The Skinny on Steckel

The Leafs traded for David Steckel yesterday and while this is by no means a significant trade my first reaction to it was a very positive one.  A fourth round pick is almost worthless and Steckel is a more than useful quality defensive third/fourth line guy who can kill penalties, something the Leafs desperately need.  Upon further review of the stats, I still like the trade because of it’s low risk but my thoughts on Steckel are a little more mixed than I first believed.

The Good

On the surface, Steckel looks like a premiere defensive forward.  Over the past 4 years, Steckel has the 9thth lowest on ice goals against per 20 minutes of the 250 forwards with 1500 5v5close minutes of ice time and he has been consistently very good at keeping the puck out of his own net at even strength.  His four year HARD+ rating is 1.152 and his HARD+ ratings for the past 4 seasons are 1.112, 1.262, 1,102 and 1.094.  All of these things point to Steckel being a good, or maybe very good, defensive forward.

The Bad

Throwing a damper on everything I just said, his quality of competition is quite weak.  His OppGF20 (opposition goals for per 20 minutes) ranks 227th of 250 and surprisingly he has over the past 4 seasons had slightly more offensive zone starts than defensive zone starts.  Now this isn’t all bad.  His opponents on average scored at a rate of 0.766 goals per 20 minutes of 5v5close ice time while Steckel and his teammates held them to 0.499 goals per 20 minutes but I would have more confidence in his defensive numbers if he was playing against top level opponents.

The Ugly

One of the key roles the Leafs likely acquired Steckel for is to provide some desperately needed help to their woeful penalty kill.  The problem is, Steckel’s PK numbers are quite woeful as well.  Of the 63 forwards with 500 4v5 PK minutes over the past 4 seasons, Steckel ranks in 48th in goals against per 20 minutes though he is a much better, but still average, 28th in fenwick against per 20 minutes.  Furthermore, the quality of his opponents on the PK hasn’t been all that great either as he ranked 57th of 63 in OppGF20 and 60th of 63 in OppFenF20.  Add it all up and it is quite likely that Steckel has been a below (maybe well below) average PK guy over the past four seasons.  That isn’t good news for the Leafs PK in 2011-12.

The Skinny

Although the numbers cast some doubts as to whether Steckel will live up to my initial reaction when I heard the trade, I still like the trade because it is a low risk trade and adds some defensive minded depth and size to the Leafs lineup.  I’ll take a wait and see attitude with regards to Steckel being a quality addition to the Leafs penalty kill unit but at the very least he’ll be a quality addition to the fourth line.  A fourth line that includes Steckel along side Mike Brown and Colton Orr could at the very least be a physically intimidating energy line that hopefully is more than responsible defensively and that isn’t all bad.


This article has 5 Comments

  1. You didnt mention his most important feature, face-offs. Picking up the best face-off guy in the league is worth something. Cant believe they got him for a 4th round pick.

  2. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were drafted in the 7th and 5th round respectively. I don’t know if it is fair to say that a fourth round pick is ‘almost worthless.’

    Where would you rank Steckel in terms of top defensive forwards in the NHL?

    1. Fourth round picks aren’t worthless, but they are almost. Let’s take a look at the best 4th round picks for a few drafts.

      2000: Niclas Wallin, Lubomir Visnovsky, Michel Ouelette
      2001: Jordin Tootoo, Ray Emery, Christian Ehrhoff, Tomas Surovy, Christoph Schubert
      2002: Brandon Segal, Aaron Rome, Patrick Dwyer, Cam Janssen, Tom Gilbert
      2003: Phillipe Dupuis, Jan Hejda, Byron Bitz, Paul Bissonette, Kyle Quincey
      2005: Darren Helm, Nathan Gerbe, Tom Wandell, Derek Joslin, Cal O’Reilly, Mark Fayne,

      Those are pretty much the guys who have played 80 NHL games. Over 5 years you have 150 draft picks and you end up with no first line forwards, maybe no second line forwards (depending on whether Helm or Gerbe take their games up a notch) and a small number of third or fourth line forwards. On defense things look better with a very good defenseman in Visnovsky and Ehrhoff and Wallin, Hejda and Gilbert are solid defensemen too and Quincey had a few good years. In goal Emery may have done something with his career had he not gotten injured. But, out of 150 draftees you have a couple very good players, a few more quality players, a handful of 4th liners/journeymen, and about 130 or so nadas. So your fourth round pick has <10% chance playing in the NHL for more than one season, <5% chance of being a regular for several seasons (Steckel-like or better), and about a 1.5% chance of being anything close to a front line player. It is easy to quote the players who did get drafted late and became stars but we can't ignore the thousands of players who were drafted late and became nothing more than a name on a draft list. That isn't to say we shouldn't put any value on fourth round picks and trade them all away, but if you can get something useful for them and plug a much needed hole, go for it.

      As for Steckel, I wouldn't rank him as one of the best defensive centers, but he is solid and can take key faceoffs in either zone. He is a good utility player, not an elite one.

      1. The 4th round stat when put into perspective is pretty shocking to say the least. I’d be curious to see what sorts of players were drafted in later rounds, as an examination of which teams in the league have strong valuation methods or does that become arbitrary?

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