The Writing is on the Wall for Marc Staal

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In recent years, New York Rangers fans have watched as their team went from Stanley Cup finalists to a rebuilding team of young prospects and solid draft picks. Along the way, we have said our tearful goodbyes to many beloved players, who spent most of their NHL careers playing for the Blueshirts, but were caught in the crossfires of a team headed in a new direction.

Changing of the Guard

But one first-round draft pick, for worse or for better, has remained: the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft, Marc Staal, who in his time with the Rangers, had never been a healthy scratch; that is until Tuesday’s game vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning, when 21-year-old defenseman, Ryan Lindgren made his season debut at the Garden, notching his first NHL point with an assist in the Rangers’ 4-1 win over the reigning Presidents’ Trophy recipients.

Tuesday’s game brought several familiar faces back to the Garden, as the Rangers honored veteran defenseman Dan Girardi, who retired this past off-season and former Rangers’ captain, Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who participated in the ceremonial puck drop alongside Chris Kreider. Many fans took notice of Staal’s absence, as he was seen only on the video screen leaving a heartfelt message to his lifelong friend and teammate.

Fans have short memories

In recent seasons, Staal has lived under the scrutiny of Rangers fans, who are ready to part ways with the 32-year-old defenseman and make way for the young talent awaiting their shot in the big leagues. With Staal’s first healthy scratch of his career and Tuesday’s success of young defensemen like Lindgren and Fox, this could be the beginning of the end of Staal’s career as a Rangers defenseman.

It may seem like a distant memory, but there once was a time when Staal was a dominant defenseman for the Blueshirts and an integral part of the team’s success before he was riddled with injuries. In 2011, Staal was hit by his own brother, Eric, in a game that left him suffering from post-concussion symptoms, and Rangers fans can eerily recall the right eye injury he sustained in 2013 when a puck deflected off the stick of Philadelphia Flyers forward, Jakub Voráček. These injuries combined with aging have contributed to the decline in the lefty’s play.

The future is now

With the Rangers organization showing more and more confidence in their young guns and free agency looming in 2021, Marc Staal’s days as a New York Ranger are numbered as he should most likely see more healthy scratches throughout the season. While many fans have expressed their excitement over DQ’s decision to bench Staal last game, we should pause to remind ourselves of all that he has done for the organization in his 849 games, including scoring the first Rangers goal of the season this year.

To quote Harvey Dent, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” And while his hero days may be long behind him, Marc Staal is forever a Blueshirt who leaves it all out on the ice for his team.