Red Wings Player Grades: Was Marc Staal Really That Bad?

Octopus Thrower

Going into the season, expectations were quite low for Marc Staal. Early on, Red Wings fans were pretty critical of his defensive play, to say the least. But was he really that bad? In his first year as a Detroit Red Wings, how did Staal’s performance shake out?

Previous Player Report Cards:
Thomas Greiss | Jakub Vrana | Taro Hirose | Richard Panik | Jonathan Bernier | Dylan Larkin

2021 Statline

Games Played: 56

Goals: 3

Assists: 7

+/-: -5

CF%: 43.7%

Preseason Projection

Bottom-Pairing Defenseman

2021 Season in a Nutshell

After 12 years of suiting up for the New York Rangers, Marc Staal was shipped off to Detroit – along with his hefty $5.7 million contract. In exchange for taking the cap hit, the Red Wings also received a second round draft pick.

To say expectations were low for Staal heading into this season is an understatement. The Rangers were willing to force him off the books for good reason; his play was nowhere near the large yearly salary he was receiving. Detroit fans expected Staal to act as a bottom-pairing, “warm body” to fill the roster.

In the first few games, it looked like fans were right on the nose. Staal looked out of place on an NHL team, seemingly turning over the puck more than he was passing it.

But Staal found a way to turn it around, at least a little – with the help of Troy Stecher. In fact, in early March, the pair had the best goals against per 60 minutes in the league at 1.55, although the analytics were a bit ugly at the end of the season. Staal was almost never the best defensemen on the ice – but as the season progressed, he became less and less noticeable. For a defenseman, that is often a good sign.

They Said It

“He’s a great pro in a lot of different ways. He’s a warrior, he plays through injuries, he’s out there on days where potentially as an older player could ask for maybe a practice off. He demands that he goes out there.”

-Jeff Blashill per

Circumstance is important when grading players, and Marc Staal’s situation certainly needs to be considered. It is true that, for the most part, Staal played mediocre hockey this year. But Steve Yzerman received a second round pick just to have Staal on the roster, that is not a bad situation by any means. It’s just a bonus that he wasn’t a liability on the ice – for the most part. He was a veteran to fill out a meager roster, and he did what he was deployed to do (most of the time). There were certainly moments in the season where Staal looked lost on the ice, especially in the first few weeks, but he adjusted. Much of that adjusting coincided with the Troy Stecher pairing, but Staal was competent nonetheless. He doesn’t deserve a grade better than average considering his metrics and defense lapses, but for the most part, Staal did what he needed to.

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