AV detractors can point to Eric Staal as the best example of misusing a player

E. Staal (Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Eric Staal returns to MSG tonight to face Alain Vigneault and the Rangers. He does so after helping the Wild win their 9th straight by scoring the game winning goal…shorthanded. Staal leads the Wild with 11 goals and 26 points in 32 games, 3 more points than the Rangers leading scorer, Kevin Hayes in 3 less games.

Eric Staal Deadline Acquisition…Failure

“He’s an elite center,” GM, Jeff Gorton said after acquiring him for second-round picks in 2016 and 2017, along with prospect Aleksi Saarela. He also added that, “we’re going to get a lot out of him.”

Well, if 6 points in 20 games was Gorton’s idea of a lot…he was wrong. To make matters worse, Staal posted a -7 with 0 points in the Rangers 5 game elimination to the Penguins. A complete and total bust of a trade by anybody’s standards.

What went wrong? In all honesty, after seeing his performance so far this year, it’s hard not to point to Alain Vigneault’s utilization.

AV Misuse

Staal presser (NYR)

Right off the bat, as soon as he was acquired I envisioned Eric Staal centering Rick Nash and leading the Rangers to glory. Instead, we got Eric Staal mostly playing 3rd line wing with Kevin Hayes???

During his brief stint here, Staal played 325 minutes in a Blueshirt. He only spent 30:44 with Rick Nash 5 on 5. Matter of fact, he spent the most time with Kevin Hayes (153:47) and Jesper Fast (90:22). While Hayes is playing excellent hockey this year, he struggled mightily last year, and Fast in not a top 6 forward.

P.S. The 3rd highest forward with 77:34 even strength minutes…Viktor Stalberg. See the problem!

In all fairness, AV even admitted to reporters he wasn’t using Eric properly, “I haven’t put him in ideal situations, it’s my fault. I’ve been moving personnel around trying to find the right chemistry with the lines.” Sadly, he never corrected this situation.

Staal’s Parting Shot

On breakup day, Eric Staal pretty much consigned himself to not returning.

Obviously frustrated with the way Alain Vigneault chose to use him and limit his play, he voiced his opinion. In his short tenure here he averaged just a little over 16 minutes of ice per game. That is almost 4 minutes less than his career average and over 3 minutes less than how the Wild are using him today.

While I believe AV is a great coach that has done a lot of things right…this is certainly one time he got it all wrong.


Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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