Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 6/27/12

KANATA, ON - OCTOBER 02: Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers concentrates on the puck before a faceoff during a game against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place on October 2, 2010 in Kanata, Ontario, Canada. The Ottawa Senators defeated the New York Rangers 8-5. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

Whether the 'sophomore curse' in hockey is a form of fictional imagination or an actual disease that lingers into the games of second-year players, Derek Stepan was a victim of the curse in his 2011-12 campaign. It didn't hit him hard or substantially lower his value to the franchise by any means, but it was there and it had its effects. As just a 22-year-old, however, all of this surely is not a large concern after just two seasons at the National Hockey League level for Derek. He had his ups and downs this season, but then again, who on the Rangers didn't?

The Good: Despite falling short of the 20-goal mark this past year, which he exceeded in his freshman season, Stepan did manage to record ten more assists than he did in 2010-11, placing him fourth on the Blueshirts in scoring. Stepan showed just how great of a playmaker he can become many times this season, especially when playing alongside Ryan Callahan on the second line when that opportunity presented itself. I think it is safe to say that Stepan did find the type of player he wishes to become as his career progresses. 

Plus, he's versatile in the sense that head coach John Tortorella can use Steps on the powerplay, on the penalty-kill, he can take faceoffs, he's very discipline for the most part and appears to be an extremely quick learner. The traits are there for Derek Stepan to become a fantastic player in this League, but now it is just a matter of piecing them all together to form the perfect package. 

The Bad: After a very successful rookie year, expectations were set high for Stepan coming into 2011-12. When analyzing a player, I weigh in expectations probably more than anything else, which is why Derek ended up with a grade of a 'C' when I did the team report cards several weeks ago. Personally, I expected a lot more out of Derek than what we saw this season, as did management and even himself. Stepan is a much better player than the one that was noticeable two out of four weeks in the month. He's a better player than the one who played nervous in the postseason and was pretty much invisible. 

Now this is not to say Stepan took steps backward this season, but it is just that he did not take any forward, which is a bummer after a highlight rookie year.

Highlight of the Year:


Overall Assessment: Stepan's best hockey is ahead of him, and as I said above, he's yet to piece together the puzzle. Once he does that he will become the player that he and the Rangers had hoped. I'm aware there was some talk of Steps possibly being traded earlier in the offseason, but I think that is a load of rubbish if you ask me. The Rangers have not given up on this young man - they have no reason to. Allow him to play out the final year of his entry-level deal and then make judgements from there. 

Report Card Grade: C

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