Wednesday, September 29, 2010

30 Caps in 30 Days: David Steckel

During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Advanced stats are given from ranked against other players at the same position--forward, defense, or goalie--in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night. Teammates are those listed at 10% or greater and at even strength (though the percentage includes all manpower situations). Today, David Steckel)

David Steckel: age 28, 6'5", 222 pounds, shoots left.
Contract: $1.1 million, UFA in 2013, per Capgeek.
2009-2010 linemates: 17% Matt Bradley and Quintin Laing, 14% Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon
2010 playoff linemates: 40% Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon, 14% Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann

2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 79 GP, 5-11-16, +4, 90 shots, 19 PIM
Playoffs: 3 GP, 0-0-0, +1, 0 shots, 0 PIM

2009-2010 advanced stats: 3rd in Corsi QoC and in Corsi Rel QoC, 5th in Corsi QoT, and 6th in Corsi Rel QoT. Zonestart 40.3% offensive zone (last on team) with Zonefinish 46.5% offensive zone (fourth-to-last). Corsi Rel -2.4, middling on team, ahead of Laich, Morrison, and Perreault among centers.
2010 playoffs advanced stats: 1st in Corsi QoC, 2nd in Corsi Rel QoC, 4th in Corsi QoT, and 5th in Corsi Rel QoT.

(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)

WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Steckel, green how much better Steckel is with the player)

David Steckel (or is it Dave?). He's one of the bigger-name non-former-Devi-or-Duck 4th liners in the league, mainly for doing what he did in the video above, dominating Sidney Crosby in faceoffs head-to-head in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, and adding a goal in each of the first two games of that series as well.

After that playoff run, many Caps fans thought he was pretty valuable to the organization, but opinions have generally swung the other way since, and with good reason. His GAON/60 per sixty minutes of 4-on-5 has been steadily rising, from 5.27 in 2007-2008 to 6.77 in 2008-2009 to 8.65 this past season, one of the highest totals on the Capitals. For a team struggling on the penalty kill, simply having himself as an option for Bruce Boudreau--not exactly the best, it seems to me, at using the best people in each situation--makes him invaluable, err, unvaluable. Steckel is hampered by poor foot speed, skating, hands, and offensive hockey sense, among other things.

Here's a counterpoint I made on Japers' Rink yesterday:
Tougher competition, poor teammates, low GAON/60, very tough zonestart, decent Corsi%? Steckel ain’t great, especially at his cost, but he isn’t worthless, either. I’m actually starting to lose track of why we actually think he’s bad. He’s tradeable, probably paid too much (considering who can be had at nearer to minimum, like Gordon and Betts), but he’s still a decent hockey player.
To add to that, Steckel's offensive production this past season should be taken with a grain of salt, since his 3.7% shooting is highly unlikely to continue. He also drew penalties at a decent clip, and considering his PDO wasn't, relatively speaking, all that high, his numbers are less likely to take a hit than his teammates'.

That being said, his 2.29 GFON/60 at 5-on-5--worst among Caps regulars--is pretty poor. While he did have a low on-ice shooting percentage, his on-ice save percentage was a high .934, which inflates his defensive numbers, even if in the past two seasons he's had save percentages of .928 and .920. With 6.06 and 6.64 on-ice shooting percentages those years, respectively, I don't know how optimistic we can be about Steckel improving his offense. He could, at the very least, return to form that saw him outshooting the opposition by three shots per sixty for two years, instead of the 2009-2010 version which was basically break-even at 25. It is a bit disheartening to see that Steckel put up similar numbers in 2009-2010 as in 2008-2009, despite playing on a better offensive team with overperforming ES goaltending and with more games (although in fairness Boyd Gordon was healthier).

A lot of what Steckel will do this season will depend on whether he's traded and whether Boyd Gordon gets injured. If neither, he won't do much better than be healthy scratched every so often.

70 GP, 5-10-15, even.

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