It's quite clear by now that New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello does not like to lose.
If anyone needs a reminder of this, one only needs to look back at last year's playoffs, and the infamous "jelly jar" being thrown by Lamoriello after a frustrating playoff loss.
After the Devils monumental struggles in the first half of the season, many expected Lamoriello to be a big-time seller in the second half of the season. It began with a trade of Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas in early January.
But, it's also clear that Lou Lamoriello refuses to quit.
A 17-2-2 third quarter of the season has thrust some life into the Devils, giving them slight hope for a playoff spot. Sure, the Devils remain nine points out, with 20 games to play and five teams to pass, but Lamoriello isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet on a potential playoff spot for the 14th straight year.
While many look to the trade of Jason Arnott today to the Washington Capitals as a sign of preparing for next year, Lamoriello sees this as an opportunity. He isn't boasting any guarantees or anything, but he still believes in his hockey club and its ability to play well enough to earn a playoff berth.
He chose to not actively shop his other UFA—Andy Greene and Johan Hedberg—because he did not want to break up the team and potentially ruin their chemistry.
In fact, Lamoriello is still confident in his team to the point he told Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger that he thinks the Devils are better with Steckel than they were with Arnott, a remark that is sure to raise an eyebrow or two amongst fans around the league.
Steckel, a 28-year old center man, is a player who predominantly brings size, character and faceoff ability to the Devils. He currently leads the NHL with a face-off percentage of 63.7 percent, and at 6'5" 215 lbs., he should be able to fill in on the third line in the spot previously occupied by Jason Arnott.
It will be expected to have Steckel on the ice for any big faceoffs the Devils have down the stretch, not only this year, but for the next two seasons, as Steckel has a very reasonable cap hit of $1.1 million per season.
Let's not overlook the fact the Devils picked up a second-round pick in 2012, which is something to be excited about. I'm sure Rod Pelley will be excited too, as he and Steckel played together at Ohio State University in the mid-2000's.
And things could get interesting when the Penguins come to town, as Steckel is the player that collided with Sidney Crosby during the Winter Classic, which led to Crosby's concussion.
The Devils need to pile up wins, and do so quickly, as they can't afford to lose more than four games in their last 20 to get to 90 points, which is a good potential benchmark for a potential playoff spot. It certainly doesn't guarantee a playoff spot, but if the Devils can get to that number, I'd feel pretty good about their chances.
At worst, it would mean they posted a win percentage of .829 in the second half, which is impressive no matter what, and at a minimum, would leave the team and fans thirsty for next season.
Only time will tell whether or not Lamoriello should have felt as good as about his team as he does.
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