by PuckStopsHere on 08/05/11 at 03:10 PM ET
There are many reasons why players suffer sophomore jinxes in the NHL. One of the more predictable reasons is that the player was treated with kid gloves in his rookie season. His team was careful not to put him in a situation where he would be “over his head”. Now in a second season, he has to play a bigger role with his team and he is no longer as well protected as there is a new rookie to play the protected role.
One way to identify protected players is to look at offensive zone starts. Some players were played preferentially in offensive situations and not in defensive ones. Hence they will have a significant imbalance of offensive zone starts over defensive ones.
Two rookies placed quite high on the offensive zone start list. Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers placed ninth and Kevin Shattenkirk of the St Louis Blues placed tenth. This makes them strong candidates for a sophomore jinx.
Stepan finished fourth in scoring with the New York Rangers. He scored 45 points. He did so by playing a relatively easy offensive role with many offensive zone starts and a poor quality of opposition. The New York Rangers will likely need him to play a more significant role next season and if they do, they may find he is not ready. They will likely find that he can’t maintain his offensive numbers playing a tougher role.
Shattenkirk was the highest scoring rookie defenceman in the league last year. He scored 43 points. He split his time between the Colorado Avalanche and the St Louis Blues. He too played a relatively easy role with many offensive zone starts and a poor quality of opposition. Likely St Louis will use him in a more significant role next year and he will struggle to reproduce his offensive numbers.
Given how soft the roles Derek Stepan and Kevin Shattenkirk played in their rookie seasons, their offensive numbers were likely better than they would have produced in more standard roles. Now that they are about to enter into sophomore seasons in the NHL and it is likely that they will be asked to fulfill a more difficult role. This will be a tough adjustment and will likely affect them statistically. Derek Stepan and Kevin Shattenkirk are both prime candidates to suffer a sophomore jinx season.
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