Goal scoring has been one of the biggest reasons for the Rangers struggles this season. And while the entire team seems to be infected by nogoalitis, the Rangers top guns have been the biggest culprits.
One of them being Derek Stepan, who was predicted to take off this year after tallying 44 points (18g, 26a) in just 48 games last season. Instead, Stepan's lack of offense (just 24 points (7g, 17a) in 40 games) is not only negatively impacting the Rangers in the standings, it's also hurting his chances of representing the United States in the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia this February.
From Dan Rosen at NHL.com, who says Stepan's stock is down...
"The U.S. is thinnest at center, which gives Stepan an advantage to make the roster. However, he hasn't separated himself enough to be considered a lock. His possession numbers are decent, but he's been a minus player. He hasn't helped New York's struggling offense as he has only five points in the past 13 games. He's taken the most faceoffs of any American center (724), but he's won only 44.5 percent of them. The U.S. already has David Backes, Joe Pavelski and Ryan Kesler at center. Paul Stastny has played well of late and was a member of the Olympic team in 2010. Brandon Dubinsky has more points in fewer games than Stepan. He's also been better on faceoffs, albeit in fewer opportunities."
Larry Brooks at the New York Post feels that the spot was Stepan's to lose going into the season and he's on the verge of doing so. Brooks also indicates that Dubinsky, who could be seen as more versatile as he can also play on the wing, is Stepan's biggest competition for a roster spot.
Dubinsky has 25 points (7g, 18a), 54.5 f/o % in 33 games, while Stastny (Stepan's other biggest obstacle) has 24 points (11g, 13a), 53.9 f/o % in 36 games.
The Team USA roster will be announced after the Winter Classic tomorrow.
...how ironic would it be for Dubinsky, who struggled after his own holdout with the Rangers in 2009, to knock out Stepan? While it would still be amazing to see Callahan and McDonagh wearing the other read, white and blue, I'll definitely be bummed if Stepan is left home.
...i think ultimately GM Dave Poile and head coach Bylsma will look at Stepan's entire resume (including him captaining Team USA to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2010) and he'll make the team. However, I'm not convinced that once Team USA lines up against Russia on February 15th for their first game, that he'll be in the lineup. With Backes, Pavelski and Kesler all locks at center there is only one spot for Stepan and he'll likely have to beat out Stastny (seven points (3g, 4a) in his last seven games) for that final open center spot.
He has never put up or had a consistent career. Last he put a number bit u have to ask was why. Cause it was his free agent yr... i would say yes as to he had the nerve to hold up... and has been a ghost for most of this yr
I say no he doesn't deserve the honor to represent our country. There are more departing players
Even though Step has underachieved so far this year, I think he's a better option that Dubi. Dubinsky's game just isn't suited well for international play. Stepan has much better vision, passing skills and offensive instincts than Dubi. Neither are great skaters, but Step has great positioning as a backchecker and breaks up a lot of plays in the neutral zone. If the games were being played on NHL ice, I would be much more likely to want Dubi.
As a ranger fan and an american I don't want him on the team. His work ethic sucks he showed that by holding out before the season rather then showing up to camp and he has sucked all season. Really the only two players on this team that deserve a look at the Olympics is zucc and Kreider
Can't believe Kreider is not being considered over Callahan. Sorry but Kreider would give the US a much better chance at gold than Cally right now
@TheNYRBlog okposo n saad deserve that spot more than him. We need Step, hank n nash to have monster 2nd halves or season is dead in water.
The US could use a guy like Dubinsky on the roster. It's not like they can beat Canada with skill. So they need a little grit.
Step's season has been exactly what I predicted if you recall. When you hold out you miss valuable training time and spend the first part of the year playing catch up, especially under a new coach/system and you fall out of favor with your GM, and to some degree your team mates and it seems to have a psychological impact on these players as well as more often than not players who hold out have an off season to follow (like Dubi). Sure the GM, players etc. understand it's a business but it still effects your relationship with your GM, coach and team mates, especially under the cap you become looked upon as one who is not a "team player". Take Zucc for example who took a lower offer than he could have to help his GM sign his more important players like McD and Step and compare his season with Step's thus far. Moving forward Step will have a better 2nd half if he stays healthy and will probably eek out a spot for team USA but this holdout was unnecessary, and in the end he did not get what he wanted. A good lesson for the young players.
Not sure that this is entirely a bad thing for the Rangers. Maybe it will tick Stepan off a little bit he didn't make the cut, start playing with a chip on his shoulder, and want to prove everyone they were wrong by not picking him? Sounds like best case scenerio he's a 4th liner or healthy scratch anyways!
Besides, who wouldn't mind rooting for Dubinsky one more time in the red, white and blue?
That's what happens when you hold out for more money. Good sit him "the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important then the one on the back." Since he wanted more money and he is not earning it take some back. He is not producing take away money
@TheNYRBlog over rated as i said all along...slow foot and dosen't work in gym in offseason..new NHL is all of that
@cb1 Totally agree with your assessment. Stepan with time is by far the better playmaker and he's the smarter, more adaptive player of the two. I would definitely take him.
Stepan's season has also been quite undervalued on this blog, in my opinion. While I agree that he has been much less of an offensive threat this year, he has really improved defensively in the new system. He hasn't been as effective as he was last year, no doubt, but he has still been extremely valuable.
@jexplorer02I agree about Zucc and Kreider but Kreider's a bit green, unfortunately, so I don't think he'll make it.
As far as your comment about Stepan's work ethic, I have to say, with all due respect, I don't think you really have any idea. Holding out proves nothing. Do you have other evidence? I get that his holdout pissed you off (Sather propaganda for the win!), but that's no reason to start smearing the guy's work ethic.
Are you kidding? Callahan has proved over the last few seasons what he can do on both sides of the ice. This season has not been great for him, not bad, but not great but he had to deal with injuries. If Callahan was not hurt this season, he would most likely be leading the team in goals, not Kreider.
@KreiderisTheChosenOneCallahan has a massive amount of respect around the league -- respect that he earned through years of play and on/off-ice leadership. Regardless of his play this year and injuries, he deserves to be on the team WAY more than Kreider. Come on, Josh, you know this; you know how to build a team. It's why I voted for you and McPhee to succeed Torts. :)
@KreiderisTheChosenOne It's a popularity contest at times.
Callahan was one of a select few players chosen for the U.S. Leadership group...I love Kreids but he doesn't have the resume to back him up to get him onto the Olympic team. Cally has done it before and he'll be asked to carry a heavier load with an A on his chest I would imagine. The leadership group consisted of Backes, Parise, Suter, Brown, and Cally. So there's that.
All I know about Lindberg is he's been added to the preliminary 35-man roster along with Hank and Hags which was this summer. So...who knows.
@Betweentheworlds Well said. I think the dynamics you bring up have to impact how the organization......the Coaching staff and of course the players view the player who holds out especially when Step's agent knew the monies that were available to his client prior to the holdout. I wonder how info flows to the team while the player is holding out?
I agree with the fact that it hampered his development with the new coach and may have caused him to fall lower on Sather's list of favorites, but I disagree about the players. Every player understands that each contract you sign could be your last, and when youre sitting at the negotiating table you're worried about one thing, and thats taking care of yourself and your family. Most of these guys have absolutely nothing to fall back on if their career were be to cut short. In your NHL career, you may only get 3 or 4 chance to go to bat for yourself, so you have to take advantage.
No player is going to hold it against another teammate that they demanded more money or held out. Sure, you want your whole team at camp. You'd want your buddy to be on the trip to Banff, or if youre a winger you want your center in scrimmages developing chemistry. But every player gets it, and there's no bad blood in the room over contract stuff.
I agree, if he's just going to be a 4th liner, let someone else have the spot. I know that isn't his mentality, but I'm more concerned with his ability to be effective for NYR down the stretch.
And youre right, it would be great to root for Dubi one more time. Just have to hope he doesn't take too many dumb penalties. You know his emotions will be high representing his country.
@PATR2014 Didn't seem too slow his first two NHL seasons.
@Hotfreak@cb1 Hot freak I value your opinion. I am out here In the desert and only see The Rangers via media feeds from opposing teams.....so I don't get a big enough picture of Stepan's effectiveness.
I have noticed that on both sides of the puck he lacks the intensity of previous seasons. He appears to be not "hard on the puck" offensively. He carries the puck into the offensive zone and is only able to make one singular play and then the puck is permanantly lost to the opposition's defense. It appears he rarely drives to get the puck back into his possession. It also appears that his offensive play is easily read by the opposition. They expect him to pass the puck 99% of the time.
I also notice that he is slow getting back to cover his defensive responsibilities in his own zone. We both know the center position is critical to protecting The Rangers goaltender. In addition his play in his own zone lacks tenacity. He seems to be gliding around our cage looking for the puck as opposed to believing the puck belongs to him.
I genuinely respect his past performance but wonder if he needs a strong coach to push him to higher levels of production? I would think an Olympic opportunity and playing with guys like Kreider and Nash would have generated more inner motivation to his game.
I would like to hear your take cause like I said my view is limited from where I sit.....Thanks.
I am not one much to argue a point but I see him like this. He holds out, has an extremely slow start so far played 40 games has 7 goals and 17 assist. That's our number one center. This guy has had one twenty goal season back in the 10-11 season. Now a guy like Callahan that is a work ethic if he can't bury a puck he'll hit everything in site. Look at Mcdonagh solid work ethic u can see it on the ice. Maybe work ethic isnt the proper term to have used but there is never a time where I am like" this once in the bag the Stephan is on the ice" he is a second line center at best on a mediocre team problem with our Rangers is our centers are terrible
@EHBIGAPPLE@BetweentheworldsThat's what I think too, given the available monies, the needs of the team etc. My thought is that players support one another during a holdout but for how long and under what circumstances? The agents call the shots but ultimately it's the players who pull the trigger. Whatever underlying resentment that lingers, if any would be quickly forgotten if this guy starts playing like we all know he can and starts lighting it up for the team
@IcyCupNor do I - we really need to get these guys to read this blog
@johnnyb3910@Betweentheworlds I am not a professional athlete so obviously I cannot speak from experience and your point is a good one. I did say from the perspective of the players "to some degree..." taking into account the fact that on the surface of things this is a business and no player will begrudge another athlete from trying to get paid as much as they can. Still I wonder, and of course this depends upon the nature of the holdout, whether psychologically it effects the chemistry of the team, and therefor the performance. I believe it does but of course that is just my opinion. . BTW you can add DelZit to the list of players who underachieved after a holdout, only in his case he continued to digress
@TheNYRBlog sure he did...Torts played a slow down game.....NHL is changeing fast.size, speed , mobility.
@johnnyb3910@BetweentheworldsHonestly I don't think Step has been terrible (except maybe on face offs) and he's remained responsible defensively but last year he was the guy that made everyone around him better. No matter who his line mates were they played better around him. Maybe I blew the whole hold out thing a bit out of proportion and perhaps other factors have contributed to a lackluster season thus far. Still he's a good 2 way center and I can see him being a top 2nd line center for many years here. I think he will get his game back and be more of an impact player going forward. With Dubi you are making a good point.
@Betweentheworlds@johnnyb3910 But to go back to Dubinsky for second, I also think that by Tortorella making comments to the press about the holdout, that also played a roll in his struggles. I think AV was wise to keep his mouth shut and stick with the "I work with the guys that are here" line when it came to Stepan.
@Betweentheworlds@johnnyb3910 I was more just speaking to the part about it affecting your relationship with management, coaches and teammates. I agree with the management part, but I think coaches and players understand the process and can compartmentalize it.As for chemistry with your teammates, I Think you're right that even if they don't come out and say it, there probably is a psychological aspect to things not "clicking" for a player who held out. I don't doubt that maybe in the first week or two of the season their may be a little displeasure among teammates. And if other lines had started clicking, but Stepan's line continued to struggle (a la Dubinksy struggling while the rest of the team took off) that displeasure might carry though the season. But at this point we've seen just about every line combination imaginable, and Stepan at no point has been much better or worse than anyone else.
And a lot of it also has to do with experience, too. A veteran type guy like Richards or Hank who has been through the negotiations process may hardly even notice, while a young entry level guy like Kreider or Miller may be thinking "Boy, I'd never do that to my teammates", but you'll never fully get it until you're in the other person's shoes.
@johnnyb3910@_JackA 4th liner in the Olympics is still pretty darn awesome for a 23 year old and as well the line structure is different than the NHL, also nothing is written in stone in Olympic play as there are very few games to stake your claim for gold so if he were to outperform other centers in the first 3 games or so he'd likely get moved up
A 4th liner in the Olympics is different than a 4th liner in the NHL I would imagine. With there being a bigger ice surface, the physicality of the sport isn't as high as it is in the NHL, so usually speed skills and offenses can play there game. Stepan may actually do well with more space...while he's not the most creative player, when he has space he has the ability to make a play. Plus, with the possibility of seeing a Brown-Backes-Cally line, that to me sounds like a fun and good checking line to throw out there.
It's a jaded, self-centered opinion, I know. I'm not denying that I'm an idiot for even thinking it. It would be a dream come true for any blue-blooded american to be involved in the Olympic Games, let alone play and contribute, at any level, in any role.
Although, that being said, I don't know how well Stepan would do as a 4th liner. He could certainly be used on the PK and for faceoffs, but he's been a minus player almost all season and isn't exactly a banging bodies, battle along the walls type center. As a fan of Team USA, i'd be much more excited if you told me I might be watching a reunion of Cally and Dubinksy running over Sidney Crosby and scoring some garbage goals.
@PATR2014@TheNYRBlogHis is not a speed game - just solid, simple, responsible on both ends and should have a bright career as a 2nd line center. Last year he made everyone around him better no matter who Torts threw on his wings. He will get it back if he wants it. He's got to work for it though. Ii don't buy into the thinking that he can't play AV hockey (you can see my thoughts on his holdout above)