash. Moving up the ranks through sheer necessity, though, provided him with plenty of time to develop his talent. He fell off in goals from his first year on the team, but notched many more assist. And despite playing in only 62 games last year, he got a career high 50 points (and, the year before that, had 30 points in only 42 games).
The idea that Staal was allowed to blossom when not in the shadow of Crosby and Malkin isn’t a new one, but Rutherford’s the GM who was able to capitalize on that (thanks, Eric Staal!). He’s repeatedly stated that he thinks J Staal’s best years are ahead of him. I assume the front office is also hoping that J Staal will rejuvenate E Staal, whose production suffered from a nearly half-season slump last year – notably, after the departure of Erik Cole. If J Staal stays healthy – and his problems, such as his foot injury, are certainly manageable, especially with someone who was pretty healthy before they started – then he could be a powerhouse.
This all makes me kind of want to curl up in a ball and cry, of course, considering the time we’re currently losing to the lockout. I’ve mentioned before what a disappointment this is as a Canes fan, but I’m trying to think positively so I don’t cry like a baby. Even half a year of Semin would be better than nothing (though there’s no guarantee that we’ll get even that), and Jordan Staal is locked down for 6 years. Even if he and Eric have no chemistry whatsoever, that still makes for an intimidating top six. Additionally, E Staal isn’t always the most defensively responsible top line center around, and even when he was de facto the top line center, J Staal was more defensively responsible than most. J Staal could very well hit another 50-point season, or even beat his previous record, playing with E Staal or Skinner (or, hopefully, Semin). I said at the time he was a good acquisition. Actually declaring it a good move will have to wait until the lockout’s over, but it’s not exactly looking like a bad move upon closer inspection.