I think Downie is and will be a truly sensational player.
Downie made quite the impression in his first NHL preseason, delivering a vicious blow to Ottawa's Dean McAmmond. No one disputes that the hit crossed the line, and everyone agrees Downie deserved a suspension.
I think his punishment was overly severe, but that's another issue altogether.
The fact is, I would want Steve Downie on my team. Sure, he has a checkered past, but he's not the first NHL player with a bad reputation, and he certainly won't be the last.
More to the point, he's a damned good hockey player.
Downie is quick and has good hands, and you know he's going to give you everything he's got when he's on the ice. He'll cross the line every now and again—but that's the risk you take with an exciting, aggressive player.
I'm a Vancouver fan—and if the Canucks had a chance to get Downie, I'd want them to do everything they could to make it happen.
I feel about Downie the same way I felt about Dustin Slade. Slade, for those of you who don't know, was an extremely talented goaltender known for instigating brawls, running his mouth, and suffering the occasional mental lapse.
For all his faults, though, Slade almost led the Quesnel Millionaires (Tier 2, BCHL) to a playoff win over the first-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks while averaging 46 saves a game—and despite only having one forward (Glibert Brule) with any offensive ability.
Unfortunately, Slade snapped too often and was overlooked by pretty much everyone who mattered. But I would take Slade on my team—just like I'd take Downie.
However you cut it, they're two amazing hockey players.