[Ed. Note: "From Backstrom to Steckel"... and here we are at Steckel. Thanks for sticking it out with me through 29 (I think) players and making the discussion on each worthwhile... your reward is coming next week.]
Contract Status: 2008-09 salary of $500,000 (cap hit of $512,500); RFA after 2008-09 season
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 26
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 1+
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 67 games played, 5 goals, 7 assists, +1, 34 PIMs
Key Stat: Steckel lead all rookies in faceoff percentage and was seventh among all players with a 56.3 winning percentage.
"How 'Bout That?" Fact: Steckel, as Peerless reminds us, was drafted by the Kings with the last pick in the first round of the 2001 Entry Draft... 184 picks before L.A. selected Cristobal Huet.
The Good: Steckel (who sure does look a lot like Matt Bradley) registered his first NHL points and goals in 2007-08 as he came more or less out of nowhere to become a key contributor on a team not lacking in third- and fourth-line forwards (were it not for a broken finger suffered in early March, Steckel likely would have played 81 games). His faceoff numbers (see above) were fantastic (and he took a ton), he had the second-best takeaway-to-giveaway ratio on the team (behind only Boyd Gordon), got the second most shorthanded minutes per game of any forward (again, behind only Gordon) and kept his shifts short (with one notable exception). Like many Caps, Steckel's numbers improved once his former coach (twice) Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench, and he registered four goals and seven assists in 46 games the rest of the way. Finally, he positively owned Tampa Bay, to the tune of four goals, two assists and a plus-four rating in six games. If he got to play the Bolts 82 times in a season, that would project to 54 goals, 27 assists and a plus-54 rating (Steckel, we assume, doesn't mind the unbalanced schedule one bit). And all of this for $525,000 and a $512,500 cap hit.
The Bad: While it isn't his job to put up points, after a 30-goal/31-assist season in Hershey in 2006-07, you would have hoped for a little more offense (even though both numbers were far and away the single-season highs at any level). Steckel had goal-less droughts of 24- and 16-games, didn't have a single assist in 21 games before the coaching change and had only one goal and five assists in 61 games against teams that didn't finish D.F.L. in the League standings. And while Steckel ended up on the right side of zero in terms of plus/minus, he only had one month - October - in which he played more than three game and was a plus player. Surprisingly, Steckel's goals against when on the ice per sixty minutes was 22.5% higher than Gordon's and only 3% lower than Viktor Kozlov's.
The Vote: Rate Steckel on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Questions: What role do you see Steckel playing on the 2008-09 Caps? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?
If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.
* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.