Maybe it’s the last name. Maybe it’s the $60 million contract. Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure: Jordan Staal does not get the appreciation he deserves for his play on the ice. Calling the Thunder Bay native the “best third-line center in the game” is a fallacious argument and borderline disrespectful.
Staal may lack the scoring prowess of many NHL stars. After all, he is no Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid. Fans expecting 30+ goals a year from Staal will be sorely disappointed. However, if you look deeper than goals and assists, it becomes apparent that Jordan Staal is an elite NHL talent.
Staal’s even-strength CF% (Corsi For Percentage) last season was 56.09, which ranks eleventh among forwards who played at least 400 minutes. Jordan Staal is in the 97th percentile of forwards in regard to this metric. When you look at it from a league distribution point-of-view, this number is even more remarkable. Staal is a possession beast who locks down opposing players in his own end.
In terms of raw scoring chances, Staal was on the ice for 11.59 per 60 minutes. This puts him at seventh in the league, ahead of notable names like Leon Draisaitl (11.17), Auston Matthews (11.05), and Carolina’s own Jeff Skinner (10.75). The 28-year-old may not always cash in; but the fact that Jordan Staal makes those around him better is irrefutable.
Below are two charts from Hockeyviz (Twitter: @InneffectiveMath). The first graphic is even-strength shots, relative to league average, for the Hurricanes when Staal is off the ice. The second measures shots in favor of Carolina when Staal is playing. To make it simple , follow this easy rule: The Bluer, The Badder.
The Hurricanes are a better team when Jordan Staal is on the ice. It is not even close. Carolina scored 143 even-strength goals last year — Staal was on the ice for 44 (or 30.7%) of them. He ranked third on the team in goals-for per 60 minutes (GF60) behind Jeff Skinner and Lee Stempniak.
Jordan Staal’s contributions will not show in abundance on the score sheet; but he is invaluable to the rebuild Ron Francis has committed to. It’s about time Canes fans appreciate just how good their “third line center” really is.
And for no reason whatsoever, here is a gem of a GIF from @matt_barlowe
All stats and graphics are from Corsica unless otherwise noted.