Of all the players who moved teams at or around the trade deadline, the guy having the biggest immediate impact is a player I (and I imagine most others) would never have suspected: Lee Stempniak. Whatever else Stempniak’s incredible start in Phoenix is, it is probably appropriate that an unheralded and often underrated player emerges as a surprise on a team that was both unheralded and underrated entering the season.
In nine games with the Coyotes, Stempniak has scored nine goals, added two assists, and recorded a plus-8 rating. The Coyotes won eight of those games, are on a nine-game winning streak, and have taken over the lead in the Pacific Division, and Stempniak’s offence is a big part of the reason why.
While it’s a definite surprise to see Stempniak doing as well as he is, his offence didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. Stempniak scored 27 goals and topped 50 points with the Blues in 2006-07, and has had 38 and 44 points in the last two seasons. He does have offensive ability, although it was shown rarely with the Leafs.
The bad news is that it can’t continue. Stempniak’s shooting more with less ice-time, but that is not the primary reason for his offence. He’s carrying a 31.0% shooting percentage so far as a Coyote, just over twice his career best – set in 2006-07 when he scored 27 goals.
The good news is that the strengths in Stempniak’s game will remain: his intelligence, his willingness to play a two-way game, along with some offensive touch. But for now, it’s worth enjoying the finest run of his career.