By Ben Raby
STE. CATHERINES, ONTARIO When David Steckel someday looks back on his NHL career, his time with the New Jersey Devils will likely be nothing more than a footnote.
The former Capitals center was traded to New Jersey at the 2011 Trade Deadline and lasted just 18 games with his new team while picking up a goal and a minor penalty. Steckel was eventually traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs before the 2011-12 season.
But despite such a brief stint with the Devils in 2011, Steckel told CSNWashington.com that he spent enough time in New Jersey to appreciate the work that new Caps head coach Adam Oates did as an assistant under Jacques Lemaire.
For as much time as I was there, he was a great assistant coach and a great guy in general first and foremost, Steckel said Friday from Bruce Boudreaus Golden Horseshoe Hockey School. Steckel was one of a half dozen NHL players who served as special instructors at Boudreaus annual hockey camp last week in Southern Ontario.
Obviously Oates was a pretty decent player himself in the NHL for a long time, so he knows what hes doing and I definitely think that coaching the Capitals is a great opportunity for him and Im sure that hes going to take advantage of it.
Oates was an assistant coach in New Jersey for two years before his being named Capitals head coach in June. Steckel thinks that Oates hiring in Washington can have an immediate impact on a Capitals power play that finished 18th in the NHL last season (16.7 percent).
Hes very talented and hes also very creative in his schemes for the power play, Steckel said.
He knows where the openings are and more importantly, he recognizes where the openings are going to be, and when youre as a good of a passer as he was, you can maybe see the ice a little bit differently than perhaps some other coaches can.
The 30-year-old Steckel was also complimentary of Oates hockey smarts and his ability to communicate with his players.
As far as being an assistant coach, he was always there to lend a recommendation whether its a little thing like the curve of your stick to taking one less step here to make you faster up the ice, hes got that perspective when hes coaching that not everyone does For him to kind of bring that to the table, I think thats going to make any player that he coaches better.
Among those players that Oates will be coaching in D.C., is Joey Crabb, one of Steckels teammates last year in Toronto. The Capitals signed the 29-year-old Crabb to a one-year, one-way deal in early July.
Its great for Joey, Steckel said. He had a great year last year and I think he really proved himself as an NHL player day in and day out and if he wasnt going to come back to Toronto, Im just glad to see him catch on with another team.
Crabb finished with career-highs across the board with 11 goals and 26 points in 67 games and teamed with Steckel and Tim Connolly to form Torontos shutdown line in the seasons final weeks.
Hes a crash-bang, go-to-the-net type of smart player. He knows what hes there to do and hes a very good role player.
As for Steckel, hes entering the final year of a three-year contract he originally signed with Washington in 2010 and after an up-and-down first season in Toronto, the Wisconsin native is hopeful of a turnaround in 2012-13.
I had a fantastic time in Toronto, but unfortunately the season didnt turn out the way I wanted it to, he said of the Maple Leafs missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a seventh straight year.
The people here are great though, the city is fantastic, the Maple Leafs pride is always there when youre going through the streets so obviously this year we want a different outcome and hopefully we can deliver something for the fans to look forward to.