First of all, let me start by saying that I could not be a bigger fan of this last-minute pickup. Steckel led all NHL centers in faceoff percentage last season, winning 62.3% of his faceoffs. The 29-year old is a literal monster in his own end, and his primary function is keeping other team’s scorers in check. He is a bona fide penalty kill specialist, something the Leafs haven’t had in awhile. He’ll likely take the job on the 3rd line while Matthew Lombardi gets up to speed, Tim Connolly heals up from a not-so-surprising “upper body injury,” and Tyler Bozak reprises his role on the top line in the meantime.
At 6’6, 219 lbs, Steckel will be one of the biggest guys on the ice just about every night, and gives the Leafs some much, much-needed size down the middle. He’s a unique brand of the 3rd and 4th liners that the Leafs already have so many of, and leads one to wonder exactly what Burke has planned. With an excess of both defenseman and serviceable forwards, it’s difficult not to expect another, larger trade in the near future.
There’s already been talk that Carl Gunnarsson’s ascension to the role of top pairing and Dion Phaneuf’s partner is nothing more than a showcasing of his talent level in hopes of garnering a larger haul in a trade. Throw in one of the Leafs’ numerous young utility forwards, and you’re probably looking at a pretty decent return.
It also tells us that Burke was less than satisfied with the way he’d prepared this team for 2011-12. There’ s no question Ron Wilson is on the hot seat right now, and a poor start would tie Burke’s hands and pretty much force him to sack his long-time friend and colleague. Adding an established defensive forward and faceoff specialist like Steckel should help lessen the pressure during any type of re-adjustment from James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson, while hopefully offering a bit of a defensive cushion should the offense struggle out of the gate.
There’s no question it’s a solid addition, especially since Burke only had to sacrifice a 4th round pick to get the big center. Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small and insignificant moves that end up reaping the biggest rewards because of the ramifications they cause up and down the depth chart. So, what do you think of the addition of Dave Steckel?