Monday, March 14, 2011

The Disappointing Act of Jordan Staal

It was his turn to step up with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out with various injuries.  It was his ship to take hold and guide.  He had the forum he wanted at the start of the season when he asked to have a larger role on the team.  It was time for Jordan Staal to step up and show his game is emerging.

Instead, what has been seen seems typical of Jordan Staal.  Wide open shot in front?  Wide right.  Solid pass to set up a score?  In the feet.  Defensive play?  Steady if unspectacular.  There have been games of genius but they've been met with four or five games prior of disappointment.  Foot and hand injuries can be seen as a way to write this off but it's hard to swallow after 31 games.

The untapped offensive skill that has been argued lies within Jordan?  After those 31 games he's on pace for 52 points, or just above his career average.  His shooting percentage, with 8 goals on 68 shots?  A stellar 11.5%.  Right around the same pace as his prior years with the exception of his break out rookie season.  Goals per season pace?  21 goals this season.  On pace for the exact same as the last two seasons.  Only thing that looks to increase is his assist total, which would be around three greater than his prior season's best.

In a time in which Jordan Staal is given his chance to shine through injuries, given the opportunity to play with higher caliber talent on wing in acquired sniper Alexei Kovalev and power forward James Neal he was so disappointing that he was moved back to a line with his traditional line mates Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke with the likes of Max Talbot, Dustin Jeffrey, and Mark Letestu being given the nod ahead of him.

While he can be given the benefit of the doubt with his injuries keeping him out the early part of the season and thus thrusting him into the spot light when the injuries continued to mount, this seems to be more of a continuation of his usual standard of performance.  It's the same erratic shot, same poor skating, and same general aloofness that seems to follow Staal around the ice.

Is this an advocacy of trading Jordan Staal?  Not necessarily.  Though a return similar to the James Neal trade, with the likes of Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey showing they can fill and maintain a high level as third line center, the extra $4 million would be great for the voids next to Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

Which this is an advocacy towards is keeping Jordan Staal where he belongs: on the third line.  He's one of the best third line centers bar none.  He plays solid defense and still has the ability to contribute 50 points per season.  That's nothing to laugh at.  The notion of Jordan Staal on a higher line?  A laugh riot.

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