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Staal aims for repeat performance next season

Veteran centerman tied a franchise record with 42 goals in 2017-18

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Few could have expected Wild forward Eric Staal to have the type of season he had in 2017-18. 

The veteran centerman was arguably the team's most valuable player, tying a franchise record with 42 goals and earning a trip to the NHL All-Star Game for the first time since 2011.

Staal did all of that playing with a variety of players on his wing. With key players like Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle each missing extended time because of injuries, Staal played in all 82 games, one of just four players to do so for Minnesota this season.

Still, it wasn't enough to help the Wild advance past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three years. The team's performance in the postseason cost general manager Chuck Fletcher his job, as the club did not renew his contract following the season.

That fact alone was disappointing for Staal, who did everything he could to lift the Wild's play this season. 

"It's never nice. But I think everybody that's in this business understands that it is a business, guys get traded, guys move, people have been fired, that's just the business of pro sports," Staal said. "That's the reality of it when you don't have success, and not everybody does, there's one team that wins. But you try to do your best every day and work but it's definitely disappointing as a group of players, but at the same time it's part of what we do."

Staal said in his post-season media availability last week that he's encouraged by Wild owner Craig Leipold's belief that a rebuild isn't necessary. Leipold said he believes tweaks may be required, however.

Video: Eric Staal on summer training

Staal will turn 34 a couple of weeks into next season. Looking to win his second Stanley Cup -- and first in more than a decade -- Staal said he believes the team isn't far away.

"For me being here the past few years, exiting the playoffs first round both times, you could say he's right we don't have enough to win," Staal said. "That's obviously pretty clear but for me, I believe there's enough ingredients here to give ourselves a good chance to win. That's why I signed here, that's why I came to play for the Wild because I believe that there are enough good pieces. 

"You need a lot of things to go right, a lot of things to go your way and come together at the right time, all those things it takes to win. There are enough pieces and parts in place to get the job done and we just haven't and it cost Chuck his job. Now there's gonna be a new set of eyes to hopefully give us a new look at give us a different perspective to get us over that hump or hurdle and we'll look forward to that."

How the team goes about getting over that hurdle will be of interest to Staal this summer, but ultimately, he knows he will be counted on to have another quality season in 2018-19.

Whether he can achieve a repeat performance is yet to be seen, but Staal showed it's certainly attainable.

"There's no reason to [rebuild], I don't see, we've made the playoffs six years in a row," Staal said. "I'm not gonna play GM. I'm a player, I'm supposed to play as hard as I can, that's my job and that's what I try to do."

Video: Becoming Wild Webisode: Leading the Way


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