According to an article that recently came out, Dan Bylsma asked Evgeni Malkin how he would feel playing on the wing, Malkin replied "Whatever helps the team win". That's a great answer, however would the move to wing help the team? I don't think so.
There's many reasons why I don't think Staal should center one of the best players in the game, the main one being that we've had a lot of success in the past with Staal on the third line, so why tinker with something that's working? If we wanted to move Staal to the top-six, why not just trade him for a proven winger with Malkin? I'm not saying that we should trade Staal, but it would be the logical thing to do in this situation.
Jordan Staal is a good young center with great defensive acumen, his offensive output is great considering his third line role and the wingers that support him. However, he has his flaws. He's not a great passer, I wouldn't even say he's an average passer, he's somewhere below average and sub-par and when you're centering one of the best players in the game, you're probably going to be dishing out the puck a lot. Staal also isn't a very good puck controller and he's not very agile. You have to factor in all these things when you're considering that he should play with Malkin. This isn't a rip on Jordan's ability, just a very careful observation of what I've seen out of him the past four years.
Also you completely neutralize the puck carrying abilities and speed coming into the offensive zone of Evgeni Malkin, I don't think for one second that he'll be able to come in with the same speed while getting fed passes from Staal on wing.
Staal can handle the duties of a third line role very well, and he excels at it. Why would you want to break that up? The Penguins were 3rd in the NHL in scoring last season, with a terrible powerplay mind you, they'll be fine as long as the names Crosby, Malkin and Staal are off the IR.
You're probably asking yourself "Well who's going to play wing alongside Evgeni Malkin?". There's many scenarios the Penguins can take with this, my favorite is putting Comrie and Asham alongside Malkin. You add physicality and grit with Asham, but at the same time you're adding a 12-15 goal scorer, Comrie would add speed, playmaking ability and a good solid shot and possibly 20-25 goals if healthy.
This would be my line-up come October:
Kunitz - Crosby - Dupuis
Comrie - Malkin - Asham
Cooke - Staal - Kennedy
Rupp - Talbot - Adams / Godard (HS)
We'll see what happens, hopefully the Penguins decide to keep Staal and Malkin where they are at the start of next season. It'll be the right choice, you can guarantee that.
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