Why Steve Yzerman should keep Marc Staal with Detroit Red Wings past 1,000-game milestone

Detroit Free Press

Marc Staal recalled a funny moment recently: The Detroit Red Wings were playing the Carolina Hurricanes, and he found himself battling his brother, Jordan Staal, in a corner. An official blew his whistle, and Marc was assessed a holding call, much to Jordan’s delight.

“It was a bad penalty, bad call,” Staal said. “He was laughing in my ear as he was falling down. That tells you what he thought about the call, too.”

It’s old hat for the brothers to play against one another: Marc spent the first 892 games of his NHL career with the New York Rangers, before an October 2020 trade sent him to the Wings. He projects to play in his 1,000th game Saturday, joining Jordan and Eric as the first three brothers in NHL history to all reach that milestone.

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“It’s pretty special,” Staal said this week. “I’ve been fortunate and grateful to have played in this league a long time and to join my brothers in that category is pretty cool as well. For us to be able to play this long is special, and it’s something we don’t take for granted. We’re very aware of how lucky we are. It’s a cool thing, for sure. It should be a fun night.”

Marc was with the Wings in Carolina on April 12, 2021, when Jordan played in his 1,000th game. Eric Staal, meanwhile, played in his 1,000th game on March 19, 2017. (The brothers are close, but there’s no mercy during games: Marc missed the first half of the 2011-12 season with post-concussion symptoms from being checked by Eric.) A fourth brother, Jared, played two games for Carolina in 2012-13.

Marc, 35, is in the last year of his contract; the 6-foot-4, 208-pound veteran defenseman is expected to garner interest with the March 21 trade deadline approaching. But general manager Steve Yzerman held onto Staal last year, and gave him a no-movement clause when he signed again for one year and $2 million last summer. Staal might agree to a trade (especially if the Hurricanes call) but he’s appreciative of what he has with the Wings.

“If something comes along that’s a great fit and Steve wants to do it, I’ll look at it,” Staal said. “But other than that, I enjoy playing here. I like it here.

“It’s been an up-and-down couple years, we’ve had some good stretches and bad stretches, but it’s been a fun team to compete with and work hard with.”

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It’s doubtful the Wings would get more in a trade than what Staal brings. He plays a physical game, is responsible defensively (he had a team-best plus-9 rating entering Thursday) and gets rave reviews as a mentor, especially for rookie Moritz Seider.

“Marc garners respect because of the person he is, because of the approach that he takes, and certainly because of what he’s accomplished in his career,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s been around lots of good teams and been a really good player in this league, so he has Seid’s respect.

“I think it’s extremely important to have good models in the dressing room of how to do it right, and certainly Staalsie is somebody who does it right every day. Shows up every day for practice, even the days when he’s not feeling great. Works extremely hard. Has a really good even-keeled demeanor about him, doesn’t get too high or too low. Has fun at the appropriate times and wants to win and sacrifices to win. So he’s been a really good model for a guy like Seids.”

Staal wouldn’t have approached his milestone if he wasn’t as dedicated as he is talented, and the same leadership qualities that earned him an “A” on his sweater with the Rangers appealed to the Wings last summer when they needed new alternate captains.

“There were a number of good candidates of guys who have the character to be a great leader on our team, but certainly Marc was one who rose to the forefront for the respect he’s garnered in the locker room,” Blashill said. “Ultimately, to be a good leader, you have to have the respect of the people you’re leading, and he’s got that in spades.”

If anything, it makes sense to extend Staal another year. Veteran defensemen Danny DeKeyser, Nick Leddy and Troy Stecher are all in the last year of their contracts, and, even with 2021 first-round pick Simon Edvinsson projected to make next season’s lineup, the Wings still need a veteran, and Staal has proven a terrific fit.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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