Friday, August 5, 2011

The Fire Within

The other day George E. Ays did an analysis trying to project whether or not New York Ranger forward Derek Stepan was going to have/not have a sophomore slump over at the Blueshirt Banter.

It is a really well thought out breakdown of what might or might not happen with Stepan during his sophomore season with the Rangers. And as well written as it is , for me it just does not work.

It is not that statistics are evil as they have their place but sometimes we put way too much emphasis in the statistical side of things that we forget the "X factor" which is that fire inside that drives us.

The other problem with statistics is that we can always find a way to bend, twist, turn and distort a statistic in order to prove our point. Whether it is positive or negative we can abuse statistics but see we can't do that with that fire in the belly.

Last year I thought Stepan made a huge mistake leaving school after his sophomore season at Wisconsin. Stepan was not ready I wrote after he left school; he still had a lot to learn.

Even after training camp I thought that at 20 Stepan was not ready so I ticketed him for the AHL. Good thing Stepan does not listen to me then eh?

In fact it is a good thing that Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Micheal Sauer did not listen to their critics as otherwise they would not be on the Ranger's roster as we head towards training camp.

Each has fought to overcome what the statistics said, what the critics said and what the "experts" said to establish themselves in the NHL. We see it happen all the time how those who have outstanding talent and skills like a Zherdev yet they fail to live up to their potential.

By all rights there is no reason why a Woljek Wolski is not scoring 30 goals every season. Yet here we are scratching our heads wondering why someone who has the kind of skill set Wolski does have and yet he is on the edge of being dumped from the NHL

We can argue all day and all night about whether statistics are good or bad but at least with statistics we have something we can point directly to. We can not do that when it comes to trying to measure Derek Stepan's or Woljek Wolski's drive.

That is not to say that statistics are all evil as they do have a lot of legit purposes to help guide someone. Not hard to figure out that a person with a 20% winning percentage is not who you want to take a face off in the defensive zone while you are trying to protect a late 1 goal lead.

And we can use all the statistics in the world but if they are not used right they can also do a whole lot more harm than good. Take the stat that says Derek Stepan is 86th out of 86 in the NHL last season on faceoffs.

By all rights there is no way the Rangers should ever let Derek Stepan anywhere near the face off circle right at even strength? Wrong because if the Rangers had gone by the statistics then Stepan would not have scored his team high (tied with Dubi) 18 even strength goals.

On a team as offensively challenged as the Rangers were last season it would have been foolish to not send Stepan out there for the face offs.

If you really look at stats then you realize that it is cold hard numbers with no emotion to them at all. But if this was Star Trek (Gordie Clark reference) then we would forget how illogical we humans are.

We defy logic which is what statistics are supposed to be and we do what we should not be able to do because we want it bad enough. It is that fire inside that took a Brandon Dubinsky to spend his off-seasons working on every single thing the Rangers said he had to do in order to make the team.

Ah but we also can not forget that the other things that statistics can not factor in like a Jaromir Jagr taking a liking to a brash cocky Brandon Dubinsky and asking to have him on his line. To those who don't know Dubi, he is seen as a cocky know-it-all but we know the Dubi who would go back to his billet's house after scoring a hat trick and working on his sticks.

Or imagine what would have happened if Ryan Callahan had sulked about being demoted to the Wolfpack during the 2007-2008 season. Tom Renney sent him down to help him regain his confidence in himself and it is safe to say people might want to send some thank you cards to Renney.

See stats can not tell you that it was the turning point in Ryan Callahan's career other than to say that he went 7-8-15 in 11 games before the Ranger's recalled him. Nor can we find a stat that would have predicted that Callahan would be one of the favorites to replace Chris Drury as Ranger captain.

And I do not need any stats to tell me that Stepan is going to equal if not improve on what he did as a rookie. Why because we know that he is never satisfied with his game and always looks for ways to improve himself.

But remember that stat about Stepan being dead last on face offs last season? Do not even have to ask but I can bet that Stepan knows those numbers by heart.

He is using those numbers to work that much harder during this off-season and I will bet anyone money now that come the end of next season that Stepan will not be the worst in the NHL.

He won't be the best but I can tell you that the fire within Derek Stepan is going to fuel his desire to greatly improve himself.

That is a stat we can enjoy seeing.

Canadian Summer Camp

Christian Thomas made his case clear that he can help Team Canada at the 2012 World Under-20 Championships. Thomas just smoked Tyler Bunz on 4 out of 5 post-practice shootout shots.

Stick tap to Gregg Drinnan of Taking Note for telling us one and this one about 1994 Ranger Jay Wells has signed on as an assistant coach for the Barrie Colts. Wells becomes the 12th member of the Cup winning team to become a coach after his career.

What we want to see is when Well's and the Colts go up against Jeff Beukeboom and his Sudbury Wolves.

(Stepan/New York Rangers, 2004 Dubinsky/Portland Winterhawks, Callahan/Guelph Storm)

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