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.
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.
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.
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.
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.