Staal ready, willing and able … from Day 1

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Here’s my story for The Journal News and LoHud.com:

By Rick Carpiniello

GREENBURGH – There are myriad reasons the Rangers ought to be better this year than last, and the one that probably gets most overlooked is this: They will have Marc Staal from Day 1.

The Rangers’ defenseman, alternate captain and the rock around which their still-young core has been built, didn’t play a game until Jan. 2 last season due to a concussion he suffered late in 2010-11.

And he wasn’t himself until the weeks leading into the playoffs. Staal stood out in the postseason, and he’s been raring go to ever since … which made the lockout all the more frustrating for him.

“It was tough,” Staal said. “I trained really hard all summer long. I felt great going into camp, or what should have been camp. So it was frustrating to have that dip. But I’m miles ahead of where I was last year starting into the season. I’m excited about that.”

He is healthy, has been symptom free for over a year, and that means the Rangers will have a strong, young, mobile top-four on their defense with Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and Staal.

In fact, the downside of not having Staal at the start last season was the blessing of having other guys step up. McDonagh became a first-pair guy, teaming with Staal’s regular partner, Girardi, who made the all-star team. And with Michael Sauer also going down with a concussion, that further forced Del Zotto to bounce back from his awful sophomore season.

“I guess that’s just the way this team functions,” McDonagh said. “We know injuries are part of the game. When they happen, and hopefully they don’t, you want somenbody ready to step up. It doesn’t matter who you are and what stage you are in your career. If you’re on this team you know how we want to play and you know what’s expected of you. You just do that to the best of your ability.

“When we lose somebody of his caliber, his ability, his leadership skills on the bench, everything, he’s a huge piece to our team and a big key to our team this year is having him right off the bat. We’re looking forward to it, for sure.”

It’s easy to forget that the 6-4, 208-pound Staal is just 26 because he’s been around – this will be his sixth NHL season. Del Zotto is 22, McDonagh 23, and Girardi the old man of the top four at 28.

Staal still hasn’t scratched his ceiling. Rangers coach John Tortorella, who said he “really found out about our team” when Staal was out, wants him up the ice more, creating more offensively, and there sure are times when it looks like he can do more.

“It took some time,” Tortorella said about Staal’s comeback with limited ice time at first. “He was very frustrated how we did it when he first came back. I thought we did it the right way in not overloading him. He liked playing with Danny and all that. But as he started getting his minutes, I don’t know particularly when it happened, but there was a time, I think during the playoffs, he was really good. We had Del Z with him, we had a lot of different partners with him. I thought that’s when he made really good strides as a player.

“But we need more. He’s still is just a young man. Hopefully we can keep him healthy and he’ll keep improving. I showed a tape (Monday) of him up the ice, just joining the rush … from a couple of years ago, before he was hurt, and you lick your chops. He’s a really good player and still has room to keep on improving.”

That’s what he did when it counted most last year, at the end. This year, he gets to do it from Day 1.

AP photo, above.

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119 Comments

  1. Could not agree more. A healthy Staal from day one is as good as bringing in a new upper tier player. He definitely started to come in to form in the playoffs, and IMO was one of the Ranger’s best players throughout. I am psyched to see him from game 1 on.

  2. Kenny Albert Rules! on

    I ditto that Nasty 1. I also think that if Stralman(the way its looking now) is paired with him; that could be a real solid #2 def pairing.

  3. Manny, but the main reason for the max length contract (the hill we will die on) was to get rid of the Kovalchuk/Richards/Parise/Suter type deals that are just stretched out forever to reduce the annual cap hit.

  4. Hopefully he hits the ground running. This team needs Sauer back, but that doesn’t look likely any time soon.

  5. Kenny, agreed. Also, Stralman, again IMO, had a hell of a playoffs too. If you were to split the team in half and have players that had good playoffs and players that didn’t ,Stralsy is definitely in the half that did.

  6. Cross Check – in regards to your comment about the NHLPA balking at a max contract (dollar-wise) I totally agree. I think the NHLPA would balk. I’m just saying the NHL has already shoved a lot down their throats so why not put that in. It’s like the previous lockout, when they forgot about putting in contract lengths. Just do it all at once so we lose one season instead of 3..or 4.

  7. Carp, why couldn’t they just apply the 30%/50% rule without a term cap? Kovalchuk’s deal wouldn’t work inside that rule.

  8. You’re right, Carp. And it solves that problem. I am just saying, it breeds more problems. It’s another time the NHL put together a quick fix solution which will cause another problem which will lead to another lockout. And when they try to put in Contract Ceilings in terms of money, the players are going to flip out. Lost season. Again.

  9. Kreider is listed as about the same height as Nash and ten pounds heavier? Who cares, but Anyone who has seen them in street clothes knows something’s wrong with that.

  10. The bottom line is you’ve been spending a lot of time with this lady, Ron. You’re a member of the Channel Four News Team.

    We need you. Hell, I need you. I’m a mess without you. I miss you so damn much! I miss being with you. I miss being *near* you. I miss your laugh!

    I miss your scent.

    I miss your musk… When this all gets sorted out, I think you and me should get an apartment together!

  11. Maybe somebody with a lot of money will give me a lot of money so I don’t have to do this during the 2020 lockout.

  12. Doodie Machetto on

    Carp, does it count as giving if they do it because you are robbing them? I mean, if they actually hand you the money, it’s still giving, right?

  13. I had to autodraft in wicky’s rigged league. Didn’t do much to prep a list other than promote a load of non-scoring hitters. Now got a roster full of them, which in wicky’s scoring system should ensure I go undefeated.

  14. Carp
    sorry i missed the Chat
    was out of it, dealing headache

    if you’re around
    i am curious for your thoughts on the Kreider
    obviously
    Torts is trying to motivate him and K is still learning
    but i’m wondering if his offense abilities really won’t be up here in a compressed schedule?
    is it such a different style from his college days that he’s having a lot of trouble adjusting?
    or…?

  15. Gravey – Nice to see another Fighting Sioux player get a big contract, even if it is across the pond. Still fun watching him.

  16. Carp – best guess on the wins this season?

    32-10-6 I have a feeling…. that Hank isn’t going to lose many games if the Rangers put up 3 or more per game.

    Thoughts?

  17. Matty"Nash Rules"Boy on

    Absolutely no doubt an injury free Staal will be a great force. The top four d-men are young and good. Would have been amazing had they been able to land Justin Schultz. We’ll take what we have, though. Nice report, Carpy.

    Now, WHO CAN GIVE SATHER LOU LAMORIELLO LESSONS? PERHAPS GORD CLARK CAN TEACH HIM WHAT GOOD GM’S DO???? Anyone see that Lou DIDN”T wait till Zajac had finished his contract. Lou moved early when he could get a FAIR price, both ways, to sign him long????

    Glen, watch across the river. That’s what a good GM does.

  18. Matty"Nash Rules"Boy on

    Up in Ottowa, same with Chris Neil.

    Perhaps had Sather been a gentleman and posed the question earlier than he did with Prust, all these articles about the void his absence leaves wouldn’t have to be written. I know Prust SAID he wanted free agency. But, just what happened early in the season that Sather couldn’t make an overture and early offer then?

    No doubt the cost was too steep when he was an FA. It would have been for the Debbies for Zajac, too. So Lou did what a top flight GM does and sign him early. Very impressive.

  19. jpg, I think his struggles are in the d-zone and away from the puck, and those are going to happen. Who knows how his offense will be? was pretty darn good in the playoffs. I think he will provide that, and he’s smart enough, and getting enough coaching, to figure the other stuff out. This nonsense about him having to earn a job is motivation and the right thing for a coach to say. But let’s be real …

  20. E3 pimp's angel on

    Kooz – how many tanks do you own? I am looking to pick up a couple of F-18’s before they are made illegal.

  21. I don’t expect Kreider to score as much this season because he will be focusing on his play away from the puck (like he was on the Whale). That’s how Torts will (and should) bring him along this season. And by playoff time, hopefully is comfortable enough to provide a scoring threat without being a defensive liability.

  22. I’d expect Kreider to struggle a little bit, at least, initially. Simply because the whole league knows who he is now after seeing him last spring…He will be playing against the best opposition and probably will be double-teamed because of his great shot. He will have to beat people with his speed…

    His two-way play isn’t bad. I remember Torts had him on the ice protecting a 1 goal lead in the final minutes of playoff games…

  23. E3 pimp's angel on

    I think Michael Sauer should retire. So sad, really, as he was fast becoming one of my favorite players. The noodle is something not to be messed with….retired NFL players and their brain injuries are proof enough for me.

  24. Kreider’s assets are his size and speed. Anyone who saw him at BC would know that he has never been, and is not yet an overpowering player, let alone a superstar. That said, it could still happen.

  25. E3 pimp's angel on

    JR – “while the lockout was adismal, the anticipatory of the season is ascending”

  26. My brutha!

    I agree about Sauer. I feel so bad him, as well as for his family. His brother, former Phoenix dman Kurt Sauer, can’t play because of brain injuries as well…

    He was easily one of my favorite Rangers over the last few years…Such a smart, tough, & likable player….

  27. E3 pimp's angel on

    My brutha from anutha mutha – werd on Sauer power. Such a good player. Under rated for sure. Does anyone know JoeM thoughts on the collective groins of our NYR’s?

  28. It’s OK, E3.

    Automobiles, cigarettes, and high-fructose corn syrup are still available and 100% safe.

    These things never have unintended consequences…

  29. E3 pimp's angel on

    My brutha – I would have guessed Danny G too. Remember that game when he was sitting on the bench and he dropped those massive spheroids on the ice and the rangers were called for too many balls on the ice? Cost us 2 minutes. His balls served the penalty as he remained on the bench.

  30. E3 pimp's angel on

    My brutha – spot on re: high fructose corn syrup. You can get diabetes just looking at that stuff.

  31. Hah … I couldn’t remember a player’s name today when talking on the chat about a tough kid in Hartford, and somebody came on and said Kyle Jean … but the one I was looking for was Brandon Segal (9-7-16, 60 PIM for the Whale). And now, according to the AHL transaction wire, he’s been recalled, though he has to go through waivers. They would need an extra forward for opening night with Asham finishing his suspension. Makes sense. Then Bickel can stay on D.

  32. Good evening all! Long time reader, slow poster lately…..it’s 10 minutes in, sorry, but kinda cool show on MSG now, The Spring of ’94. Involves the Knicks too, but also cool NY stuff….Prust passing it on……

    LGR!!!!

  33. E3 pimp's angel on

    Ricardo – I saw a documentary about Diane Shuler driving the wrong way on the Taconic parkway – such a horribly sad situation.

  34. but if Bickels stays on D what are we gonna do about faceoffs?

    i posted with Segal link earlier at 5:58
    and also posted link with Torts on WFAN at 6:01
    but
    my question is what else is known about Segal. just a tough guy to be here who has
    scored some points, i guess….or could there be more….’cause if Torts just wanted a tough guy couldn’t they have just brought Haley (same waiver situation)

    (thinking too much)

  35. ilb… I never had the chance to respond to you last night… in summary, I was under the impression that the future (or at least the first few seasons) cap years would be on the lower end and possibly lower. I read more about the new CBA and I agree with your assessment now. I wasn’t as informed as I should have been making that statement. While there is technically a chance that it could happen, there’s most certainly going to be economic growth in the league as it was in the previous seasons.

    The fans won’t stay away and stop paying very long, and in most places, they won’t stop at all!

    @@

  36. oh!!
    now i remember what i was going to say….
    in reaction to Carp’s answer about Kreider
    i do recall him gliding around during games
    so
    his lack of defense seems to be something that
    wasn’t enforced on his college team

  37. jpg’s sister is doing alright
    mrs. jpg is doing fine (and looking fine, if i might add)

    jpg’s mom is doing okay now. had hernia surgery mid-December
    jpg’s dad, been sick so he’s been “quarantined” to the living room
    so he doesn’t affect anyone else. he has a tv in there. we give him meals.
    he’s doine alright

  38. E3 pimp's angel on

    Jpg – sounds as though all is well except for daddy jpg – hopefully he will be back to perfect health soon….

    Ilb – love that baby girl – they are so precious aren’t they?

  39. I do remember reading about Kreider’s strength to go along with his speed. That he showed maturity and skill among his peers and utilized his size as much as his speed. He threw a couple really good body checks in the playoffs… he just wisely decided to choose his spots carefully.

    I think you’ll see more of that from the kid… especially to prove that he can be trusted. You can tell in interviews he’s done both in Hartford and this week that he’s concentrating on poise.

    This article on Staal really pumped me up as much as anything has so far this week. You could see Marc’s skill and intelligence on the ice from day one, and it’s really awesome to know that we’ll be getting our boy back… ready to make a statement perhaps that he wants to be an elite D-man in this league. Thanks for that Carp.

    Torts interview on 66 today was great… he would totally have been a general in the Great War. I want to go to the rink and do my own bag skate session for him too!

    No I don’t!

    @@

  40. E3 pimp's angel on

    Jpg – I am doing great,,,,mrs. E3 as lovely as ever…and my lil angel is most lovely – though she has a bit of a cough – we have a new orange tabby kitty that has a ton of charm and personality… She is sitting on my massively chiseled chest as I type this – just purring away

  41. right, ilb. again. … but I did read somewhere where he was going through waivers … must have been force-of-habit writing … gonna be a lot of that with this new CBA, dammit.

  42. Well written, Carp…You’re right, how easy we forget…We could have our stud D-man back this year.

    For the record, I do not think Zajac’s deal is a bargain. I think it’s overpaying. 8 years at $5.75M for a center who has been in the league for 6 years, has never scored more than 25 goals, and his total production is 0.6 ppg….

  43. i don’t know why Segal … I just know that I heard they liked the way he’s played and they always go by who’s playing well and in what role, rather than the darling draft pick or prospect … I guess he’s a third- fourth-line type who plays well defensively and uses his body. Definitely not a goon or clown like Haley. Torts has seen him in a lot of Whale games he scouted during the lockout.

  44. Was going to say that I bet Torts saw something he liked in Segal during the lockout.

    I agree bout Zajac too… also, his career has been with the likes of Gionta, Parise, Elias, and Kovalchuk… he only has two of them now so we’ll see how he does being more of the keystone to the Devils offensive production. Henrique is still too young to ‘count on’ that production.

    I think it’s a gamble for that many years, no doubt.

    @@

  45. So long as we have at least four players who cannot skate, how about we give one of those slots to Forrest Griffin and give Chris Neil and his ilk a large surprise?

  46. E3 pimp's angel on

    Hysterical commercial by VW in which a total spazz dad is teaching his son to throw a ball. The Dad throws like a total weenie.

  47. They tried, coos…With John Scott. By the time he made a turn on his skates, most of those guys were in a different zone skating….

  48. I actually remember Segal playing for Dallas a few years back ( yes, I am a Center Ice junkie)…Hard working, hard hitting, do not remember him fighting much though…

  49. John Scott must have mixed feelings about new CBA. The good news for him is that the increased minimum salary to $600k this year. The bad news is that he lost over 40% of that on his one year deal. He is in Buffalo to refresh Milan Lucic’s memory on his interaction with Miller. Good luck catching him in 3 min TOI…

  50. apparently the Rangers just a minor trade.

    Tommy Grant to the Sharks for some guy I never heard of

  51. Stranger Nation on

    scott was great at opening the bench door

    Kreider too fast for AHL

    Barry Stanton? how bout Steve Drummond?

    Must play game Saturday

    E3 – you can still buy your machine gun but need to register and insure it, just like a car. and you think Auto Insurance is high…

  52. Stranger Nation on

    what are D pairings looking like? MDZ on Rt side with Stawl or is it Stahlman. need Bickels to take next step to solidify 3rd pair and McD to add a little O to his game.

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