Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is Derek Stepan A Prime Candidate For Sophomore Slump?

The New York Rangers experienced what a sophomore slump can look like last season when Michael Del Zotto not only could not repeat his rookie performance, but declined considerably to the point he was sent to the minors on multiple occasions.  Over at Bangin Panger, Vance took a look at which 2010-11 rookies are most likely to have the disappointing follow-up to their rookie campaigns.  In his assessment Derek Stepan came out as one of the three players most likely to see his play drop next season.
2. Derek Stepan  - The Rangers Center situation suddenly got very crowded after July 1.  With Brad Richards and Brandon Dubinsky ahead of Stepan on the depth chart, and comparable statistics to Boyle and Anisimov, there won't be nearly as much ice time to go around, and it won't be with Gaborik or Callahan.
Where Derek Stepan plays this season could have a huge impact on the type of production he puts up offensively.  If the Rangers do decide to give him a chance to play with Richards and Gaborik, then he could have a tremendous year and take a huge step forward.  However, if he ends up seeing limited ice time due to the Rangers depth at center, then he could see a stagnation or decline in his numbers. We do have to remember that Stepan put up much of his numbers this season as a third line player, so remaining in the role does not automatically set him up for a decline compared to last year.

The difference between Stepan and Del Zotto is that you don’t expect that kind of decline in quality or confidence, though in fairness to Del Zotto you would not have predicted it for him last year either.  The summer after making it to the NHL and having success is huge and it will be so not just for Stepan, but McDonagh and Sauer as they move into their second seasons in the NHL.

h/t to SNYRangersBlog for finding this one