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Factor Facts: Eric Staal

Forward proved critics wrong as an integral part of Minnesota's lineup in 2016-17

by Devin Lowe /

Factor Facts is an inside-the-numbers look at the Minnesota Wild's season that was. Today, examines forward Eric Staal and the impact he had on Minnesota's historic 2016-17 campaign.


When the Minnesota Wild signed Eric Staal to a three-year contract back on July 1, 2016, it certainly raised some eyebrows across the League.

At 31, Staal had just come off a season in which the Carolina Hurricanes, the team that drafted him and the only club for which he'd played professionally, dealt him to the New York Rangers, where he subsequently collected just six points in 20 games and none in the Blueshirts' short postseason run.

His 39 points in 2015-16 left some wondering if the veteran centerman's best offensive days were behind him. So during the 2016-17 season, Staal did what Wild fans became accustomed to seeing: He quietly assumed a leadership role and led by example by putting together his best offensive season since 2011-12.

Staal led the team in goals with 28 and finished just three behind team leader Mikael Granlund in the points column. He also posted the best plus/minus mark of his career.

With two years left on his contract, here's a look inside the numbers of Staal's first season with Minnesota:


Staal finished the season two goals shy of the 30-goal mark, which led the club. The last time he racked up 30-plus goals was in 2010-11, when he was 27. He also reached the 350-goal milestone in 2016-17 and now has 353 career goals.


A handful of impressive assist totals dot Staal's career, and this season was no exception. His 37 helpers were the Wild's fourth-most (behind Granlund, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle) and the most he's had since his 40-assist season in 2013-14. The 2016-17 campaign brought him within seven assists of reaching 500 career helpers.


Staal entered the prestigious club of NHLers who have played 1,000 or more games on March 19 when the Wild traveled to Winnipeg for a Sunday matinee. He was later honored for the milestone on April 4 with his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, in town. Staal was one of seven players across the League to reach the milestone during the 2016-17 campaign.


This season was Staal's fifth as a plus player, and his plus-17 rating gave him the highest plus/minus he's had over the course of his 13-year NHL career, having previously recorded a career high of plus-15 in 2008-09. He finished the season behind the dangerous line of Granlund, Koivu and Zucker and defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon for the team's best plus/minus, tying Nino Niederreiter for sixth place.


Perhaps no statistic better illustrates how clutch Staal was for Minnesota than his team-leading eight game-winning goals. He last tallied eight game-winners back in 2010-11, when he had five more goals and 11 more points than in 2016-17. 


Save for his 100-point season with Carolina back in 2005-06, when the Hurricanes captured the Stanley Cup, Staal has never shot higher than 13 percent. His shooting percentage of 13.3 in 2016-17 was the second-best of his career and third-best among Wild players who took more than 100 shots in the campaign. He was the only player on the roster to take more than 200 shots, which, when coupled with his shooting percentage, is indicative of both his persistence and accuracy.

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