If you’ve been a fan of this blog for a while, we tend to be optimistic realists. Following up on my post yesterday regarding potential sophomore slumps, let’s put a more positive spin on the season outlook. There are a few players that come to mind when it comes to disappointing 2010-2011 seasons, I’m sure you can think of three without even blinking. The good thing about disappointing seasons is that it leaves the opportunity for fans to be pleasantly surprised if the player in question comes back with a strong year.
The most glaring of the disappointing 2010-2011 seasons is that of Michael Del Zotto. After a good rookie year, defensive struggles aside, Del Zotto struggled mightily in his sophomore campaign. He struggled so much that he was demoted to the AHL to work on his game, where he promptly was injured, and missed a good portion of the year. Ridiculous “trade Del Zotto” rants came in at every angle (except here, we have our heads screwed on straight), so the expecations for him couldn’t be any lower. Now, I’m not saying Del Zotto is going to have an All Star campaign, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see him return to form offensively, while holding his own defensively. Becoming the Rangers top scoring threat on the blue line isn’t difficult (Dan Girardi led the Rangers blue line with four goals and 31 points), so it isn’t all that unrealistic to hope he can bounce back.
Wojtek Wolski, who was acquired for Michal Rozsival in the middle of the year, is another player who started off strong but tailed off at the end. With Wolski, it appears to be a matter of motivation. I’m sure a contract year will help for Wolski. That and potentially playing with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. The last time Wolski was in a contract year he was traded to the Coyotes, where he put up a point per game, and another five in seven playoff games. Money is a motivator. Wolski could have the best year of his career, especially if he sticks with Richards/Gaborik.
Now comes the curious case of Sean Avery. It’s tough to understand what exactly Avery brings to the lineup. Before last season, Avery was a spark. Last year, Avery seemed lost. But again, money is a factor. Avery is playing for another contract. Last time he was in a contract year, he was one of the best players on the Rangers roster, providing that spark and some offensive flair (33 points in 57 games). It seems Avery is learning where to toe the line, and if he’s given free reign, a return to the Avery of old could be in the mix.
As odd as it sounds, the Rangers might need bounce back years from at least two of these three players to be considered a legitimate playoff threat. Depth is key, and while the Rangers appear to have a strong top-nine, an off year or an injury can throw a wrench into the whole season. For one, I think Del Zotto’s bounce back year is the most critical to the Rangers success. The bottom pairing on defense is a big question mark. As for Wolski/Avery, let’s hope money is a motivator.