Tribune-Review Penguins writer Rob Rossi answers questions about the Pittsburgh Penguins. The following are questions answered prior to December, 2007.
Check out Chipped Ice Rossi's Penguins blog, for the latest on 2007-08 Penguins.
Q: I have watched every game this year, and Jordan Staal has been bad with the exception of one game. Wednesday in Edmonton was his worst game of the year. I do not know how many giveaways he had, but I counted four in a 50-second shift. He is not playing as an NHL- caliber player. Do you believe the Penguins should release him to play in the World Junior Championship? I am unsure if this will help or hurt his confidence, but he is a liability on the ice and a break from the NHL cannot hurt.
- Peter Brocklehurst, of Truro, Nova Scotia
Against Edmonton on Dec. 5, Jordan Staal skated 22 shifts at an average of 46 seconds. He was a minus-1 player. He was credited with two shots, a hit, a blocked shot and one giveaway. Oh, and he did not record a point -- for just the second time in six games.
Look, admittedly I am the last person that should rant about negativity. I am known as a pretty negative person, especially when it comes to the Penguins' performance through much of three months.
However, the club has won five of six, and it strikes me as less- than-curious that this stretch of success came about as Staal's play improved.
I am not sure how it looks on TV to fans in Pittsburgh and across the hockey world, but I promise every last one of you that Staal has looked more like the rookie phenom he was last season over the past few weeks than at any point since the playoffs. Really, truly, honestly -- he is getting his groove back.
I talked with St. Louis Blues' president John Davidson in Edmonton, and he went out of his way to praise Staal. Davidson said that it is not uncommon for a young player to take an apparent backward step after a strong rookie season, but that from what he has witnessed of Staal, there is reason to believe he was no one- year wonder.
Davidson talked of Staal as though he would become a dominant power-forward in the NHL sooner rather than later BECAUSE of the learning experience he has gone through this season.
Davidson loves Staal. Maybe I am stupid, but considering the turnaround Davidson has help the Blues achieve, I will trust him on this subject.
Staal scored 29 goals as an 18-year-old last season. So, not unexpectedly, fans assumed he would jump to 35 or 40 or more. And much like the assumption made that Staal's team would keep rising after a 105-point season, fans' expectation for Staal this season were unrealistic.
He never scored 29 goals in junior hockey. And he will score 40 one day in the NHL. But it might take a few years for him to reach that plateau. And that is perfectly understandable--unless you happen to judge every rookie forward on the same growth pattern of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
And if you do, then stop it right now and save yourself some anguish.
Staal is not a liability on the ice. He is, in fact, one of the Penguins' best defensive forwards. He was last year and that has not changed, despite his offensive struggles (two goals and six points in 27 games).
A while back I advocated sitting Staal for a game or two so that he could collect himself, as he did seem to be quite down. But he has been upbeat the past few weeks, and his level of play has improved dramatically, so I can not fathom why the Penguins would send him to the World Junior Championship.
And, oh, by the way: They have no plans to do that.
I judge a player this way: If he was placed on waivers tomorrow, would another team claim him no matter his salary? If the answer to that question is yes, then there is no need to worry about that player. And if you ask that question about …