Marc Staal (born January 13, 1987) is a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman and alternate captain for the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League. He is the younger brother of Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes, and older brother of Jordan Staal of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jared Staal, who plays in the Hurricanes organization.
Staal played junior hockey from 2003–2007 for the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League where he was the team’s captain, and led the Wolves to their first trip to the OHL finals in 30 years. He was drafted by the New York Rangers in 2005 NHL Entry Draft in the 1st round, 12th pick overall.
Marc and younger brother Jared played together in Sudbury during 2006–07.
On May 7, 2007, the Ontario Hockey League announced that Staal was the recipient of the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenceman for the 2006–07 season. This prestigious award was previously won by the likes of future NHL players such as Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis, and Denis Potvin. On May 13, 2007, although his Sudbury team lost the OHL Championship Series to Plymouth in six games, Staal was named the winner of the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award, which goes to the league’s postseason MVP.
On October 4, 2007, Staal made his NHL debut for the New York Rangers and Head Coach Tom Renney, who would use him in that first season primarily in a defensive role. He would record his first NHL point against the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2007, when Chris Drury deflected his shot in for a goal, giving Staal an assist. Staal scored his first NHL goal soon after – on November 14, 2007 – against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. His wrist shot from the left faceoff circle sailed over the outstretched glove of goaltender Martin Brodeur and deflected in off the crossbar. Assisting on his first goal in the NHL were teammates Scott Gomez and Brendan Shanahan. During 2007-08, Staal was one of sixteen rookies selected to participate in the YoungStars competition at the 2008 NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta, where he scored a goal and added an assist. Staal finished his rookie season with 10 points on the strength of 2 goals and 8 assists. But more importantly, he established himself as a reliable defender, posting a positive plus/minus rating at +2, as the Rangers qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He saved his best for the playoffs, with his first NHL playoff goal and two assists to help the Rangers defeat the Devils in 5 games during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The goal was important – in the pivotal Game 4, Staal’s slapper broke a 3-3 deadlock late in the third period and stood to be the game winning goal in a 5-3 victory that gave the Rangers a 3 games to 1 lead in the series. Like his first regular season goal, it also came against goalie Martin Brodeur. However, despite their win over the Devils in the Conference Quarterfinal, the Rangers would fall to the eventual Stanley Cup runner-up Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
In 2008-09, Staal improved his offensive output to 15 points, scoring 3 goals and adding 12 assists – all career highs. He returned to the YoungStars Competition as a sophomore at the 2009 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal, and scored two goals. Late in the season, a coaching change led to a more offensive philosophy designed to propel the Rangers into the playoffs. The defensive minded Tom Renney was replaced by John Tortorella who encouraged more offense from all of his players, including Staal. As a result, much of Staal’s production came towards the end of the season – 6 of his 15 points came after the coaching change, in just 21 games (as opposed to 9 in 61 under Renney). The Rangers would again qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs on the strength of their strong finish, but this time were defeated in the first round by the Washington Capitals in seven games after blowing a 3-1 series lead. During the series, Staal would record his second career NHL playoff goal.
In the summer of 2009, Marc was invited – along with his brothers Eric and Jordan – to try out for the Canadian Olympic men’s ice hockey team competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. However when the team was named on December 30, 2009, Eric was the only Staal named to the squad. Meanwhile, now in his third year, Staal began to transition into more of a two way role for the Rangers during 2009-10 as the development of his offense continued under Coach Tortorella. Staal enjoyed the first four game point streak of his career from 11/27/09 to 12/5/09 (1 goal, 3 assists over the span). Though the Rangers would miss the playoffs for the first time in Staal’s career, he would establish new career highs with 8 goals, 19 assists, 27 points, and a career best +11 rating during the season. He saved his finest for late in the year, scoring a beautiful coast-to-coast goal against Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen on April 3, 2010 after receiving the puck from teammate Henrik Lundqvist in the defensive zone. For Staal, it capped a three game goal-scoring streak and ignited a Rangers comeback in an eventual 4-1 victory that kept the Rangers’ playoff hopes alive a little longer. The team would ultimately miss the playoffs on the final day of the season, losing a 2-1 heartbreaker in a shootout to the Philadelphia Flyers, who usurped the eighth and final playoff spot from them for the victory. Staal led all Ranger skaters in ice time during the final game, on-ice for an eye popping 29:16 of the game’s 65 minutes of team play and turned in a strong defensive effort, finishing at +1.
In 2010, Marc became a restricted free agent for the first time. Though negotiations between Staal’s camp and New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather were often slow, Marc signed a five-year, $19.875 million extension for the team on September 15, 2010 – comparatively late, but still in time to prepare for the upcoming season. After a strong training camp, Rangers Coach John Tortorella recognized Staal’s leadership qualities in October 2010 by naming him an alternate captain at the young age of 23.
During the 2010-2011 season, Staal was chosen for the first time to participate in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Carolina. During the game, he enjoyed a rare opportunity to play on the same team as brother Eric.
Staal is an excellent skater and defender. Defensively, Staal is an adept shot blocker, and penalty killer. Offensively, he is a smart passer who makes the intelligent plays to his teammates. Due to his skating ability, he often tries to join the offensive rush despite being a defenceman. He has a very accurate wrist shot and a hard slapshot that has improved in accuracy since his NHL debut. His improving offense led him to see more ice time on the power play beginning in the 2010-11 season, where he can apply those offensive skills more directly in the scoring effort. Upon bursting onto the NHL scene, the New York Rangers coaching staff primarily used him in a defensive role. However his point totals improved steadily his first few years in the NHL, and each year from 2007-08 to 2009-10 he established new career highs in goals, assists, and points.
Staal is also known for his hard open-ice body checks. Staal has thrown many hard open-ice hits into well known NHL players, including Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, his brother Jordan Staal, Mike Comrie, and Mike Knuble. One of his hardest hits was delivered on Calgary’s Matt Stajan in November 2010. As Stajan skated into the offensive zone, he prepared to send a pass toward his left. Unknown to Stajan, who had turned to follow his pass, Staal was coming across from Stajan’s right and delivered a clean, hard shoulder to shoulder hit that left Stajan struggling on the ice. The hit dislodged Stajan’s helmet and stick. Almost immediately, the hit prompted questions about whether or not it was clean, due to a new NHL rule for the 2010-2011 season that banned blindside hits to the head. However, reviews of the play indicated the principal point of contact had been the shoulder. Staal, generally known as a clean player, was neither suspended nor penalized for the hit (since it was clean). Had he been suspended, the suspension would have been his first in the NHL. The hit knocked Stajan out of the game, and Stajan would miss the next two of his team’s contests with an “upper body injury”, although he was not diagnosed with a concussion as many feared. Of the hit, Staal defended the play, simply saying:
|“||“With the new rule about the blindside hits I think (big hits) come under more analysis. But all I did was step up and finish him.”||”|
For his part, Stajan held no ill will towards Staal for the hit, responding:
|“||“Hockey is a contact sport. There are going to be hits like that…That’s part of hockey. If you have your head down or you’re looking at a pass, there will be guys who take advantage of it. That’s part of the sport…Obviously, I didn’t see him coming. Two guys were yelling for the puck to my left side. I fed it over to (defenseman Mark Giordano), and I took a look just to make sure it was (Giordano). Obviously, Staal came from my right and blindsided me. But there’s hits like that in hockey. I think it’s part of the sport…He got me with a good one, that’s for sure.”||”|
Staal has also been known to drop the gloves and fight on occasion, although it is rare for him to do so due to his value as a defensive player.
Staal married his longtime girlfriend Lindsay on Friday August 12, 2011. They have known each other since high school. He proposed to her on Christmas Day, 2010.