Originally, I was going to write a “Who’s your Staal?” blog in this space, as in: if you could pick a Staal brother for your team, which one would you take?
But in doing some research on the topic, I’ve changed tacks. Instead of fomenting that famously wonderful sibling rivalry (can you imagine the havoc that was the Staal house on Christmas morning say, 10 years ago?), I’m going to use my holiday blog to simply celebrate the boys. Because, truly, there is A Staal For All Seasons.
The reason it is so tricky to choose between NHLers Eric, Jordan and Marc is they offer such different skill sets, all of which hold tantalizing rewards.
Eric, Carolina star and Stanley Cup winner, is the eldest and only brother with 100-point ability at this juncture. He’s already hit the mark once, during that magical 2005-06 Cup season, which also saw him lead the NHL in playoff scoring with 28 points. And by the way, it was all during his second year in the league.
Comparing Eric and brother Jordan of the Penguins is the most obvious, since both are centers, but even that becomes tricky. Jordan doesn’t have the same offensive ceiling as his brother, but the rest of his game is equally intriguing; the young Pen averages almost triple the amount of penalty-kill time as Eric and made his name as a shorthanded goal specialist for Pittsburgh as a rookie in ’06-07. The fact he is behind two of the best centers in the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin has only dented his ice time slightly, since Sid and Geno will sometimes play together and neither kills penalties that often.
And don’t forget about Marc, the New York Rangers stalwart defenseman. He may have taken slightly longer to get into the spotlight, but NHL defensemen tend to be that way. This season he has been one of the Blueshirts’ best rearguards and though his game isn’t flashy, it’s certainly responsible. He leads New York in plus-minus right now with a plus-6 rating, made all the more impressive by the fact he only has six points to his name. That’s shutdown ‘D’ for ya.
Like all NHL Staals, Marc is 6-foot-4 and more than 200 pounds; how do you pass up a young blueliner who leads his team’s defense corps in shorthanded time on ice and is embracing the physical side of the game more and more as his career matures?
The wild card, of course, is little brother Jared, who is still in the Ontario League, but confronted with a quandary. The right winger is mired on a sub-par Sudbury Wolves team that struggles defensively and is by no means a threat to go far this season. In seeing the Wolves live earlier this year, it was obvious Jared gets frustrated with the way things are going and he’ll need a strong resolve to improve himself even if he’s not playing for a Memorial Cup before moving on through the Phoenix Coyotes system.
Can he do it? Jared has often been seen as the most gifted, but enigmatic Staal brother and as the youngest, expectations for him are high. In order to make “Who’s your Staal?” a four-way race, he’ll have to overcome his obstacles sooner than later.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.