Yesterday there was a short discussion in another thread regarding the possibility of moving Staal to wing if the Canes drafted another top-level center. Then a comment came up about his point production and although Eric had a 100 point season, he has not consistently been around that mark. One comment was;
Maybe we just have unrealisitic expectations of Staal based on Stanley Cup year memories..
Then it was said that he doesn't have the supporting cast to get him back to that level. So I decided to go back and look at the Stanley Cup year and the years leading up to this one. What I found is that the top 6 support during the Stanley Cup year was pretty damn good and the supporting cast production has basically dropped every year since. After the jump, I will have a few statistics showing what I am talking about and some of my thoughts.
The Supporting Cast are the players that played the majority of time in the Canes top 6 for that season. There were obviously other players that had time in the top 6 either due to injuries or coaching decisions, but I tried to use stats on players that generally played there a good portion of the year or played there after a trade occured (I used partial stats there).
05/06 - Staal - 82 games played, 45 goals, 55 assists, 100 points for 1.22 PPG
Combined 355 games played, 130 goals, 206 assists, 336 points for 0.95 PPG
The Canes were dominate this season. They had 4 guys at 30+ goals and 4 guys at 70+ points. Their top 6 really contributed most of the points, but Cullen & Kaberle also ended up with over 40 points that season. The bottom 6 was good, but was really used to play certain roles.
06/07 - Staal - 82 games played, 30 goals, 40 assists, 70 points for 0.85 PPG
The Supporting Cast - Justin Williams, Rod Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, Cory Stillman
Combined 355 games played, 125 goals, 195 assists, 320 points for 0.90 PPG
While the supporting cast's PPG average went down, they were still quite effective. Staal on the other hand dropped pretty considerably. 30 goals & 40 assists aren't bad numbers, but a 30 point drop isn't good. This is the only season other than his rookie year and probably this current season that the supporting cast had a higher PPG average than Staal. The team had 3 guys at 30+ goals, and 6 guys at 50+ points, but missed the playoffs. A big difference between this & the 05/06 season was that the defense didn't put up nearly the amount of points that it did the previous season.
07/08 - Staal - 82 games played, 38 goals, 44 assists, 82 points for 1.00 PPG
Combined 345 games played, 114 goals, 168 assists, 282 points for 0.82 PPG
The Canes top 6 was bitten by the injury bug this season and a few players were added & subtracted due to trades. Williams only played in 37 games, Brind'Amour in only 59, and Whitney in only 66. Samsonov was picked up off waivers and contributed right away while playing in 38 games. Ruutu was a deadline deal acquistion and played in only 17. Staal seemed to rebound pretty well from 06/07 with a PPG average, but he was 18 points below his 100 point season. As you can tell, the supporting cast's numbers across-the-board dropped. The Canes should have made the playoffs, but fell all to short, losing in the last game of the season.
08/09 - Staal - 82 games played, 40 goals, 35 assists, 75 points for 0.91 PPG
The Supporting Cast - Justin Williams, Rod Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, Tuomo Ruutu, Sergei Samsonov
Combined 371 games played, 87 goals, 168 assists, 255 points for 0.68 PPG
The Canes top 6 was different this season. Williams played some, but never seemed to fully recover from his injury. Cole was traded away during the offseason, only to return at the deadline in place of Williams. The 2 new guys from 07/08 (Samsonov & Ruutu) were part of the new top 6. And Roddy seemed to start showing his age and was slowing down. The team went through a coaching change, got into the playoffs, and made a good run before the magic ran out. Staal scored 40 goals for the 2nd time in his career, but his assists were down; maybe because his supporting cast pretty significant drop off of 27 goals. For the 2nd season in a row, Staal was the only player to crack the 30 goal mark for the Canes.
09/10 - Staal - 70 games played, 29 goals, 41 assists, 70 points for 1.00 PPG
Combined 347 games played, 91 goals, 136 assists, 227 points for 0.65 PPG
This season started out horrible for the Canes who went on a long losing streak. Staal got injured and missed the first significant time in his career. Cole played less than half a season, Ruutu missed a good portion, and Cullen was traded before the trade deadline. The Canes turned it around in the 2nd half of the season; but it was too little, too late. The supporting cast's goal production went up, but the assists numbers continued to fall. This season broke Staal's streak of 4 consecutive 30 goal seasons. The Canes only had 1 30+ goal scorer for the 3rd year in a row. The highlight of the season was Brandon Sutter breaking through and the Canes finishing low enough to draft the star that is Jeff Skinner.
10/11 - Staal - 81 games played, 33 goals, 43 assists, 76 points for 0.94 PPG
The Supporting Cast - Jeff Skinner, Erik Cole, Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu, Cory Stillman, Chad LaRose (I guess)
Combined 419 games played, 116 goals, 155 assists, 271 points for 0.65 PPG
The Canes top 6 numbers jump back up to the 07/08 neighborhood and just like that season, the Canes missed out on the playoffs in the very last game. We didn't really see a number of top 6 injuries this season, but the Canes were short a top 6 player; so LaRose ended up playing a lot that season in the top 6. The Canes had only 2 30 goal scorers, but had 5 players that reached the 50 point mark. The main thing that probably kept them out of the playoffs this season was a lackluster defensive effort. The Canes were constantly outshot and if not for the heroics of Cam Ward, the season would have been lost. If you take LaRose out of the top 6, the supporting cast average PPG actually goes up to 0.71 PPG; but with him included, it dropped for the 5th year in a row (by 0.008). Staal had a good season, but you have to wonder if it could have been better with another true top 6 player to play with instead of LaRose & sometimes Samsonov for the the majority of the season.
So in conclusion, I say it would be fair to say that Eric Staal is not a 100 point player in the NHL. But if you surround him with a capable top 6 (like in 05/06), he should be an 80 to 90 point player. It really appears that since winning the Cup, the Canes top 6 has more or less gotten weaker every year. Last season was probably the best minus Chad LaRose for most of the season, but this year was a step back yet again. While short 1 true top 6 player going into the offseason, instead of added one, the Canes let another go. So maybe SOME of his lack of production is a result of his supporting cast that has continued to drop in production since the Stanley Cup year.