“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the New York Rangers, we pick … defenseman Marc Staal.
No shortage of candidates for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist is in a contract year, on the verge of becoming the highest-paid goalie in the NHL. Alain Vigneault is the new head coach after John Tortorella was fired. Everyone knows Brad Richards needs to bounce back.
But for us, Staal’s is the most compelling story after the serious eye injury he suffered in March. The 26-year-old is a huge part of New York’s blue line and is also in the running to play for Team Canada at the Olympics.
You may recall that Staal’s postseason return lasted just one game before he put his comeback on hold. Fortunately, he says now that “the perception, what I’m seeing on the ice, has [gotten] way better than when I was trying to come back in the playoffs.”
If Staal can get back to playing 20-plus minutes a night against tough competition, not only will the Rangers benefit from all the things he does well on the ice, it should also lessen the load on the team’s other top blue-liners, like Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto.
“Training camp’s going to be important for me to not only get physically ready but mentally on the ice,” Staal said. “Getting comfortable and getting the speed and the intensity in skates and bringing that into the exhibition games and into the season.”
For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.