Is Marc Staal NHL's Top Defenseman?

New York Hockey Daily@nyhockeydailyContributor IApril 8, 2010

ATLANTA - JANUARY 07:  Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on January 7, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Over the past couple of years the Rangers have been slightly disappointing. It always seems like the talent is there, but they consistently fail to play up to their talent level. One of the few players who has been consistently good is defenseman Marc Staal .

Maybe he’s not quite the offensive wizard many fans have missed since Brian Leetch was prematurely ripped away from us, but game in and game out his defensive prowess has helped win games and protected goalie Henrik Lundqvist .

Despite the fact that he’s been one of the more consistent performers, Staal typically flies under the radar and doesn’t receive a lot of credit from fans and pundits.

Well, James Mirtle of The Globe is not one of those people who underestimates Staal. Mirtle put together a list of the NHL’s top defensemen based on advanced statistics (he combines quality of competition, goals against at even strength and goals against while shorthanded) and Marc Staal lands on the top of that list.

Now this isn’t to say that Staal is the NHL’s best defenseman exactly. He is judging this based only upon defensive statistics. So a case could easily be made that  Nick Lidstrom of Detroit, who ranks fifth on this list and also puts up obscene offensive numbers for a defenseman, is the best d-man. But it is nice to see Staal gets some props defensively.

It should be pointed out that there are some inefficiencies in ranking defensemen like this. I’ll let the table’s creator explain:

One of the weaknesses in the system I use is that players who play almost every minute of every game together are virtually inseparable (i.e. Phillips-Volchenkov) statistically and both are given a high rating. It also rewards players who play well within a team system that is strong defensively, such as the Devils listed above.

I don’t think these weaknesses are a real big knock on Staal, but having an elite goalie, particularly one so strong on the penalty kill, like Lundqvist behind you is certainly going to help. I think it helps someone like Dan Girardi , who was ranked 28th on this list, more than Staal.

So do I think this means Staal is the NHL’s top defensive defenseman? No, but this is pretty strong evidence that he is one of the better defenseman around the league. Although, I think most Ranger fans who have been paying attention could have told you that already.

What do you think? Just how good is Marc Staal?

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