Derek Stepan’s Bozak-ian season

Stop being Bozak.

Derek Stepan is always a focal point of discussion for Ranger fans. He’s the teams 1C, but he’s not an elite center, so people think he’s better off as a 2C. Since returning from injury, Stepan has put up 14 points in 16 games, and has helped stabilize –prior to Derick Brassard’s mumps diagnosis– the center position. But something is off this year, and it’s fairly alarming.

As Zachary Ellenthal pointed out, he’s not exactly driving possession this season. It’s not like he’s off by a little bit, Stepan is a 43.6% Corsi player this season, so far the worst of his career. The last time he was under 50% was 2011-2012, and his ability to positively drive possession is what makes him more valuable than guys like Tyler Bozak (a 42% Corsi player), who puts up points because he’s playing with Phil Kessel. Stepan makes his teammates better, Bozak does not.

Except for this year. Stepan’s numbers this year are comparable to Bozak’s, and that’s not a good thing.

People will point to Stepan’s two goals as a concern, but his 5% shooting rate this year should regress back to his career average around 10% by the end of the year.

However, while we are victims of small sample size here, that possession drop-off, especially something that severe, is alarming, and an unwelcome trend. Stepan has actually been an on-ice detriment to his teammates so far. It’s the Bozak effect: Stepan –so far– could be riding the coattails of Martin St. Louis, who is absolutely tearing it up so far, the way Bozak has done with Kessel for the past few seasons. The chart below shows his CF% with a rolling four-game average:

stepan corsi density

The top part is his strict CF%, which has been absolutely tanking since December. The bottom is the density plot, where the dotted line is Stepan’s average CF% throughout the season, and the highest part of the curve is the most number of games at a specific CF% (around 47%). The density plot is interesting, because it gives us insight that maybe a few games –specifically the seven games where Stepan is under a 40% CF– could be dragging down that average.

The good news is that Stepan doesn’t have a career history of being a negative possession player. The Rangers have struggled to stay above the .500 line, and that could be affecting Stepan’s play. That said, he needs to be part of the solution, and right now his assists –specifically his six PPA’s– are masking the fact that he’s not having a great start to the season.

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  • The hole team need to start to play a little better as a team.staal has played a little not Boyle or Kreider . Fourth line needs to get 3forwards that are going to stay together.even tho Kreider play well the one game he played there don’t think that is an option going forward. Moore Fast Stepniak/hags Nash Brass Zucc MSL Step Kreider Hayes with or Kreider Hags Miller.needto shake up the D a little LGR PS too many trap games coming up

  • Stepan goal scoring will average out and he has put up respectable numbers on offence. Yeah I think the comparison to Bozak is a fair one, although I think Stepan is better on the PK and not as prone to making turnovers as Bozak.

    Derek may not be a superstar centerman but he is very good. With Brassard as number #2 the Rangers are fine up the middle, just not a lot of depth there-should there be any injuries.

  • I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to come to grips with this new “wave” of advanced stats analysis. Like in this piece, most articles I’ve seen involving advanced stats make these broad, seemingly arrogant claims that Corsi Close, Fenwick, etc is somehow the most important, if not sole, determinant for how well someone is playing and their overall worth as an NHL-er. While I’m not going to dismiss these numbers, the conclusions drawn from them seem like a bunch of BS when they claim to be such absolute evidence of a players’ worth to his team.

    This seems like an especially dull claim when you look at the fact that Stepan is putting up nearly a point-per-game since coming back. Then going one step further and claiming he’s only getting points b/c he’s “riding the coattails” of MSL (which I find equally as odd as claiming Bozak merely puts up points from playing w/ Kessel; I might actually argue the opposite!) is where this article, just like most others written by the advanced stats addicts that I’ve seen, goes into the territory of just plain malarkey.

    Maybe in time I’ll be proven wrong with the adoption of CC and Fenwick, but I could just never base the value of a player solely on numbers, much less these new, “advanced” numbers alone. Color me old-school I guess.

    • His 1st point back came on a faceoff he lost where he did not even touch the puck during the play, his point a game stat is even more questionable then these new “wave” stats. What I also notice is the complaints of Kreider this year sound similar to the complaints made of Nash last year. The only common denominator in both these players are our 1C. He also has the lowest win percentage in the league in faceoffs and that is not a new “wave” stat. He has never impressed me he is just all we have right now – hopefully that too will change – for giving him a big contract would be another NYR bust. Plus this is a contract year for him I believe…

      • You don’t think much of Stepan’s first point this season and use this to question the value of the other points he has in 16 games he’s played. You have a clear impression of that first point. How do you characterize his other 11 assists and two goals? Are those just as questionable?

        • I am not the 1st one to question elevated assists in the NHL and will not be the last. Many players get a boost with this stat, he is one in my opinion but certainly not the only one. His 1st assist either happened the way I said it did or it did not. But as I wrote in the above posts it is not the only reason i (ALSO) have issues with him. He to me is what we have now, so be it for that will change too, hopefully sooner then later. Sorry just not a fan of him.

  • Stepan is a good centerman, not a great centerman. I think with linemates like Nash and Kreider, he only has to be a good centerman to get points.

  • Rabble rabble rabble, fancy stats stink, rabble Stepan sucks rabble rabble the Rangers are terrible.

    Is that the response you were hoping for?

  • Let’s get real folks, Stepan is the best we have, and for a few years he has proved to be a very solid player. I’m not a big fan of these stats, yes I’m a dinosaur, but the kid is playing pretty good, and I’ll believe my eyes over the numbers?????

    He has been hurt, has come back, and is putting up decent numbers, what the hell more can we ask of him?????????

  • I think this post missed the mark with many readers.

    All I’ll add is Stepan has a track record of driving possession and will likely regress. I’m not all that worried about that player.

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