Red Wings: Another Year of Marc Staal Is Not a Bad Thing

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Expectations were quite low for Marc Staal heading into the ’20-’21 season after the New York Rangers sent the Detroit Red Wings a second round pick to take on his contract. However, while he struggled at the beginning of the year, Staal found chemistry with his defensive pairing and actually played solid defense for much of the season. It seems as though the organization agreed, as Staal was re-signed to a one-year, $2 million contract.

Age: 34
Left Defenseman
Second Year With the Red Wings
Stats Snapshot:
Goals: 3
Assists: 7
CF%: 39.4
Pts/60: 0.6
ixG: 3.01
GAR: -0.4
(Advanced Stats Courtesy of Evolving-Hockey)

Last Season With the Red Wings

Last season did not start great for Staal. Defensive lapses and mistakes began to build up and it looked like fan expectations were right on the nose. However, Staal began to develop chemistry with his defensive pairing, Troy Stecher, and the season began to turn around. While Staal’s offense was well below average throughout the season (his three goals and seven assists actually aren’t terrible on a defense that couldn’t generate anything offensively, but his sub-40 percent corsi-for percentage and negative GAR are pretty rough), defensively, Staal and Stecher became a shutdown pairing. As of early March, the pair had the lowest goals against per 60 in the league at 1.55. Some could argue that Stecher was the main reason behind the success, but there’s no doubt Staal gained some major confidence as a result. The mistakes started to disappear, and the season turned around for Staal. In fact, at the trade deadline, there were rumors that other teams were showing interest in the 34 year old defenseman.

Best Case Scenario This Season

Staal and Stecher pick up right where they left off. While Staal doesn’t provide any sort of offensive upside, his defense is very solid.  Staal limits his mistakes like he did in the latter half of the 2020-21 season, filling his real as a purely defensive veteran on the left side of the ice. As the deadline nears, playoff teams looking to strengthen their defensive core start inquiring about the veteran left shot defenseman in Detroit. At the deadline, a team gives up an asset for the 2022 NHL Draft class and Staal finishes out the 2021-22 season with a team that has deep playoff asperations.

Worst Case Scenario

Staal looks like he did at the beginning of last season. The few defensive mistakes fans saw early last season start to slide into the rest of the season and Staal starts to lose confidence. Eventually, Jordan Oesterle steps in to fill the spot and Staal spends the rest of the season as the seventh forward.

The Prediction Part

Staal does what he’s asked to do. He doesn’t provide almost any sort of offense (at least in terms of statistics), but the Staal-Stecher line continues to shut down opposing teams while making limited mistakes. With prospects coming up the pipeline, it’s not probable that Staal plays his way into another contract (unless he has a fantastic season). He’s going to act as an effective fill-in on the roster: low-ceiling and low-floor.

Probability of Becoming a Trade Deadline Target: Likely

Yes, it’s true that a no-trade clause was a part of Staal’s new contract with Detroit. But that doesn’t mean a move won’t happen, it just gives the player more control of where he goes – very likely to ensure he’s heading towards a contender if moved.

Last season, there were some rumors before the deadline of some interest in Staal. With a good amount of depth defensively this year, losing Staal wouldn’t really affect the team all that much. Yes, they’d miss his experience and some of the intangibles that a veteran brings to the roster, but with players like Jordan Oesterle waiting in the Wings, it would be worth the assets. However, this all depends on the sort of year Staal has. If he is a defensive stalwart with Stecher again, Steve Yzerman should be able to find a buyer.

The Bottom Line

Staal’s play in the upcoming season probably won’t play too much into the wins and losses column at the end of the season. The re-signing was made to keep a roster spot filled with a competent player, and defensively, Staal was well above competent last year. His offensive struggles will also be somewhat masked by the additions of Moritz Seider and Nick Leddy to the defense, as the two will probably finally generate some points on the back end. Expect a pretty low-ceiling, low-floor hockey from Staal this season. Luckily, that’s fits right into Head Coach Jeff Blashill’s scheming.

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