With the loss of Josh Norris recently, the Ottawa Senators have a gaping hole at centre. Thankfully, they’ve been playing Tim Stützle, a natural centreman, up the middle for the past couple months. He’s relishing his role there while playing with Brady Tkachuk most nights. There are some interesting reasons why his move to centre is paying off, so let’s take a look at them.
Stützle’s Speed on the Rush
One obvious way his move to centre is paying off is that it allows Stützle to utilize his speed more effectively. He plays his best when his feet are moving, and collecting the puck through the middle of the ice allows him to create gaps and chances with his elite side-to-side agility.
Off the wing, Stützle looked lost at times, and unsure of his positioning. He sometimes had trouble reading his teammates to find space, especially on the rush.
When he has all of his regular linemates with him, and especially with Alex Formenton flying down the wing alongside him, he does what he wants in the middle of the ice and Formenton finds a way to the front of the net.
Stützle’s Wrist Shot off the Rush
Before he entered the league, he was known for his slick hands and wrist shot. Some of the nicest goals of his career have come off the rush, where he uses his patented wrister to fool goalies from all kinds of angles. The effectiveness of his wrist shot increases tenfold when he can get to high danger scoring areas.
This goes hand-in-hand with his speed. When he flies up the ice, starting in the middle, he can choose unique paths into the offensive zone that give him chances to unleash his shot.
Stützle Isn’t Afraid to Use his Body
Although he can’t be classed as a power forward, Stützle has been effectively using his body since his move to centre. As a centreman, one of the most effective ways to defend in your zone is to separate the man from the puck down low. Behind the net, and around the net are key areas that usually need to be dealt with in a physical manner.
This season, he has improved his hit total from 55 last season, to 77 so far this season, in six fewer games. Although a lot of those hits happen on the forecheck, it signifies an increased physicality in his game, one that is necessary to play centre in the NHL.
He even got into a fight a few weeks ago, which sent him to the locker room, and sent Senators fans into a frenzy. Luckily, he was no worse for wear, and it was surely appreciated by his teammates.
Stützle’s Natural Position
Because it’s his natural position, the position he grew up playing in Germany, Stützle has been way more confident in his game with and without the puck.
In recent interviews, you can hear it in his voice. Even with the injury to Josh Norris, the team’s top line centre, Stützle hasn’t missed a beat. When asked about all of the injuries, and his role in the interim he said that he wants, “to create most of the offense,” and that he, “like(s) playing under pressure.”
Anyone who has played hockey at a serious level understands the comfort of playing in their natural position. You make plays that you’ve made a million times, you see the game the way you’re used to, and you can play confidently and aggressively. Look for him to continue to grow and play like the superstar we expect him to be.
Stützle Takes Better Care of the Puck
He’s always been relatively prone to turnovers, which is understandable for a flashy player who makes creative plays. But since his move to centre, he’s been much better at taking care of the puck.
This season, his giveaways are down to 27, from 44 last season. This has everything to do with his move to centre.
As stated earlier, he is in his natural position, making plays he is familiar with. When you know how plays develop from your familiar point-of-view, you’ll make less turnovers. We should see this trend continue for the foreseeable future.
With all of these positives, it would be hard to find a reason for D.J. Smith to move him back to the wing. For his development, and the Senators’ future, Stützle needs to stay at centre.
Writer and hockey addict from the GTA, covering the Ottawa Senators. Leafs fan from birth, moved to BC to explore the mountains and find the strength to keep cheering. Love talking prospects, potential, and coaching strategies.