Pittsburgh Penguins Winning The Jordan Staal Trade by @MadChad412 - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pittsburgh Penguins Winning The Jordan Staal Trade by @MadChad412

With everything that has gone wrong in the past week or so in the sport of hockey, I figured I'd actually like to write about something involving the actual sport. Something positive to boot. Going in a positive direction, I wanted to write about a certain player for the Pittsburgh Penguins that hasn't got enough credit and/or fanfare that I truly believe he deserves. He's a player that plays well on both sides of the rink, wins face-offs, and kills penalties for the second best team in the Eastern Conference. He's the most underrated and under-appreciated player on the Penguin's roster. He's Brandon Sutter.

When you have a Sidney Crosby and an Evgeni Malkin on your team, your third-line center is usually going to be easy to forget by the majority of your fan-base. Although, that really wasn't the case with fan-favorite and ex-Penguin Jordan Staal. Staal was arguably one of the most beloved third-line centers in NHL history, and for good reasons. Staal scored a ton of big goals and played great defense while in Pittsburgh, helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2008-2009. 

Staal eventually outgrew his role and wanted to be a permanent top-six forward. He also wanted to play with his brother Eric, so the Penguins traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes. In return the Penguins got a first-round draft pick, which was used to draft Derrick Pouliot eight overall. The Pens also received former second-round pick Brian Dumoulin in the Staal deal as well.

At first I was one of the people that had developed an emotional attachment to Staal, and I had to learn to come to grips with the fact that he would no longer be a Penguin. Admittedly, like most Pens' fans, I don't think I initially understood how good Sutter was. His career-high in goals was 21 in 2009-2010, which was the only time in his career that he scored 20 or more goals. Staal matched four different seasons in Pittsburgh, including scoring 29 goals his rookie season. Sutter's career high in points is 40 and Staal had four seasons with over 40 points including a 50-point season.

That being said, there is no doubt that the trade has been paying off for the Pens. Pouliot looked incredible during the preseason and should be NHL ready sooner than later. He's considered to be one of, if not the top overall prospect for the Pens. Dumoulin recently made his NHL debut with the Pens and has looked really good. There is a realistic chance that both players will eventually be top-four defencemen in the NHL. Realistically, those two could make the Staal-trade a victory for the Pens. Sutter, who I consider the most underrated and under-appreciated player on the team makes that trade an absolute slam-dunk for the Pens.

Sutter has been incredibly good for a third-line center, playing behind superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby for the Pens. Fair or not, if you compare Sutter to Staal in a one-on-one comparison, Sutter has performed better in most people's eyes. Since the trade Sutter has 18 goals, one more than Staal, with 14 less total points. That's extremely impressive for Sutter who hasn't had anywhere near the talent on his line compared to Staal. Hell, Staal had better line-mates than Sutter when he was in Pittsburgh. Sutter has had ten different wingers play on his line this year.

Here's the list:

Chris Conner
Zach Sill
Beau Bennett
Chuck Kobasew
Matt D'Agostini
Jayson Megna
Andrew Ebbett
Joe Vitale
Tanner Glass
Jussi Jokinen

As you can see there's no substance and absolutely zero consistency. Yet Sutter continues to play very good two-way hockey for the Pens, while producing on the same level as his trade counterpoint, Staal. Thus far Staal and Sutter are have the absolute same stat-line with seven goals and fourteen points. Factor who Sutter has been on the ice with and the fact that he plays on the third line behind two superstar centers. Also, consider that Staal makes $6 million per-year and the Pens are only paying Sutter $2,066,667 for literally the same production.

Sutter's impact of course is going to be counted on the most in the defensive zone. Well, much like Staal did during his tenure with the Pens, Sutter is playing incredible hockey on the penalty-kill. Only Craig Adams has more penalty-kill time per-game than Sutter when it comes to forwards on the Pens. Sutter has helped the Pens achieve the second-best penalty-kill in the NHL. The only thing missing from Sutter is the short-handed goals that Staal used to score, although Sutter is the only player on the Pens that has scored one this season.

As good as Staal is, and as good as he was for the Pens, Sutter was a huge catch in that trade. As good as those defencemen might be, Sutter has been playing the same level of hockey that Staal used to provide on the third-line for the Pens. Staal was never going to stay in Pittsburgh long-term and that has actually worked out very well for the Pens, largely thanks to the play of Sutter. Thanks again Jim Rutherford!

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