The Pittsburgh Penguins did the right thing in trading Jordan Staal when they did. He made it clear that he did not remain stuck in the shadows of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby by not accepting Ray Shero’s long-term contract.
Without Staal, they lost one of the game’s best defensive forwards, and the leader of the line that was called the best third line in the entire NHL (along with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy). The hope was that Sutter would become the new mainstay on the third line, as he fit the mold of the ‘traditional’ third line center. In his first full season with the Hurricanes, Sutter posted his first and only 20-goal season.
The Pens carried on last season, finishing first in the Eastern Conference and making it all the way to the Conference Finals before losing to the Boston Bruins by ways of a sweep, giving the appearance on first glance that they did not miss a beat without their former third-line pivot on the team.
It wasn’t until Saturday’s game and the performance of Dave Bolland for the Toronto Maple Leafs did it truly soak in on how much the Penguins will truly miss Staal. A big-bodied defensive minded forward that could shut down some of the league’s best, all the while being a true offensive threat? Sounds pretty familiar, especially that short-handed goal (Staal had 13 in a Pens jersey), right?
The league may be trying to shift to a more offensive mindset, but a player like Staal will always be the ultimate x-factor — a factor they will continue to miss in crunch time.
Anthony Murphy is a contributing writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.