Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Pittsburgh sports fan are very passionate about their teams. However, sometimes this passion gets in the way of how they should actually view and criticize their team and the players that play for their team, especially when the Penguins lose.
Usually after a loss, Pens' goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury gets crushed by the fans because he's the easiest to blame. Other popular goats are Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang.
Perhaps the most criticized players on the Penguins is center Jordan Staal.
For some reason I always see a lot of “hate” towards Staal and I can't figure out why.
Yeah Staal is never going to put points up on the board like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, that's not his role on the team. He also doesn't get paid like those guys. Staal makes a little over four million a year, while Crosby and Malkin both make over eight million a year.
Staal, who is only 23-years-old, is only in his sixth season in the league and is already considered one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. He was even nominated for the Selke trophy two years ago, which is awarded to the best defensive forward in the league.
Last year Staal missed the first 40 games of the season, along with training camp, and preseason, and made his return in the Winter Classic. Staal scored 11 goals and registered 30 points in 42 games for the Pens, who were without Crosby and Malkin.
When Staal misses the net or doesn't come through on a scoring chance, the fans get extremely upset with him. Perhaps all this is due to his great rookie season when he scored 29 goals as an 18-year-old.
Not to mention that Staal's talent and potential is through the roof, and the fact that he was a top five pick in the 2006 NHL draft makes people want to see him flourish more offensively. The crazy thing is that's exactly what he's been doing the last few weeks.
Staal’s point per game was above his career average by .025 last year. He continues to improve. Staal will never be a 100 point player in the NHL. That shouldn’t take away from how good and valuable he truly is.
Staal has been one of the main reasons the Penguins have had so much success over the years. He played his ass off in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings in the 08-09 finals.
Staal is often asked to play good defense against the other teams’ top line. That’s a tough job to do. By Staal doing that he allows Crosby and Malkin to focus on offense. Crosby and Malkin get paid the big bucks to score and make plays. Staal gets paid to play two-way hockey, to be a great defensive forward, which he is.
I understand that there are a lot of new hockey fans since the Crosby era and because this franchise has been so successful, so not everyone is going to pick up the game real quick. Hockey is hard enough to understand and analyze as it is.
A lot of times Staals’ efforts can’t be seen in a box score or on ESPN highlights, when they decide to show hockey. Real knowledgeable fans of the game understand what Staal brings to the table.
At $4 million a year Staal is extremely affordable, as long as he produces around 45-60 points a year, which he has. I know Staal scored 30 goals his rookie season, but there’s a real chance he’ll never eclipse that mark. There’s a good chance he will.
I still think at 23, we have yet to see the best of Staal, which should be exciting for Pens’ fans and scary for other NHL teams.
It will be interesting to see how Staal is used this year when Crosby returns. The Penguins are loaded at center which could see Staal. I think he has many Selke nominations ahead of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets another one this year.
To call Staal overrated is just plain stupid. At this point, he's still underrated around the league. You also have to remember that he is just entering the prime of his career and hasn't reached his full potential yet. Don’t judge all hockey players on goals and assists unless they get paid over $8 million a year. There’s more to hockey than just scoring goals.
Lets go Pens!
Follow me on Twitter!