During last night’s 3-2 loss to the Devils, Michael Del Zotto was involved in a turnover that killed the Rangers momentum. Right after the Rangers scored to make it 3-2 on a 5-on-3, MDZ turned the puck over to Patrick Elias, then took him down on what was going to be a breakaway. The resulting penalty killed all of the Rangers momentum that they wouldn’t regain until Brandon Dubinsky’s deflection rang off the post with one second left.
Following the turnover, many fans and bloggers alike went to Twitter to blast Del Zotto. Yes, it was a poor play, but it didn’t exactly cost the Rangers the game. Even coach Tortorella said that it wasn’t his fault, it was the goaltending. However, many people blamed Del Zotto, and even went as far as saying that he’s a bust, trade bait, not part of the core, and never was part of the core. Easy there killer, let’s look at expectations before making wild statements.
Michael Del Zotto is 20 years old. He was rushed to the NHL last season, and had a great offensive year. This year, in an attempt to fix his defense (which has been much better), his offensive game has suffered. He has tried long, dangerous, and stupid passes to try and jump start his offense, which has led to him developing bad habits and forcing plays. This is what we call development. You make mistakes, you learn from them, you fix them. It’s Development 101 folks.
The problem lies with the expectations of the very young defenseman. After that first year, people expected him to not only produce on that level, but exceed that production. He is not Drew Doughty, and while this drop in production is more than most expected, it’s not alarming and it’s not worthy of panicking over. His 37 points put him at #31 in scoring amongst defensemen. Only three defensemen around his age finished higher: Doughty (age 21) and Tyler Myers (just turned 21). Of these players, only Myers was a rookie. Myers, by the way, is having an off year as well.
If Del Zotto can fix his issues by the time he hits 22 (middle of next season), then it will be a shocker. He’s not Brian Leetch. At his peak, I would be surprised if Del Zotto eclipses 50 points a season. If he hits 40 on a regular basis, that puts him in the top-25 amongst defensemen, which is all we can ask for. Let’s all take a step back from the ledge here regarding MDZ. The kid is 20 years old, he can’t even legally have a beer in the US. Let’s wait until he at least turns 25 before we start calling him a bust.