Steve Staios is the third veteran pending unrestricted free agent defenseman we tackle in our post-season Islanders player report cards. (We previously looked at Milan Jurcina, followed by Mark Eaton.) I should periodically note that this annual tradition was stolen from Japers' Rink, who probably stole it from some Italian Alps monk's 16th-century writings that have gone suspiciously missing from the Smithsonian.
I find grading Staios against our standard of preseason expectations to be difficult, because I did not expect him to serve more than a 6/7 role on the Isles blueline. As an old, waivable and inexpensive warhorse to provide sage wisdom and such, I didn't have a problem with his late-summer tryout-turned-contract. But as a regular partner for offensive defenseman Mark Streit -- who was coming off a season-long injury no less? Too much to ask.
It's been fun watching the debate here over the Eaton/Jurcina/Staios trio, as it feels like debating which used rug to put in the mud room. If it's true every NHL team has a weakness in their third pair, the Islanders had too many weak third-pair defensemen.
|GP||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||TOI||PKtoi||Hits||O-Zone St ||SOG||PCT|
|2011-12 - Steve Staios||65||0||8||8||-19||53||17:04||1:47||55||46.2%||67||0|
For his part, Staios is old and he is "experienced," in the parlance of our times, but let it never be said he doesn't give every bit he has. And unlike many Islanders, when things got chippy or liberties were taken, Staios was quick to stand up for teammates. He did not loaf and he did not back down, but Father Time has pulled at the back of his jersey for several seasons now.
His weaknesses include mobility or having proverbially "lost a step," his tendency to break the puck out by ringing it around the boards, and his propensity for too many minor penalties (24 in 65 games). The latter is related to the mobility problem, as recovery in a young man's league too often involves a hook or hold.
The team's theory at the season's opening was that his stay-at-home tendency would complement Streit's roaming strengths and stabilize the blueline. But Streit's tough start and Staios' limitations at this age portended that this would not last, if it was there to begin with.
By later in the season, Staios was an occasional scratch, and his average ice time was ultimately fifth among regular defensemen. On that note, although Staios was a frequent partner of Streit's, he certainly wasn't given offensive roles and was often swapped out on offensive zone draws, getting the lowest O-zone starts of the six regular D-men.
Staios was once a reliable defensive NHL defenseman, and at times you could see the smarts that got him to 1000 NHL games bail himself or a teammate out. The problem is you can't expect a full season of that. Had he been worked into the lineup periodically from the get-go, getting ample rest as a scratch between uses as a third pair guy, I doubt there would have been too much fan objection as your #7 D is usually of that sort.
Granted, maybe even that is too kind.
It's likely -- and even imperative -- that the Isles will not have any of the Staios-Eaton-Jurcina trio back next season. But if they brought one of them back, could the oldest, and only righty of the bunch, return?
Staios has had a couple of NHL.com online appearances in the offseason -- most recently a post on his many teammates playing at the IIHF World Championship -- that make you wonder what's in the plan, or if there are off-ice options on the table. He wore the "A" this year and appears to have the respect of the Isles braintrust. In terms of a player's role, I think the Isles need to move on, but we'll see. In his chat a few weeks ago when asked about coming back, he said this:
I've loved my experience this year in New York playing for the Islanders on such a great up and coming team with all the great teammates that I had. I want to thank all the Islander fans for all of their support through this season.
Regardless, he was one who was fun to hear discuss the game. Maybe he puts his hockey mind to use in other roles.
The Poem / Lyric
Drafted under H.W. Bush
Debuted under Clinton
400+ games under Bush II
Retired under Obama?
Remember, these report cards are part analysis, part fun, part fodder, and part forced look back. As explained in Milan Jurcina's report card, we ask you to grade each player on an "expectations" curve -- that is, try to remember your preseason expectations of a player and then judge him on how well he lived up to them. The point of the curve is to avoid grading players based purely on talent/role, and to get us reflecting on what we reasonably expected of a player.