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Reasonable Expectations For Michael Del Zotto

During last night’s 3-2 loss to the Devils, Michael Del Zotto was involved in a turnover that killed the Rangers momentum. Right after the Rangers scored to make it 3-2 on a 5-on-3, MDZ turned the puck over to Patrick Elias, then took him down on what was going to be a breakaway. The resulting penalty killed all of the Rangers momentum that they wouldn’t regain until Brandon Dubinsky’s deflection rang off the post with one second left.

Following the turnover, many fans and bloggers alike went to Twitter to blast Del Zotto. Yes, it was a poor play, but it didn’t exactly cost the Rangers the game. Even coach Tortorella said that it wasn’t his fault, it was the goaltending. However, many people blamed Del Zotto, and even went as far as saying that he’s a bust, trade bait, not part of the core, and never was part of the core. Easy there killer, let’s look at expectations before making wild statements.

Michael Del Zotto is 20 years old. He was rushed to the NHL last season, and had a great offensive year. This year, in an attempt to fix his defense (which has been much better), his offensive game has suffered. He has tried long, dangerous, and stupid passes to try and jump start his offense, which has led to him developing bad habits and forcing plays. This is what we call development. You make mistakes, you learn from them, you fix them. It’s Development 101 folks.

The problem lies with the expectations of the very young defenseman. After that first year, people expected him to not only produce on that level, but exceed that production. He is not Drew Doughty, and while this drop in production is more than most expected, it’s not alarming and it’s not worthy of panicking over. His 37 points put him at #31 in scoring amongst defensemen. Only three defensemen around his age finished higher: Doughty (age 21) and Tyler Myers (just turned 21). Of these players, only Myers was a rookie. Myers, by the way, is having an off year as well.

If Del Zotto can fix his issues by the time he hits 22 (middle of next season), then it will be a shocker. He’s not Brian Leetch. At his peak, I would be surprised if Del Zotto eclipses 50 points a season. If he hits 40 on a regular basis, that puts him in the top-25 amongst defensemen, which is all we can ask for. Let’s all take a step back from the ledge here regarding MDZ. The kid is 20 years old, he can’t even legally have a beer in the US. Let’s wait until he at least turns 25 before we start calling him a bust.

3 Responses to “Reasonable Expectations For Michael Del Zotto”

  1. Brian says:

    I’m surprised at how people take everything to extremes with these young players, all MDZ needs is some time to play and work on rounding out his game. He will be fine.

    He is 20 years old. And He is undeniably talented. Offensive defencemen do not grow on trees and if it takes a little time to develop a guy like a Gilroy or MDZ so be it. Yes, mistakes like last night are costly but this is a situation that any team that builds through young players will experience before they can appreciate the eventual reward. It is all too easy to look at the seamless transitions of young defencemen like Sauer and McDonagh but they are the exception and not the norm. Again, with proper development MDZ will be fine.

  2. Steve Nagy says:

    MDZ. is a young and talented player who needs to learn his trade in the AHL for a couple years like Stahl and Girardi. We have an ample supply of solid young defensmen who can ply solid defense and there is no need to rush this 20 year old kid to play major hockey and make mistakes at the expense of the Rangers.Have patients,given the time, MDZ will be fine.

  3. Chris in MA says:

    MDZ just needs more time in the AHL, that is all. As mentioned, hes young… and hes overconfident. At least thats how he comes off to me.

    But, hes just not quite ‘there’ yet. Im not sure why hes still in the NHL right now anyways. I expected him to be right back in Hartford after the ASG break. Is Eminger hurt or something?