Maybe it’s too early to determine, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt… for now (dun, dun, duunnn).
Lee Stempniak, who was acquired via trade from the St.Louis Blues for Alexander Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo , has a total of 13 goals and 39 points in 65 games this season - scoring 10 goals and 26 points in 51 of those games with the Leafs.
Many critics have questioned if Stempniak can sustain a future role as a top-six forward for the Leafs. He has, unfortunately, garnered a reputation of inconsistency. So if he wants to stay on Brian Burke's club for the foreseeable future, he better start pulling his pants up.
Looking at Stempniak’s production in the NHL thus far, it's evident that consistency is not his strong suit.
2005-06 – 57GP, 14 G, 27 PTS
2006-07 – 82 GP, 27 G, 52 PTS
2007-08 – 80GP, 13 G, 38 PTS
2008-09 – 65 GP, 13 G, 39 PTS (on pace: 15 G, 45 PTS)
Stempniak, who was a star with the NCAA’s Dartmouth College (produced 63 G, 151 PTS in 135 GP), seems to be a player who is establishing himself in the 40-50 point range. While there’s nothing wrong with those numbers, he should (and will) be producing at a higher level.
Stempniak, who is currently riding a hot streak with 10 points in his last 13 games, is best utilized in the offensive zone. He has solid hockey sense and vision, and owns speed that allows him to get around
defenders with more ease. Stempniak is not afraid to throw his body around either, – owns a menacing 5'11, 200 pound frame – as he is ranked 4th on the team, and 1st among Leafs forwards, with 99 hits. Considering his small stature, his physical play will help him maintain a lengthy career.
An area of Stempniak’s game that requires polishing is his defensive play (-22 rating in his NHL career). Many times he can be found out of position in his own end. Another area that needs improvement, as I stated above, is his consistency. Many nights I’ve wondered if he was either scratched without my understanding, or if he had stolen Frodo Baggins’ cloak.
When discussing Stempniak’s future with the Leafs, his potential must be the focal point. I believe he has the offensive tools to become a 20-25 goal, 60-65 point player in this league.
Stempniak earns a fair $1.882 million dollar cap-hit. He becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent after next season, and could be re-signed at a reasonable price.
Considering the Leafs’ current situation, they have nothing to lose in giving the 26 year-old a try-out for a top-six position. If he doesn’t pan out, no harm done. If he turns out to be a reliable, 50-60 point
player on the second line, then clearly it was a risk – a minimal one, at that – worth taking.
But I'm interested in reading what you, good-looking and super successful, Hockeybuzz followers think. Is Stempniak – is it just me, or does Stempniak resemble a chipmunk? It's quite possible I'm going insane, but I'm just wondering – a part of the future? Will he be asking for spare change at the corner of Yonge in the summer of 2010? Would you rather have Steen and Colaiacovo back? What's your say?