I hate to be this guy. I really do. But I didn't start a sports blog so I could keep my thoughts and opinions to myself.
I love Jordan Staal. At 20 years old, we couldn't ask for much more out of the kid. He scored about 75 goals as a rook, and hasn't matched that offensive total in the one-plus years since. But what he brings as a versatile two-way player and penalty kill specialist...that's unrivaled for a player so young. The dude has crazy potential, and from time to time skates like a man possessed.
Which is why his recent strong play earned him the Alternate Captaincy, along with linemate Matt Cooke, for the month of December. Therrien is switching it up all season, but Staal truly earned the A on his jersey.
So now to the depressing, rumor-filled part of this post.
My buddy Tony at The Confluence wrote that the Penguins have yet to find a legit scoring winger for Sid. Ray Shero has done a remarkable job assembling a ridiculous core of centers to go with a sturdy blue line and a franchise goalie who always seems to be backed up by a proven vet. The one thing lacking is the wing.
In that post, there are a good number of comments with readers speculating on what will happen, given that the team has a decent amount of trade bait and hardly any cap space to work with. It seems like the only options are to hope a young guy like Luca Caputi matures quicker than hoped, or to package a few guys for the chance at a mid-to-higher tier scoring winger.
Earlier in the season, the "Trade Staal!" chorus could be heard everywhere. He couldn't score and was looking lost. Those chants have quieted with his recent output, and should be silenced forever with Therrien bestowing the A to Staal's jersey. But is it all part of a plan?
Right now, Staal's market value is the highest it's ever been. He's finding the back of the net and is really putting together some solid shifts. However, if you were an opposing GM, which player would you look at? The young kid who sometimes plays to potential and other times still seems not ready for the bright lights? Or the former #2 overall pick, in his third season at just age 20 who dons an A on his jersey? Which guy is gonna bring the Penguins the most in return?
Staal is a Second Line-caliber center who plays on a checking Third Line due solely to the talent above him in Sid and Geno. I'm all for home-grown talent, and kinda can't wait to see if guys like Caputi (or even Janne Pesonen), could be that star on Sid's line. But due to the situation that Staal is in, it could be in the best interest of the team to package Staal and a defenseman or prospect to a talent-starved team in hopes of a young, scoring winger.
Which is why that A on Staal's chest might mean more than originally thought.