In his ninth season with the Hurricanes, Staal produced goals and points at a career-high rate despite seeing his possession metrics take a sharp decline.
Jordan Staal: 2020-21 By The Numbers
- Age: 32
- NHL Seasons: 15
- Scoring: 16 goals, 22 assists, 38 points in 53 games
- Advanced Statistics: 53.13 CF%, 52.28 SCF%, 51.88 xGF%, 53.19 GF%
- Average TOI: 13:42 ES, 2:40 PP, 2:07 SH
- Contract Status: Signed through 2022-23, $6 million AAV
A vast majority of Jordan Staal’s tenure with the Carolina Hurricanes has been defined by his dominant possession metrics and his woefully lacking on-ice finishing numbers. Staal’s ability to produce high-danger chances and limit chances against has ranked among the very best in hockey over an extended period of time, but it had never been accompanied by him producing points at the expected rate.
The year that Staal had bordered on the bizarre. There was a dramatic shift in almost all of his numbers, and not all of them were good, but you can’t argue with the results. He produced at his highest rate since joining the team in 2012. Projecting his numbers out to 82 games, you get 25 goals, 34 assists and 59 points.
Another surprising development was that much of his production came on the power play. Over a 209-game stretch from 2017 to 2020, Staal scored six power-play goals. In 53 games in 2021, he scored seven, which was tied with Sebastian Aho and Vincent Trocheck for the most on the team. His six power-play points per 60 were a point and a half more than his previous career-high.
He shot 15.5%, his best conversion rate since 2011-12 with the Penguins. 15.5% is also the number you get if you combine his shooting percentages from 2018-19 (9.1%) and 2019-20 (6.4%).
It’s not like Staal’s scoring opportunities were more dangerous in 2021. His individual expected goals-for were on par with recent seasons. Like in past seasons, he was a physical force in front of the net and accumulated tons of chances at the top of the crease. The difference in 2021 was pretty simple – he scored more frequently on those chances.
The Hurricanes are finally awake.
Sebastian Aho finds Jordan Staal in front, and the captain nets his 9th goal of the season to make it a 2-1 game. pic.twitter.com/ZDauptdQ4d
— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) March 10, 2021
Jordan Staal Goal ✅
Jordan Staal Yell ✅
Andrei Svechnikov with a perfect centering feed to the captain, who continues his hot offensive play and gives the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead over the Stars in the third period. pic.twitter.com/Jgwin9Xf92
— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) February 14, 2021
He was in the ~70th percentile in finishing in 2021 after routinely finding himself in the bottom 25% throughout his Canes tenure.
While his offensive driving declined from the top-of-the-league rate it was at, he was still a quality producer of scoring chances, and his finishing rate finally jumped up to match it.
His 2021 numbers weren’t all great, though. For the first time in his NHL career, his relative even-strength corsi share was in the negative, according to HockeyReference. His even-strength defensive metrics were uncharacteristically low last season, and his scoring chance suppression isn’t what it was in his late-20’s. Though, some of that regression can also be tied to the team, as a whole, being a much weaker defensive team than in recent seasons.
With that being said, and as someone whose writing and analysis are heavily driven by analytics and metrics, my thoughts on those weaker defensive numbers can be summed up in three words.
I don’t care.
Staal has always been the analytical darling who never got the puck luck to show up consistently in the offensive zone. Year in and year out, his defense and expected goal differential have been elite, and his character was on display through all of the horrid seasons that the team had in his prime. He came to Raleigh to build a winner with his brother, they didn’t win, his brother got traded and he never complained. His work ethic and level of play never wavered.
If anyone deserved a big offensive season, it was Jordan Staal. While his metrics declined, he had a number of standout moments that, in my mind, outweighed negatives. His best performances came in big games, a trend that has held strong over the last three playoff-bound seasons, and knowing the weight that he carried on his shoulders through the bad years makes his big goals in big games while donning the “C” that much sweeter.
Jordan Staal takes matters into his own hands.
The captain gives the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead! pic.twitter.com/DWZnYfp6WF
— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) May 18, 2021
2021 was one of his best seasons of penalty-killing work to date and he won 58% of his faceoffs, the second-best success rate of his career.
With the added help of Trocheck down the middle, Staal had a wonderful season. The move to bring in another top-six center took some pressure off of him, and he actually became a better and more efficient offensive producer.
His production was a pleasant surprise, and it played a significant role in pushing the Hurricanes atop the Central Division, but it isn’t wise to expect another season quite like the one Staal had in 2021.
His individual shooting percentage was an outlier compared to his career numbers. He shot 6% above his previous eight-season average and his on-ice shooting percentage was more than 3% higher than his average over that same span. 2021 was also a shortened season, which makes the sample size smaller.
In the likely event that he doesn’t sustain his production in 2021-22, he will have to sure up the defensive side of his game to retain his value, but Staal has the track record that earns the benefit of the doubt.
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