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About Last Season: Jordan Staal Performance Review and Grade

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Now serving as captain, Jordan Staal’s impact on the Hurricanes remains the same, even as his usage changes.

Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Jordan Staal 2019-20 By The Numbers

  • Age: 31
  • NHL Seasons: 14
  • Games Played: 68
  • Scoring: 8 goals, 19 assists, 27 points
  • Average Time On Ice: 14:00 ES, 2:21 SH, 1:09 PP (17:30 total)
  • 5-on-5 (score and venue adjusted): 56.58 CF%, 50.08 GF%, 58.03 xGF%, 61.98 HDCF%, 45.27 oZS%
  • Contract: 3 years, $6 million AAV, NMC

At this point, you know what you’re going to get from Jordan Staal, and that’s exactly what the Hurricanes got from him through 68 games of the 2019-20 season - but with a twist.

That twist was Staal being named (full-time) captain of the team upon Justin Williams’ break from hockey entering the season. If you think back to training camp, once it was known that Williams wouldn’t be suiting up with the team at the outset of the season, Staal was the very obvious choice to wear the C. He had always been the face of the team with the media, both through the sporadic good times and, mostly, bad times.

As expected, Staal has handled the role with class. Regardless of how well budding superstars like Sebastian Aho or Andrei Svechnikov play, there is an argument to be made that the Hurricanes go as Staal goes - that was true with Eric, as well.

Staal is the motor in the middle of Carolina’s lineup. He won’t ever have the gaudy offensive numbers that many hoped for when he was acquired in 2012, but his value clearly goes well beyond that.

This season, Staal posted his usual, dominant possession numbers, but those numbers weren’t as lofty as some of his previous seasons. That’s due in large part to his diminished role within the team’s offense. With the additions of Eric Haula (turned Vincent Trocheck) and the continued development of Aho as the team’s first-line center, Staal saw his role change to that of a defense-first middle-six center. That’s the role he belongs in, and he handled it well.

While trailing only Brock McGinn in average shorthanded ice time, Staal helped lead the Canes to a penalty kill rate of 84%, second in the Eastern Conference behind only the Boston Bruins at 84.3%. Staal and McGinn made up the top PK group up front, making way for Aho and Teuvo Teravainen on the second unit, which had a stark contrast in play style - one that saw the two dynamic Finns push the puck up ice and go for counter offense.

That system worked extremely well for the Canes and there’s little reason to think that will change moving forward.

The elephant in the room is his contract, which has three seasons remaining at a cap hit of $6 million. If you’ve payed attention to my writing or the podcast in recent years, my biggest concern is how he will hold up long-term. The Hurricanes absolutely had to find ways to improve his longevity, and the 2019-20 season was a good step in the right direction. At this point in his career, you are much better off relying on him for 15-17 minutes as opposed to 18-20.

This becomes even more evident when you look at his conversion rates. Staal is a powerhouse with regards to generating high-quality offensive chances, but he is, frankly, a bad finisher. Again, this harkens back to the eye test vs. advanced stats debate that follows Staal around everywhere he goes.

There should be a real appreciation for Staal’s ability to control possession the way he does, but when he can’t take advantage of the offense he helps create, then what do you do? The answer is removing him from those offense-focused lines and making him a dominant third-line player. The answer is taking him away from the power play and focusing his efforts on the penalty kill.

That process of that realization has been a lengthy and painful one for the Canes at times, but it appears as if those steps are finally being taken.

As the Hurricanes continue to develop home-grown offensive stars, Staal’s role will be ever changing, at least during the regular season.

Perhaps the most notable development with Staal as of late is how unstoppable he was in the playoffs in 2019. When the moments were big, he routinely raised his game to a level that very few players in the league can reach. He’s physically dominant, fundamentally complete and reliable in all areas. That makes him an invaluable piece of the puzzle for the Hurricanes in postseason play.

Now that the Canes have reached the point of annual postseason contention, saving Staal during the regular season and letting him run free in the postseason will be something to seriously consider. It also goes a long way in justifying the contract he has.

The 2019-20 season saw Staal’s role continue to morph, but that doesn’t diminish the impact that he has on all areas of the ice and in all corners of the locker room. On a team full of young stars, Staal is the consistent presence that will quietly lead the way - you always know what you’re going to get from number eleven.

When you are grading Jordan Staal, you’re doing it on a different curve, because he is a different player. Was his performance outstanding or above average from the perspective of pure offensive output? No, but factoring in his 200-foot game and the domino effect he can have on the rest of the lineup can change the line of thinking.

Poll

How would you grade Jordan Staal’s 2019-20 season?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    A - Outstanding Performance
    (7 votes)
  • 45%
    B - Above Average Performance
    (74 votes)
  • 41%
    C - Average Performance
    (67 votes)
  • 7%
    D - Below Average Performance
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    F - Significantly Below Average Performance
    (2 votes)
162 votes total Vote Now