You know what isn’t a good look for someone in the NHL? Missing all of training camp and preseason due to a contract dispute, only to return to your team and be invisible on the ice for the first three games of the year. Derek Stepan needs to work on his image.
The New York Rangers‘ forward has struggled while trying to shake off the rust from his time off the ice. Stepan has only recorded four shots on goal through the first three games and although he has recorded two assists, both have been secondary. For someone who has been labeled as the No. 1 center for the Rangers, he certainly hasn’t looked like it thus far.
I expected Stepan to get off to a fast start. I thought he was too good to feel the effects of being away from the team and would fit in right away with Alain Vigneault‘s uptempo style of offense. What I didn’t expect was for Stepan to not impact the game at any level, but maybe I should have.
Stepan got off to a rough start last year before improving tremendously over the last three-quarters of the season, finishing with 18 goals and 26 assists. Perhaps my expectations should have been tempered, but it’s too late for that. And now with Rick Nash expected to miss time due to his head injury, the Rangers don’t have time for Stepan to get into game shape.
If the Rangers want to have a successful road trip and first month of the season they will need Stepan to lead the offense, starting now.
Martin Burns covers New York Rangers hockey for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter for more thoughts and news on the Blueshirts as well as the rest of the NHL!