Funny, I've written in other player reviews how certain players generated so much debate among you folk, and the case is no different with Viktor Stalberg. The polarization of it with Stals is probably as separated as any though, with some being virulent supporters (as the writers of this blog are) and some absolutely hating his guts. And the debate is going to rage this summer, because what to do with Stalberg may be the biggest question facing Stan Bowman. Thankfully, there doesn't appear to be a wrong answer.
Viktor Stalberg's Stats: 79G 22G 21A 43P +6 34PIM +0.12 Behind The Net Rating, +0.015 QofC, 14.97 CORSI
The Good: Whatever your feelings on Stals, even if you dismiss it as all coming against Columbus (incorrectly), 22 goals and 43 points without even sniffing power play time is quite the accomplishment. It gets better, as those numbers came with Stals spending time on all four lines at one point or another. The number that really jumps out is the CORSI. That's third best on the team. You may chalk it up to spending a majority of the year on the top lines, but I don't. Stalberg became the best forechecker on this team with his speed and upped work ethic, and quite simply when Stals was on the ice the Hawks were almost always in the right end of the ice. Most of Stals's goals came around the net as well, not just using that blinding speed to score on the rush. While his defensive positioning can still get dodgy, it's way better than it was. And his interest in it is higher than it was.
The Bad: Well, those playoff games didn't help, even if he did set up the two overtime winners. Stalberg couldn't break through the sizable Coyote defense, and that's still a problem. There are the defensive lapses. He could get careless with the puck, especially during that February streak of death where he along with everyone else tried to do too much. For as big as he is, he could use that size more but doesn't and most likely never will. Can be a streaky scorer, going a while without being noticed. Of course, there was some curious handling of Stals as well. With both special teams struggling so much, could it have hurt to give him a look on either or both? You'd have to believe that speed would keep some point-men on opposing power plays on their heels, even if Stals wasn't always perfectly positioned. When the power play was screaming for more dump ins and retrieval, Stalberg was probably the best the Hawks had at it. But this is a familiar complaint.
Contract: One year left at 875K, and this is where the debate begins.
Stick Around Or Hit The Bricks: Boy, this is a loaded one. It's clear to everyone that you can sell high on Stalberg, as high as you're probably ever going to be able to. A 20-goal scorer who can play up and down the lineup at that contract is going to look tantalizing to a lot of GMs. Add to that that when Vik hits unrestricted free agency next summer, the bidding for him (unless he completely falls off the table, which tends not to happen in walk years) probably starts at 3 mildo per year and could very well go north of 4. That's going to be too pricey for a Hawks team with kids coming up to take his role anyway. Morin or Saad look to be the prime contenders to do so. So there's a lot that says Stalberg will be part of a package, and depending on what comes back, you couldn't argue.
On the flip side, if the Hawks do move Stalberg, they're not going to be able to afford someone to then do what he does, or likely won't without moving a couple pieces (and it would have to be more than Hammer, which probably means Bolland, and we just discussed that). If they decide to do so, they have to be sure that Saad or Morin or some other kid is actually ready to step in and contribute. No one knows that yet. And having a player with that offense and speed on that deal who can play on any of the four lines isn't the worst thing in the world.
It would seem neither is a wrong answer, exactly.
-A brief note on Stan Bowman's teleconference yesterday and Adam Jahns's article in the Sun Times today. While I along with you was shocked that someone asked about Kane, the fact that Jahns today got a leak indicating that Kane was nudged toward "help" is the real headline here. While Jahns has slowly moved away from being the Hawks message boy, he's still well tied up in the organization. And we know how much the Hawks control the message, so things don't just leak out, and it's probably not a coincidence that Jahns is the one to receive said leak. This is probably the public shaming that we thought would follow Kaner's Cinco De Stupid in Madison.
So now it's all on Kane. He pops up on Deadspin again, and he's going to find a hammer worthy of a Norse god falling on his head.