"You know you’re going to a superior team right now and it’s going to be fun. Winning is always fun. I did have a grin from ear to ear. So far these last few days have been great. These guys have been great to me. It’s a tight-knit group and I’m glad to be a part of it."
By Adam Brady
For a team that has the second-best record in the NHL and has lost just three games in regulation all season, flaws aren’t easy to find. But Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray saw a glaring need for his Anaheim Ducks, and addressed it over the weekend. Anaheim has ranked in the bottom third in the league in faceoff percentage for most of the season, so Murray went out and got one of the best faceoff guys in the game in David Steckel.
To get the 6-6, 215-pound Steckel from Toronto, the Ducks gave up prospect Ryan Lasch and a seventh-round pick in 2014, and already the deal is looking like a great one for Anaheim. Steckel, as expected, has made his presence felt in the faceoff circle, the penalty kill and elsewhere in his first two games with the Ducks, notably in Monday night’s 5-3 win over San Jose. Steckel had an assist and was a plus-2 in the game, and won a staggering 17 out of 23 faceoffs. It’s no surprise for a guy who has been in the top seven in faceoff win percentage in each of his first five full seasons and led the league in that category in 2010-11.
The newly turned 31-year-old Steckel took some time after his first practice in Anaheim to talk about how thrilled he is to be a Duck.
How did the trade go down for you? I actually found out about it at 12:30 in the afternoon, right when we were at practice. I got pulled off just as we had finished. They just pulled me in and told me. When I found out where it was, I was pretty excited.
It was actually my birthday, so that was a good present. I had a 7:00 flight from Toronto and met the guys in St. Louis. I was on the ice with the guys that next morning and played that night in St. Louis.
What was your reaction? I’ve been traded twice now, and the first time it was a complete shock. That was new to me. The second time, it lessened the blow, and this time around it was that much easier to handle. It’s part of the business and you have to adapt. More than anything, it’s stressful for my wife and [22-month-old] daughter, who will move out here after our next road trip. But for me, it’s a great thing career-wise. It couldn’t have worked out better.
You know you’re going to a superior team right now and it’s going to be fun. Winning is always fun. I did have a grin from ear to ear, and obviously I’m a little more at ease because I have played under Bruce and Woody [assistant coach Bob Woods]. So far these last few days have been great. These guys have been great to me. It’s a tight-knit group and I’m glad to be a part of it.
In the time you’ve been with the Ducks, what have you noticed is the difference between this team and the Leafs? I think the most noticeable difference is in Toronto we were really young and here there is a lot more experience. It helps you not only in the locker room, but on the ice. Guys have that experience and they know when to calm down, whereas in Toronto it was a little more on edge because guys were younger and they’re gripping the sticks a little more. In that regard, it’s definitely different.
Looking back on your career, you were actually drafted in the first round by the Kings, but never ended up playing for them. Yeah, I played four years at Ohio State and my rookie pro season ended up being during the lockout in ’04-’05. I signed an AHL deal because nobody knew what was going to happen with the lockout. I played a year in “Manch” [the Kings affiliate in Manchester, NH] and became an unrestricted free agent. I signed with Washington, went up and down between Washington and Hersey, where I played for Bruce and won a [Calder] Cup. Then I got a full-time gig with Washington and played for Bruce there.
What can you say about playing for Bruce? He’s been probably the best coach that I’ve had in this game. It’s not just because he goes to bat for you, but he’s taught me a lot over the years, not only on the ice but off the ice as well. If there is one thing I’ve learned about him, he’s very attentive to details. He expects the best of you. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work, but at the same time he’s going to have as much fun as the guys do. Most of all, he likes to win.
When I got traded, I got a text saying, “Oh, you’re going back to the guy who says the f-word all the time in the HBO thing.” I think he gets a bad rap for that, but that’s what he’s known for. What has the reception been like here? It’s been fantastic. Right now I’m at the hotel down the street with some of the younger guys, “BMac,” “Holly” and Emerson [Brandon McMillan, Peter Holland and Emerson Etem]. They’ve been fantastic. You try not to be the new kid for too long, and so far so good. It’s been awesome.
Bottom line is we’ve still got half the season left and we still have to win games. We want to prepare to do something special.
You’ve carved a niche as a great faceoff guy. What makes you so good? It’s the little things like knowing when to “cheat” and when not to. It’s knowing your opponent. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the league for a little bit here, so I know a lot of the guys who take draws. For me personally, if I want to play and get ice time, I need to win faceoffs. That’s part of my game. It helps out on the PK when you can win a draw and kill 20 seconds just on that alone. So, I take pride in it and it’s something I happen to be relatively good at. Hopefully I can keep it going.
What are your first impressions of Orange County compared to Toronto so far? I don’t have to wear a Canada Goose jacket everywhere I go. I had the option to wear shorts the other day, and I did take it, so that’s nice. Obviously the weather is great. Not having the snow and the sleet and the slush it’s nice. It gets old after awhile. Growing up I lived in the cold in Wisconsin for pretty much all of my childhood. So I’m used to it, but at the same time, it’s nice to get away from it.