Here’s the question, I guess: How many so-called "bottom-six" forwards does it take to make an NHL team get to the playoffs?
The answer: a lot, apparently- at least in Toronto.
The Leaf brass seems to be banking on numbers to get them over the hump. A few early season issues (minor injuries to Kadri and Connolly, a two-game suspension to MacArthur) have temporarily shifted things around, but the acquisition of David Steckel gives the Leafs one more depth option to help on the third and/or fourth ines.
If we assume that (at least in the short-term) Lupul stays with Kessel and a soon-to-be-healthy Connolly and the Grabbo unit remains intact, we sure do have a lot of guys looking for ice time after that. Forgetting the players now with the Marlies, the list includes Bozak, Armstrong, Orr, Rosehill, Boyce (temporarily back?) Dupuis, Lombardi, Kadri, Frattin, Brown and now Steckel.
Am I missing anyone?
Am I missing anyone?
That's 11 guys for 6 jobs. Math was never my thing, but….
Steckel has size, which rarely hurts if you have some skill to go along with it. And by all accounts he does. His reputation is that of a solid penalty-killer (though Sjostrom had the same reputation). Maybe as importantly, Steckel is evidently a top face-off guy, and with Zigomanis now back with the Marlies, the Leafs could surely use that.
Hey, it’s a useful move, I’m sure. It just creates an interesting situation. The Leafs are stockpiling an awful lot of third and fourth line (and borderline NHL/AHL) guys. Most of us would argue that what the club really needs is some elite talent to play on the top lines, but those players aren’t exactly available every day. And if they were, the Leafs would have to give up some of their precious blueline depth to acquire it. (That’s why Burke wanted so badly to get that offensive upgrade via free agency, and Connolly was what he was able to obtain in the end.) It's hard to find top-end defensemen, and trading them is something an NHL teams does rarely- and reluctantly.
I will say this: who thought Burke would be able to obtain a high-end scorer two years ago? People were saying the same thing back then—you just can’t obtain top-line forwards. Yet he grabbed Kessel. (Albeit for a pretty steep price, eh?) And who really thought he could acquire two "top-six” d-men (Aulie and Phaneuf) for players who simply didn’t fit in the plans any more?
So it can be done. I just don’t know when it will happen again.
Meanwhile, we will do what we normally do in Toronto—micro-analyze the new guy. We’ll hope he’s Doug Jarvis until we realize he’s not, and that maybe there’s a reason why he has moved around a little bit (though in this case, it may well be that New Jersey simply had to move salary again…). But the veteran center, a former U.S. college player and a first-round pick a decade or so ago, can obviously play. But so can all the other guys I listed above.
So is there another roster shoe about to drop, as in another trade? Who knows? In the meanwhile, it’s something to talk about until the games start for real.