In the past, I have talked about how I hold certain players to higher standards than others because of the situations they are used in or how much they are being paid. For the Hurricanes, the player that is held to the highest standard is their team captain, Eric Staal and there are plenty of reasons to expect a lot out of him. Staal has been the Canes best player for the last seven years, he is being paid top-level money and he has been at least a 70-point player since the lockout. As fans, we have become accustomed to seeing Staal be a dominant force, which is probably why most people see this year as a disappointment for him. He had 70 points in 82 games, was one of the few forwards with a positive even strength scoring chance differential and led the team in shots on goal.
For most players, this would be a great season, but a lot of fans thought that Staal lost a step this year. Why is this? For one, his scoring rate was down from what it was in previous seasons (dropped from .94 to .85 points per game this year) and he got off to possibly the worst start of his career. Staal had only 12 points through the first 26 games of the season, which is bad for most players but even worse for player of Staal's caliber. It's tough to figure out what was wrong with Staal during that time but a lot of it was related to bad luck. His shooting percentage this season was lower than it has ever been (9.2%) and the Hurricanes, as a team, were shooting at an extremely low rate in the first half of the season. The Hurricanes goaltenders were also stopping only .897 of the even strength shots they faced when Staal was on the ice, which directly affected his horrible plus/minus that was harped upon for most of the season.
The point here is that some of the things that contributed to Staal's "down year" were out of his control because it certainly isn't his fault that the team's goalies couldn't stop a beach ball whenever he was on ice at even strength. That's something that was overlooked during his rough first half of the seaso. Another thing that was somewhat overlooked is how good Staal was after the rough start. He had 58 points in his 56 games since December and still finished with 70 points despite having only 12 in two months. Staal's overall year might have been a disappointment but it's hard to look at how he played over the last four months and say that he underachieved.
Players who produce as much offense as Staal aren't going to shoot at less than 9% forever, so it was only a matter of time before Staal had a scoring outburst, but a look at his underlying numbers show that Staal had some legitimate stretches of bad play this year and guessing which part of the season they came in shouldn't be too difficult.
We will look at those numbers after the jump.Ano comments