Get those good luck talismans ready.
Every sports fan knows that when a player has a successful rookie campaign they often then suffer from what is known as the, “Dreaded Sophomore Jinx.”
What might this age old jinx have to do with the New York Rangers? Everything!
Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich, and Brady Skjei all had quality rookie seasons last year, and are thus in need of some anti-jinx repellent.
If the Rangers are to achieve their goal of winning the Stanley Cup, they are going to need strong seasons from each of Vesey, Buchnevich, and Skjei.
Last year, Brady Skjei dealt with what can only be described as a tale of two halves. From Opening Night to the All-Star break, Brady was among the worst defensemen in the League. Then the light went on. From the break, through the end of the regular season, Skjei was an indomitable force on the Rangers’ blue line.
Skjei would continue his resurgent play in the postseason, where he and partner Brendan Smith, formed the Rangers’ most dynamic and reliable backline duo.
So, which Brady is the real Skjei? Is it first-half, doesn’t belong in the NHL Brady? Or is it the guy who elicited comparisons to captain Ryan McDonagh and other top NHL defensemen?
My guess is that it just took awhile for Skjei to get comfortable in the NHL and once he did, he was a force to be reckoned with. This isn’t uncommon in athletes — even the best — and it’s certainly understandable.
Brady is being counted on to man the left-side of the Rangers’ second defense unit — Brendan Smith will be on the right — and that will allow him to continue to learn and grow, all while racking up points at an impressive rate. A rate not seen in a Rangers’ sweater since Brian Leetch was a rookie.
Here’s one guy who can’t get more jinxed than he already is. Pavel recorded an assist in his NHL debut. Then, after playing one more game, was sent to IR for two-weeks with back spasms. When he returned, Buchnevich was a man on a mission.
The Russian sniper netted four goals and three assists in nine games. Then, it was back to the IR with more back issues. This time, his back kept him out for two-months. When he returned he once again was on a mission. Buch potted two goals and four assists in four games. Then the All-Star break hit and Pavel’s promising comeback was derailed, this time due to his coach rather than an injury.
Alain Vigneault has proven throughout his career that he has little patience with young players. If he’s expected to win it all, then he needs players with track records that are capable of playing in his system.
Buchnevich was relegated to regular fourth-line duty. When the postseason came along, he found himself sent to the press box — replaced in the lineup by Tanner Glass. While Buch did eventually see action in the playoffs he only appeared in five games, making minimal contributions.
For Pavel to avoid stunting his development any further he needs to get healthy and remain that way. The skill and talent are there, it’s just a matter of keeping him on the ice. If he does, there’s no reason he can’t be another Alex Kovalev for the Blueshirts. Another Kovalev? Well we all know what that led to last time.
Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
This former Hobey Baker Award recipient needs to figure out how to translate his college game to the NHL. After making an early splash with six goals and three assists in his first 10-games, Vesey went ice cold, like colder then the Arctic Circle. In his next 70 games, Vesey recorded just 10-goals and eight assists. In the playoffs, he would add a goal and three assists to his hockey card.
Despite playing with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash for most of the season, Vesey did not develop as many initially thought he would. Still, it’s early and Hobey Baker winners generally turn into solid NHLers.
Avoiding the Jinx
Each of the trio struggled at times during their rookie campaigns, but each managed to at least show signs of potential growth. Brady Skjei is the likeliest to emerge as a stud in his sophomore season. Buchnevich has the most talent, while Vesey has the most to learn.
These three need to avoid the jinx and grow into productive NHL players. That would then mean the Rangers will be primed for a nice celebration. If not, well hey at least there’s more people on the team then just them right? All jokes aside, the Rangers need this trio to step up and continue to grow. After all there’s nothing more important than good young cost-controlled talent in the hard cap system created by the NHL.