NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
When the Rangers take on the Lightning on NBCSN on Tuesday, they’ll be doing so without veteran defenseman Marc Staal.
Staal is a healthy scratch, which would make this a first for his NHL career, according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks. Ryan Lindgren, a 21-year-old defenseman who was the 49th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, will take Staal’s place.
Considering the name recognition for Staal, 32, and the strength of his better years with the Rangers, this will come as a shock to some.
Frankly, for plenty of others, the reaction will be something along the lines of, “it’s about time.”
Staal’s struggled in just about every way over the past few years, contributing very little offense (one goal, zero assists in nine games this season; 15 points or less in every season since 2015-16) while getting increasingly caved-in on defense. The nine-game start to 2019-20 has been pretty brutal. Via Hockey Reference, Staal has a 35-percent Corsi For rating and a 36.3 mark in Fenwick, and you can’t just chalk that up to a Rangers team that struggles to own the puck, as Staal has been drastically worse than teammates in relative stats.
If seeing things in chart form helps you, consider his not-so-promising multi-season RAPM chart at Evolving Hockey:
One would figure Staal would get a little bit better over the long haul of the 2019-20 season, but it’s difficult to imagine him improving much beyond going from “absolutely atrocious” to merely “quite bad.”
The other bit of bad news is that he’s expensive at $5.7M in AAV. The slightly better news is that, if the Rangers can’t get out from under his contract, it at least doesn’t last much longer, as Staal’s deal expires after 2020-21.
The Rangers still have work to do on defense despite adding Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox to the mix, but some of their improvement might come from moments like these, when they take a deep breath and admit that something simply isn’t working.