To be frank, the last two seasons have been hell for Marc Staal. But the talented defenseman seems to finally be healthy which is the best news the New York Rangers have gotten in a long time.
Staal missed more than half the year in the 2011-2012 season after suffering a concussion from his older brother Eric Staal. Staal returned to the lineup at the Winter Classic, but you could tell it was going to take a while for him to regain his former self. Once this season started it was clear that Staal was back to playing at an elite level, but he suffered a gruesome eye injury that left many questioning whether he would ever be able to play again. He returned for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals but was forced to sit out the rest of the postseason when his eye started acting up again. It was a devastating blow to a Rangers team that was already suffering with the lack of depth they had on the blue line.
But now Staal is back and 100 percent. He admitted that he was uneasy for a while, but when he was playing one day he realized that he had no blurred vision and was not fighting to see the puck. Staal’s return to his former self is something that the Rangers need in order to make them elite contenders once again. He is the most talented player on the blue line for the Rangers and can help mentor young defenseman like John Moore and Ryan McDonagh. Staal is also going to be asked to do a lot more offensively this season. Alain Vigneault is going to focus on pushing the pace and encourage the defensemen to jump into the play if they feel like they can. This is an area where Staal can excel.
Staal being at full strength is the best thing that could have happened for the Rangers this offseason. With him back the Rangers can make a real run at the Cup this year, and Staal could even be in the Norris Trophy discussion.