• mathman

Does Eric Staal Belong in the Hall of Fame?

The Wild’s lack of historical game-breakers has hindered their success as long as they’ve been a team. Marian Gaborik, dubbed ‘Scabby Gabby’ by fans due to his frequent injuries, was the closest we’ve ever gotten to a game-breaker being built in the organization. Beyond that, plenty of former stars have come to Minnesota to rot. Names like Dany Heatley, Martin Havlat, and Thomas Vanek come to mind. That’s what made the reemergence of Eric Staal in the 17-18 season at age 33 so special. After signing with the Wild, he put up ridiculous numbers that further cemented his position as a “pro’s pro”. His electric body language on the ice and clear passion for the game only further show why his success is no accident. So, as his career dwindles (for the second time), fans are left to wonder: is Eric Staal a future Hall of Famer?

It would be negligent not to start at the very beginning for Eric Staal, as his success extends as far back as his stats. His debut at the World Juniors in Slovakia in 2002 saw him put up 7 points in 8 games, despite a poor tournament from his native Canada. This tournament catapulted him into the spotlight, and subsequently he was the top skater drafted in the skill-laden 2003 NHL Draft. As a huge prospect expected to contribute immediately upon entry into the NHL, the pressure was on. 

In his rookie year of 03-04, Staal put up a respectable 31 points for the Carolina Hurricanes, missing only 1 game over the course of the season. The next year was the full NHL lockout, which some might imagine would hurt a new player still getting acclimated to the big leagues. Nope, not Staal. He came back in 05-06 as an All-Star, scoring 100 points, and helped the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup. The 21-year-old Staal led the team in playoff points throughout the playoff run with 28.


Over the next five seasons, Staal consistently put up around 70-75 points; certainly not on the level of his 05-06 season, but remarkable and All-Star material nonetheless. He helped the Hurricanes to further playoff success in 2009 in extremely dramatic fashion, capping off one of the best game 7 finishes in recent memory.


As his career progressed, his point production decreased slowly, as one would expect for an aging player. In the 15-16 season, during which Staal was ultimately traded by Carolina to the Rangers, Staal put up only 39 points, the lowest since his rookie season. It was evident he needed a change, and he elected not to re-sign in New York. A free agent deal brought him to the Wild, and along with him came a newfound confidence. Staal put up 65 and 76 points in the 16-17 and 17-18 seasons respectively, the latter being his highest point total in almost a decade. His shooting percentage spiked to a level the likes of which he had never produced. As a veteran on the Wild, his production greatly outpaced Mikko Koivu and this begged questions about who the proverbial ‘top center’ was on the Wild, a welcome problem to an organization plagued by constant uncertainty in the position. This resurgence in point production from Staal was not only remarkable because of his age but also given his lack of success in recent years. Few players dwindle down to half their peak point total and then miraculously return to some semblance of their former glory. Some credit can be given to Jason Zucker, who also put up remarkable numbers during those seasons, but he wasn’t the root cause. Staal’s confidence, hockey sense, and strong two-way play enabled the scorer within Zucker to emerge and was the true crutch of those high point totals.




Graphs 1, 2, and 3: Staal's points, points per game, and shooting percentage over each year of his career. Staal joined the Wild in year 13. Each graph saw a significant spike following his acquisition in Minnesota.


Staal’s career evolution from young Cup winner and veritable game-breaker to reliable veteran, all while maintaining high point totals, at least grants him entry into the HOF conversation.

Although Staal has yet to find significant playoff success as a member of the Wild, his accomplishments do not halt after the Cup in his sophomore season. In 2007, he won the Hockey World Championships, and in 2010 he won Olympic Gold. He remains one of only 29 players to win the three biggest tournaments in hockey (along with the Cup). This unique accomplishment speaks volumes about Staal’s affinity for winning championships and the impact of his on-ice presence.

While it’s obvious Staal has enjoyed success at hockey’s highest levels, his personal achievements perhaps weigh more heavily on his possible entry into the Hall. His point totals may be something unheard of for Wild fans, but compared to other HOFers, his stats aren’t as eye opening. In comparing Staal to other already-admitted members, Staal’s relative personal success on the ice is more tangible.





Graphs 4, 5, 6, and 7: Staal's totals in points, goals, games played, and PPG average relative to already-admitted members of the Hall and the average mark for forwards admitted in the last ten years.


Upon a thorough look into the career of Eric Staal, his peaks far outshine his lows. His championships and consistently eye-opening stats, even into the later years of his career, dwarf the achievements of many household NHL names and provide a case that Staal deserves to be a member of the Hall of Fame. The longevity of his career and resultant point totals put him in elite company in terms of NHL greats, and while his point production on a game-by-game basis may be lower than other HOFers, the success his teams have enjoyed says a hell of a lot more than his PPG averages ever could.


Mathman's opinion:


After going over Staal’s incredible career, I really believe he deserves to have a place in the Hall. He’s won everything there is to win and has stayed healthy and fairly consistent through it all. On top of that, his career isn’t over, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Staal manages to put up a couple more 60-point seasons over the next 5 years, which might further change peoples’ opinions about his skill. It really seems like his shortcomings in terms of point production are overshadowed by his championships. I think he deserves to have his name in the Hall, but if he doesn’t get even a chance on the ballot at some point in the future it’d be ignorant of his impact and success in the league.


Brew:

I think he’s close. But right now he’s a no for me. If he were to have a few more seasons of good play, get to over 500 goals and get into the neighborhood of 1200 points that could change my opinion.


Zooch:

He belongs in the Hall of Fame. Staal has had 8 seasons where he put up over 70 points and has 1021 career points. He was a crucial piece in a Cup run with 28 points in the ‘06 playoffs. After one down season with Carolina/New York, he came to MN and has been a huge part of the team's success with 111 goals in 4 seasons.


JJ (Journalist Jake):

The guy helped win a cup in CAROLINA for pete's sake! He's in the top 100 in all time points too! The guy deserves to be a Hall of Famer. No doubt!


Isha Jahromi (The Sota Pod hockey podcast):

He’s 100% a Hall of Famer. The fact he won a cup in Carolina while so young on such an old team was unbelievable. He’s still a big kid when it's time to be loose, and a captain when it's time to be serious. On an early episode of my podcast (The Sota Pod) I had former Canuck and current Predator Dan Hamhuis on and he had this to say about Eric Staal: “The most feared player on the Wild is Eric Staal. He’s the hardest to defend due to his heavy presence and skill on top of it. His shot is underrated, but he loves to score goals and is starting to shoot more in his older age. His cellys get better the older he gets."


Bubba:

I believe he should be in the Hall. He’s top 100 in goals and points. He has multiple franchise records with multiple different franchises and his accolades on and off the ice are ridiculous.


Connor_779 (popular Wild/NHL Account):

I think it's a really tough call. His numbers and his achievements on their own absolutely make him seem worthy, especially considering the group he came out of from that 2003 draft class. The only snag for me is just if he did enough, you know? Personally, I think it is deserved, but since he was never really a "top tier" guy in the NHL for more than a year or two, I think it could be hard. I don't think he'll get in immediately after retirement because of how few people get inducted to begin with, but it's definitely possible down the road.


Master Bates:

Eric Staal should be a Hall of Famer in my mind. I haven't been into hockey for long, but even back in the day I played NHL on the Wii and remember Eric Staal. He's been important to this franchise. From what I've seen and know he has been Mr. Consistent, so I would say he deserves it.

Twitter Poll Results: 

63% Yes; 37% No (124 votes)


Site used for stats: https://www.hockey-reference.com





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