Continuing the march through the forwards, the cousins and I turn to…
Last year: 5-7-12, +1, 56.3% faceoff pct.
Career average (per-82 games): he hasn’t played 82 games yet, either
Feerless’ Take: Odd, isn’t it, that Steckel doesn’t yet have a full season’s worth of NHL games experience (79 games over three seasons)? It just seems as if he’s been here a while. Maybe it’s the experience he had at Hershey in his two full seasons there that heralded his arrival in Washington (a key player in two Calder Cup finals appearances). Maybe it is his solid defensive play and faceoff acumen that merely suggests more of a veteran player. Maybe it’s merely his demeanor…blending in as an island of calm in a sea of riot (the one over on the top left, without his arms raised in the air)…
…whatever, he has built himself into a solid defense-oriented center. There does, however, seem to be an unrevealed part of his game. In 176 games at The Ohio State University, he had 50 goals. In 208 games in the AHL, he had 54 goals (including 30 in 71 games at Hershey in 2006-2007). This isn’t to suggest that he is the next 30-goal scorer on the Caps (joining Ovechkin, Semin, and Clark as players on the roster who have such seasons with the Caps), but that perhaps there might be another scoring option on the bottom half of the forward lines. But even if he doesn’t improve significantly on the scoring side, Steckel provides such consistent defensive play as to be a critical element on this team.
Cheerless’ Take: Once in seven games – once – did Steckel have a better than 50 percent winning percentage on faceoffs in the opening round playoff series against the Flyers. And, he didn’t have a plus game in the bunch. As for his regular season, he was 4-2-6, +4 in six games against Tampa Bay, but was only 1-5-6, -3 in 61 games against the rest of the league. In 67 games, he had only four in which he had more than two shots on goal, and in 21 of them, he didn’t register a single shot. That’s not a recipe for improving his offense, cuz.
The Peerless’ take: Steckel was seventh among all players taking at least 500 draws in faceoff win percentage. What is telling about that is that of the six players ahead of him, none has played fewer than 298 games in his career. In fact, of the half dozen players below him in that statistic, none have played fewer than 204 games (that would be Boyd Gordon, of the Caps, by the way). And, as far as the offense goes, there is that Tampa thing…given what Tampa’s defense is likely to look like this year, he might double his goal total against the Lightning alone. Well, probably not, but it is good to keep in mind that Steckel was a rookie last year – a more mature rookie, perhaps (26 when the season ended), but a rookie nonetheless. He does have that history of producing on the offensive side of the ledger at previous stops, but that really isn’t his role on this team. He’s really on this club to matchup against the other club’s scorers, to kill penalties, and to win important draws. If he scores on top of that, it’s gravy.
Projected: 6-9-15, +3