After a very promising rookie season Michael Del Zotto saw his game regress in his second season with the New York Rangers. The attempts to improve his defense and curb his mistakes led to a player that played scared hockey and had no confidence to use his skills in the ways he had throughout his hockey playing career. When a player struggles it is natural for fans to look for explanations as to the regression in that players’ game and with Del Zotto it revolved around talk about his commitment to the game. The combination of murmurs of him showing up at training camp out of shape last year and his inability or unwillingness to learn from his mistakes and continue making them saw many get down on or just give up on Del Zotto.
Needing a bounce back season this year, Del Zotto is doing everything he can this summer to prove that commitment and prime himself for a huge third year in New York. Over the course of the summer he has worked with skating guru Barbara Underhill and been constantly training to ensure his conditioning for the training camp next month. Yesterday he took another step announcing that he is stepping away from twitter to have his sole focus on being ready for the season.
It is certainly possible that with how easy a player with his skill can glide through the ranks and get away with taking shortcuts that it took a season as humbling as last year to truly teach him what it takes to remain at the pro level. The Rangers showed Del Zotto last season that even with their struggles to find a power play quarterback they will not hand him anything in the hopes that he can be that missing player for them. The message to Del Zotto was clear that he has to play well on both ends of the ice or he will not have a roster spot and at least in the summer it appears the message has been received in the right frame by MDZ. The rest of the league should be nervous if a player of the skill of Del Zotto has a chip on his shoulder out to prove he belongs because if he puts it the package together it gives the Rangers a tremendous offensive weapon from the blue line that can be shielded defensively as a member of the third pair. There is certainly no telling if the focus and commitment on being ready for the season will translate to better play on the ice, but it certainly appears that Del Zotto has been humbled by his struggles last year and is willing to put in the work necessary to improve at the NHL level. As someone who has been as hard as any on Del Zotto, both before and after the offense left him, I am looking for a big rebound season from the gifted offensive defenseman that should see him crack the 40 point mark.