Sens could have had a defensive Staal-wart

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

Those Staal kids, you can't get away from them. The first, Eric, just won a Stanley Cup. The third, Jordan, was guaranteed to be a high draft pick this weekend.

And the second, Marc, is tormenting me, because I remember how Ottawa let him slip through their fingers at last year's entry draft. To this day, I still can't figure out why.

For the record, it wasn't a true loss. If you'll remember, Marc Staal was still available when Ottawa made its selection at No. 9. It was a revelation that had the media legitimately perplexed.

Ottawa passed on Staal (eventually taken by the Rangers at No. 12), and scooped up another defenceman instead -- U.S. high-school student Brian Lee (who has since gone on to play for the University of North Dakota).

I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now.

Obviously, I'm biased toward Staal. He's from my home town of Thunder Bay, and the idea of conversing with a potential Senator while using my Northwestern Ontario lexicon of yore seemed extremely appealing.

But home-town favouritism aside, everyone is aware of the Staals' allure. Commonly referred to as "Hockey's New First Family," it's generally expected that all four brothers stand to make a memorable impact in the NHL.

Marc has been making his presence known, most notably as a core blueliner at the world juniors this year. He won top defenceman honours and during Canada's gold-medal victory vs. Russia, he was given the responsibility of holding Evgeni Malkin off the scoresheet.

The resulting 5-0 victory demonstrated that he was more than capable of the task.

Alternatively, Lee finished the tournament with one goal, a plus-1 rating and not much ice time, but the U.S. team's disappointing fourth-place finish detracted from the majority of his performance.

Then there are the regular-season statistics.

Staal had his best season to date with the Sudbury Wolves this year. The so-called stay-at-home blueliner tallied 49 points (11 goals and 38 assists) in 57 games. Lee spent his first year in North Dakota and finished with 27 points (four goals and 23 assists) in 44 games.

In all fairness to Lee, he has drawn comparisons to other reputable NHL names, most notably Jordan Leopold and Wade Redden. He's been scouted as a very strong skater, with cool nerves and a hot wrist shot from the point.

But undoubtedly he will require grooming in the farm system, as most defencemen tend to take longer to cultivate than players at other positions.

Meanwhile, rumours have already begun that Marc will be making a legitimate push into the Rangers' system this year, and most wouldn't be surprised to see him make the team. The Blueshirts have already given Staal an audition of sorts by having him play in Hartford for the team's playoff run.

You may ponder why Senators GM John Muckler selected Lee when Marc Staal was available.

Maybe he thought Lee would be a better fit in the new (and then unknown) NHL system.

Perhaps he was fearful of losing Redden this year and wanted to develop a replacement.

But as Ottawa continues to face its blue-line uncertainties, it would've been nice to know there was a Staal of our own, waiting in the wings to assist.

QUICK HITS: All stoic emotion and alleged jinxes aside, I couldn't figure out what was up with Lindy Ruff's acceptance speech for the Jack Adams award on Thursday. He was acting like he was on his way to the electric chair, but not before making a quick root canal detour ... Jose Theodore got into hot water over a tryst with Paris Hilton last week. Hilton has previously been linked to Chicago Bears LB Brian Urlacher, and Arizona Cardinals draft pick Matt Leinart. Essentially this means Hilton has hit two of the four major sports, so I guess we can mark down the Paris-Slam as 50% completed ... The latest MLB uniform trend, according to ESPN, is "flippage" -- the act of turning your pants pockets inside out. Barry Bonds wanted to give the trend a try, but who knows what might come flying out of his pocket if he did?


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