No One Is Jordan Staal; Brandon Sutter Must Replace His Role For Pittsburgh

 

It was a landmark trade that shipped one star center in Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a draft pick, prospect, and new third line center Brandon Sutter. 

Sutter was the key piece to this deal as Pittsburgh needed another center to replace Staal’s role.  Unfortunately, many fans are looking at this as if Sutter will be replacing Staal. But, that's just not possible.

Jordan Staal played 431 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins tallying a total of 120 goals (.28PPG) and 128 assists. His 13 shorthanded goals in his career make him one of the strongest and deadliest penalty killers in the game. 

Brandon Sutter has 286 NHL games for the Carolina Hurricanes tallying a total of 53 goals (.19PG) and 54 assists. His three shorthanded goals last season showed his improvement on the penalty kill; which was one of the biggest reasons the Penguins wanted him in the trade.

It’s clear now that Sutter is not going to bring the same offensive hustle that Staal had, but these stats can be skewed as Staal’s offensive punch is much more recent.

Staal averaged a total time on ice during 2007-2009 or 19 minutes per game. He averaged 31 goals in the second and third period compared to just three in the first period.  Showing dependability later in the game rather than just making an early push.

Last season, Sutter had a split-stat in goals per period scoring five in the first, four in the second, and eight in the third period. This balance is helpful, even when compared to Staal’s late game scoring. 

In terms of penalty killing, Staal was one of the best in the league while shorthanded. He averaged close to three minutes a game shorthanded, while Sutter was closer to the two minute mark. 

Staal was also one of the most dangerous players when it came to scoring shorthanded. He had four shorthanded goals in the two seasons of comparison, while Sutter had three last season. Staal, however, has 13 career shorthanded goals, dwarfing Sutter’s three.

While Staal has the edge, Sutter does have the potential to be a very similar threat whilst shorthanded.

In Pittsburgh, Staal could never get the time on ice that he needed to take the next step.  In his early years, Staal was able to play the third line role that Pittsburgh needed. 

He killed penalties, played tough minutes, and was able to still score 20 goals. Now that Staal is advancing his game, losing him seems like the Penguins are losing a second or even first line center, the fact is they are not. 

Sutter is a third line center that plays a game similar to Staal.  He plays tough minutes, kills penalties, and has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer.  His speed, size, and tenacity are going to play a strong role for the Penguins system. 

Replacing Staal was never the reasoning for acquiring Sutter, because you can never replace what Staal did. 

What the Penguins needed to do was replace Staal’s role with a player matching size, 6-foot-4 Staal for 6-foot-3 Sutter; as well as playing style, penalty killer and top line shut down man. 

If Sutter is able to evolve in the Penguins system like the coaching staff believes he can, he can become the third line center that Pittsburgh needs to get back to the Stanley Cup.

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