Jared Staal's Playing Career Wasn't Like His NHL Brothers, But He's Ahead As a Coach in Savannah

jared staal's playing career wasn't like his nhl brothers, but he's ahead as a coach in savannah

Jared Staal Photo courtesy Savannah Ghost Pirates

When Jared Staal first met Andy Kaufmann a couple of years ago, he came away thinking, “I want to work for that guy someday.”

Upon being formally introduced as the new head coach of the ECHL’s Savannah Ghost Pirates at a June 17 press conference, Staal looked out into a sea of fans from the podium and said with a knowing smile in reference to Kaufmann, the franchise owner, “And now a few years later, here I am.”

Staal, 33, has spent the past couple of weeks immersing himself in the organization and learning his way around Savannah. Monday’s press conference also announced the Ghost Pirates’ new working affiliation with the NHL’s Florida Panthers and AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. The latter was Staal’s home for the past two seasons as assistant to head coach and mentor Geordie Kinnear.

The youngest of four Staal Brothers to play in the NHL, Jared has watched Eric, the oldest, win a 2006 Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes and Jordan (third oldest) raise the chalice in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Marc, the second oldest and only defenseman, is still chasing his first. After playing for the Philadelphia Flyers on a one-year contract, where he will land this off-season remains an open question. All three were first-round draft choices by Carolina, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers.

Jared Staal’s career on the big stage is best described as a demitasse rather than the proverbial NHL “cup of coffee.” It consisted of two games with Carolina at the tail end of the 2012-13 season. But with this next step of his hockey life, he is already well ahead of his brothers in the eventual debate of who will have the top coaching legacy.

“I’m excited for the challenge – everything is a lot more real now,” Staal said once the press conference’s bright lights had been turned off.

“I have had many experiences, both good and bad. I can relate to my players’ stories.” - Jared Staal

It was a noteworthy moment in NHL and Staal family history when Eric, Jordan and Jared lined up together for the opening faceoff against the New York Rangers at PNC Arena in Raleigh on April 25, 2013.

With their parents, Henry and Linda, in attendance after making the trek from their home in Thunder Bay, Ont., Eric was on left wing wearing his familiar No. 11. Jordan wore No. 12 to take the center ice draw with Jared on the right wing. He was given sweater No. 13 expressly for the occasion after being called up from AHL Charlotte, where he wore No. 22.

Although Marc Staal, a member of the Rangers for 13 seasons, was sidelined due to an eye injury, the Staals became the third family in history to send four sons to the NHL. Preceding them were the Bouchers (Frank, Billy, Bobby, Georges) and the renowned Sutters of Viking, Alta., who had a record six sons (Brian, Darryl, Duane, Brent and twins Rich and Ron) don NHL livery.

A second-round selection (No. 49 overall) by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2008 NHL draft, Jared Staal’s minor hockey passport was stamped first by the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage for a five-game stint in 2008-09. The Hurricanes then acquired him in a 2010 trade with Phoenix for a fifth-round draft pick.

jared staal's playing career wasn't like his nhl brothers, but he's ahead as a coach in savannah

The youngest Staal brother played two NHL games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2013. Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

View the 4 images of this gallery on the original article

Other AHL stops followed with the Charlotte Checkers and Providence Bruins, with ECHL tours of duty with the Florida Everblades and South Carolina Stingrays. After playing for South Carolina in 2015-16, Staal’s playing career ended the following season after a year in Scotland with the Edinburgh Capitals.

Unsure what to do next while watching the NHL playoffs a year after retiring as a player, his parents facilitated a job working at a hockey academy in Edmonton. That fuelled their youngest son’s desire to return to professional hockey.

“My parents have always been great and supported me every step of the way in my career,” Staal said. “They are my biggest fans, and my wife, Natalie, has always been supportive and cannot wait to move to Savannah with our children.”

Before being hired by the Ghost Pirates as the second head coach in franchise history (Alex Loh, named interim coach last season after the dismissal of inaugural coach Rick Bennett, was not retained), Staal compiled five years of pro coaching experience. He logged three seasons with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears from 2019-20 through 2021-22 and the past two by Kinnear’s side.

Asked if he feels his combination of youth plus an extensive minor league career spent “chasing the NHL dream” will help him relate to his players, Staal answered in the affirmative.

“I think my story as a player suits me as a coach,” Staal said. “I have had many experiences, both good and bad. I can relate to my players’ stories.”

As he begins to write the Staal family’s latest chapter in what is already a remarkable hockey saga, it's worth mentioning the Bouchers and Sutters realized coaching success at the NHL mountaintop.

After winning two Stanley Cups with the Rangers as a player, Hockey Hall of Famer Frank Boucher steered them to the franchise’s third Stanley Cup in 1940 as a rookie coach.

Darryl Sutter, the 10th-winningest coach in NHL history, guided the Los Angeles Kings to Stanley Cup glory in 2012 and 2014 despite also playing the fewest games in The Show of his brothers.

While there's a long way ahead before comparing Staal to those bench bosses, his career has brought him into the orbit of many coaching influences, including the father of another set of NHL brothers.

It began with 15-year NHL veteran Mike Foligno, his junior coach in OHL Sudbury. Foligno's two sons include Nick Foligno, currently mentoring Connor Bedard with the Chicago Blackhawks, and Marcus, a member of the Minnesota Wild.

Another influence is Spencer Carbery, who coached the South Carolina Stingrays from 2011 to 2016 and steered the Washington Capitals to a playoff berth as a rookie NHL coach. Then there is former NHLer Drake Berehowsky, who Staal said "brought a family influence to the rink" in Orlando, and 36-year-old Ryan Warsofsky, who just became the NHL’s youngest active head coach when the San Jose Sharks chose him.

With the new affiliation between Savannah and Charlotte, Staal’s relationship with Kinnear will continue uninterrupted.

“I learned a lot of X’s and O’s from Geordie,” Staal said.

Among many nuggets of wisdom gleaned during his long and winding road en route to Savannah, Staal has learned the downside of conveying too much information.

“You need to be smart with the information you are giving players,” Staal said. “You can’t just throw everything at them all at once.”

Though it has become cliché that pro hockey coaches want their teams to play fast and be responsible defensively, Staal is determined to take a daily approach.

“We’re not looking at the end goal,” he said.

He is acutely aware of the challenges facing his team in the ECHL’s ultra-competitive South Division. The Ghost Pirates finished sixth of seven teams with a 30-34-7-1 record for 68 points. They scored 218 goals and allowed 243.

With that, Staal intends to be open and approachable with his team.

“I will be honest with my players,” he said. “I think you have to be up front with them and treat it as a partnership.”

Staal has plenty on his plate before opening night on Oct. 18, when Savannah will host the Western Conference’s Indy Fuel. In addition to relocating his family, he'll need to map out training camp in advance.

Between now and then, Panthers personnel will visit Savannah and begin to lay down their footprint with Ghost Pirates management, coaches and employees. Skills coaches from the NHL-parent Panthers will also be present at training camp.

Once on ice with his players in training camp, Staal can begin implementing the nuts-and-bolts details of his coaching philosophy and systems, plus forming all-important relationships with players.

“I’m excited for the challenge – everything is a lot more real now.” Jared Staal

Now entrusted with the fortunes of a franchise that set an ECHL record in its 2022-23 debut season with 33 sellouts, Staal inhabits a fan base hungry for success after a full decade spent trying to land a professional sports team.

Ghost Pirates fans will be heartened to learn that success seems to follow the Staal family wherever there are sticks and pucks.

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