When Eric Staal signed a three-year contract with the Minnesota Wild this offseason, it looked like the veteran center was set to take on a smaller role than he was used to in the past. Many people had written Staal off as past his prime, but the only opinion that matters in Minnesota is that of head coach Bruce Boudreau.
— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) August 5, 2016
The long-time head coach made it clear that he has high hopes for Staal to be an integral part of the Wild’s lineup moving forward.
[quote_box_left author=”Bruce Boudreau”]
Maybe I’m out in left field, but I think Eric is going to have a great year. I think there’s been circumstances for the last two years that haven’t been well, but I am pretty sure that he is really excited about coming to Minny, and he is really excited about playing.
He’s going to start off with Zach (Parise), and probably Charlie Coyle on the right. Eric and Charlie are big men. Zach works harder than anybody around. I think it’s going to be a highly successful line. At least I’m hoping it will be.
Staal is coming off of a disappointing season where he scored only 13 goals and 39 points in 83 games split between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers. Staal’s 2015-16 point and goal totals were his lowest since his rookie season in 2003-04 when he scored 11 goals and 31 points in 81 games. In the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, Staal was still able to put up an elite point total, with 18 goals and 53 points in just 48 games.
While Staal may have failed to put up at least 50 points for just the second time since his rookie season, the 31-year-old still has immense talent and will look to prove Minnesota right by proving last season was an anomaly. The Wild still have Mikael Granlund who can step up and play center in the Wild’s top-six if the team needs a shakeup, but for now, the job is Staal’s to lose.