Kane and Bergfors will try avoid Sophomore Slump Syndrome

We’ve all seen it, heard of it and read of it before…the infamous sophomore slump. A rookie comes into the NHL and plays at or above expectations only to see his performance take a step backwards the very next year. It happens in every sport, pros and collegiate.

What’s the cause of Sophomore Slump Syndrome?

Some may say it’s the simple law of averages at work as stats move up and down from season to season. So it’s only natural some will experience one of those downturns in year number two. Some argue it’s due to the league catching on to the tendencies of a young player, causing him to adjust his game. Maybe it’s a matter of motivation.

Others may cite that it’s a matter of differing roles on the team… diminished minutes on the power play, changes in line formations. Others still see it simply as a cerebral issue…a young athlete who has achieved his dream of playing at the highest level of his sport is now coping with the reality that he must continue to progress if he is to remain there.

Put all those factors in play with a 19 or 20-year kid, add in the pressure from fans & media to perform and – Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo – a youngster could experience something of a slump, regardless of rhyme or reason.

One Thrasher who will be looking to recover from what some might refer to as a “sophomore slump” is Zach Bogosian, the third overall pick in 2008 who began his NHL career the following October. Zach missed two months of that rookie campaign due to a broken leg but came back strong to finish with 9 goals and 10 assists. Even more impressive was his +11 rating, which was the second best on Atlanta’s blueline behind Toby Enstrom’s +14.

Last season, however, Zach missed but one game but saw his point production increased only by 4. More notable was that his +/- rating dropped by 29 to –18. And while the +/- rating doesn’t always paint the full picture of a player’s performance, in this case it really did. At times, Zach simply struggled on the defensive side of the ice.

In fairness to Bogosian, it must be noted that a hand injury was the reason he missed that one game last season and it probably played a big part in his reduced numbers given the fact he was trying to pay through it for some time before being sat out.

Nonetheless, if the Thrashers are not able to adequately address the loss of Pavel Kubina on the blueline, Zach’s third career season will need to be his best so far to help fill the void.

Now some may count Bryan Little in with Bogosian as a player looking to rebound from a case of SSS. Yes, I know…Little played in 48 games scoring 6 goals and 10 assists three years back. But his first full season came in 2008-09 when he dazzled us with 31 goals and 20 assists during the 72 games he played in. Unfortunately though, in his second full season at the NHL level Bryan’s numbers took a bit of a dive to just 13 goals and 21 assists…his power play stats dropping from 20 points to just 6. This even though he took only seven shots on goal fewer than the 172 the year before.

Reason for the decline…well, he spent the bulk of the 2008-09 season playing opposite Slava Kozlov with Todd White in between before being elevated later in the year to Ilya Kovalchuk’s line. That line was arguably the most consistent of the season and the trio accounted for 79 goals and 121 assists… 36 goals and 61 assists came via the power play.

In contrast, those same three players accounted for but 28 goals and 58 assists last season.

Last fall and it took until November 3rd for Bryan to score his first goal…11 games into the season. But even after the “Little-White-Russian” line was dismantled he still continued to struggle, though the effort was certainly always there. Bryan tickled the twine but three times in the final 24 games of last season. The last of those goals was the only one scored in the season-ending 1-0 win over the Penguins. However that broke a 10-game goalless drought, equal to the scoreless streak he began the season with.

Looking forward, both of these players should be looked upon to have better 2010-11 campaigns if the Thrashers are to make any possible push towards a playoff position next spring. It would also help matter is two rising sophomores can find a way to immune themselves from SSS…Evander Kane and Nic Bergfors.

 In 66 games Kane put up the first 14 goals and 26 points of his career. He was also a +2 on a team that only had five players finish better than that mark. Plus his contributions on the penalty kill were impressive.

Between the Devils and Thrashers, Bergie had 21 goals and 23 assists in 80 games played. 9 goals and 6 assists came while on the power play. Right after the trade that sent him here and Kovalchuk to New Jersey, Bergie more than made himself welcome in Thrasherville by scoring 6 goals in the first 8 games with Atlanta.

While it’s hard to imagine either of these fine young forwards having a down turn in their production next season, remember how difficult it was last year to think the same of Bogosian and Little.

And finally…there is Ondrej Pavelec who will be entering his second entire season with the Thrashers this fall splitting time between the NHL and AHL the two seasons prior. But I personally don’t place the Czech netminder in the same category as a Kane or a Bergfors, those looking to build upon rookie success. In his first full season in Atlanta Pavs went 14-18-7 with a.907 SV% and 3.29 GAA.

Hopefully we won’t see Opie “slumping” from those numbers as he backs up Chris Mason this season.

138 comments Add your comment

Mikey

August 4th, 2010
8:19 am

First!

Bogey will bounce back. The kid is going to be a beast on the blueline.

Smitty

August 4th, 2010
8:45 am

Player development and veteran leadership have been sorely lacking in Atlanta. The new coaching staff should be able to help develop the younger guys.

As for the leadership it all starts at the top. Dudley has brought in some guys with Stanley Cup experience. Even though most of them are young themselves, I believe they will help the younger guys. I do not think there will be too many players taking nights or even weeks off like Kovy, Kozlov and White did the last couple of years.

kracker

August 4th, 2010
8:56 am

If a good rapport with the coaching staff is any factor, the Ramsay and Torchetti team may help in curing/avoiding/lessening slumps in play by our young players.

If so, Bogo, Little, Kane, Pevs, Bergy et al. will be free to slump for the same reasons the established vets slump – whatever those reason are. That’s my way of saying the sophmore slump is exagerrated, imo. For every 2nd/3rd year player that has a down year I feel there is one or more players whose play doesn’t suffer but don’t get counted as a non-slumper.

Like Rawhide enumerated above, a given player’s game can suffer for a variety of reasons and then be lumped into the “sophmore slump” category. These may well be cases where, for the most part, myth becomes reality.

World Be Free

August 4th, 2010
9:06 am

Sabres fans, thanks for you input on the last blog. Now, time to concentrate on our team in Atlanta-exciting!

rob

August 4th, 2010
9:06 am

Smitty,
I agree, that plays right into my last comment on previous blog about effort.
I would hope most of zachs issues related back to his hurt hand and he comes back like the player many of us believe him to be. I don’t see Kane having a slump, the kid is too eager to play this game the way it should be played to have issues, but if he does I don’t see it being for lack of effort. And while Bergfors is a rookie, he is an older one and that, along with the development he got in Jersey, should insulate him as well. At least this is all what we hope happens, and in fact probably need to happen to help have a successful season.

AThrashrfan13

August 4th, 2010
9:11 am

ATL has a team of up-and-comers…..there is no longer a ’superstar’ distraction like there was when….oh, what was his name again? …was there. No team needs a superstar…..every team needs a bunch of guys who can play together, playing good, solid, smart hockey, night in and night out toward a team goal. No distractions. No limelight. Simply beat the crap out of the other side….as often as possible.

I don’t think there will be a sophmore slump this year. None of the sophs had what could be described as a huge year…..they were good, but not good enough to end up a head-case over. And they did not play over their heads. They simply played solid hockey…..and all the while, they were learning the game.

And with their new teachers and their new offensive and defensive philosphies, they will only continue to get better….as they continue to learn the game…and as they continue to play solid hockey.

Finally, the fans and the media contribute to these ’slumps’ in their own way. Veteran players can read and hear what others percieve to be the the pluses and negatives of their respective games…and they have learned to simply shrug it off….if the fans and media knew it all, thery’d be in the game instead of watching from the stands or on the tube. These new kids have not yet learned how to control that yet and they begin to press too hard. It takes time and grooming and good advice to get beyond the good and the bad perceptions expressed by others and to not take it to heart.

The best thing that we can do as fans, is to support our team. Expect a good product, but don’t expect too much and be careful about the pressue that is put on the kids. Realize that every player is going to make mistakes, have a bad day and have lousy games. Get used to it.

They will be fine. Let them play. Let them evolve.

Toby

August 4th, 2010
9:32 am

We all know Bogosian has been keeping up with a monster off-season workout, but I sure hope Little is doing the same. He tanked last year, and if he’s projected to be our 1st line RW, he better step it up.

Bluenote

August 4th, 2010
9:52 am

Well said Thrashfan. What was that guy’s name anyway?

I was exhausted with hockey a couple weeks ago…it’s a different take now

I’m expecting coaches to have the team ready to play when the puck drops, not after the 2nd intermission.

I’m expecting four lines to skate full shifts and play with some pride

I’m not expecting perfection…just some steady improvement

AThrashrfan13

August 4th, 2010
10:04 am

Blue….we need more fans like us……

AThrashrfan13

August 4th, 2010
10:04 am

14,000 per night would be good……

Midfield

August 4th, 2010
10:11 am

I don’t see Kane slumping as badly as Bogosian. Kane is a complete hockey player who is taught to pay attention to the basics and to play to his strength. Bogosian is a huge talent without solid hockey basics. He had benefited greatly from Schneider’s presence in his rooky year, but, obviously, playing with such a narcissist as Ron did not contribute to his development.

Smoothie

August 4th, 2010
10:13 am

I expect Bryan Little to bounce back big this year. Kane and Bergfors will surely have their struggles at times, but hopefully the presence of gritty vets who have been through the wars to a Cup will help mitigate the effects of the dreaded Soph Slump. The fact that Kane and Bergie should get a steady dose of PP time should help them keep their confidence up as long as they can bang home a few “easy” goals.

Damn I wish it were October 4th and not August 4th!!

Darren

August 4th, 2010
10:39 am

I think that’s a bit harsh on Bogosian. Lest we forget, he just turned 20 on July 15. He was also hurt last year.

Rawhide

August 4th, 2010
10:48 am

14,000 per night would be good……

ATF13 – I’d love to see that as a minimum.

Damn I wish it were October 4th and not August 4th!!

Smoothie – You and me both brothah!

I think that’s a bit harsh on Bogosian. Lest we forget, he just turned 20 on July 15. He was also hurt last year

Darren – Yup…I mentioned his injury in fairness to Bogosian. Also, I tried to address the fact that sophomore slumps are experienced by kids, too. It’s part of the growing up process.

I’d echo what Midfield said about him benifiting from Schnieder’s presence two years back, but not having such guidance last year. I think he’ll greatly benifit from the new coaching staff this fall however.

Joe Friday

August 4th, 2010
11:22 am

“14,000 per night would be good”

Agreed that it would be good, but I fear that the attendance is going to be real bad at the beginning of the year. Economy remaining stagnant + college football + bunch of new players = low attendance again, methinks.

One way to fix that, win and they will come.

Little, Bergfors, Kane, and Bogosian are all keys for me this year. For us to have success, all 4 have to have good years and take the step forward. I’m going to be watching Bogosian closely, he’s the key on D. We need him to really step up towards being a #1 dman, a breakout year from him would change the dynamic of our D completely.

World Be Free

August 4th, 2010
11:35 am

Winning fixes just about everything. I believe all the changes will derail the soph slumps for Kane and Bergie. The entire atmosphere of the team has changed, there is more excitement. Just my speculation, but I believe Dudley has created an atmosphere where winning and performance are expected. New coches AND toss in the “first year without Kovy”; many things have changed here.

Adam

August 4th, 2010
11:47 am

As RH said, that line that Little spent a good part of the season on didn’t help him much. I think Kozzy quit on the coaching staff by mid season and White was hurt a good bit last year as well.

Bogo had a lot put on his shoulders last year too. Before the season started he had an A put on his sweater. I think it would’ve been better not to do that before the puck even dropped. At his age it should have been a mid season reward, if earned. Then the hurt hand…

After the strong start for the team the rest of the league figured us out and Anderson didn’t adapt his attack. Then came the Kovy saga and the players that had been here a while said “Here we go again.” Kane was new to the environment and kept to his game. Given all that happened last year it’s no wonder we saw players struggle.

This year will be different. No doubt we will see some bad nights from some of the younger guys but with the system that’s been put in place I don’t believe we’ll see long term slumps for our Sophomores. The 1st month may not start well but by mid November most of the cylinders should be firing.

AThrashrfan13

August 4th, 2010
11:49 am

In a recent interview with Dudley by Chris Botta at Fanhouse:

http://nhl.fanhouse.com/2010/08/02/dudley-believes-byfuglien-can-star-at-forward-or-d-for-thrashe/

Dudley thinks that Byfuglien may be moved back to his roots on Defense. A big man and experience would help Bogo out too. While Duds says he will leave that decision up to Rammer, it is intriguing to woner if they do move Buff back to defense is what Duds has up his sleeve to fill in the vacancy on offense…..he’s cleared the cap space and is considering moving an offensive-defenseman back to defense.

Gotta wonder what is next up his sleeve….he still wants his 30-35 goal scoring machine.

Darren

August 4th, 2010
11:55 am

I hope both Schneider and Chelios’ contributions to Bogosian and others will be best felt off the ice as a model from their career-extending workout regimens and conditioning exercises.

Plus I’m sure it was nice when Kane and Bogosian could hear stories of what it was like to play against Eddie Shore.

J.B.

August 4th, 2010
11:59 am

if they’re seriously considering moving Buff to ‘D’ there’s definitely something in the works as far as trade/UFA going on…

Alan R.

August 4th, 2010
12:08 pm

Damn I wish it were October 4th and not August 4th!!

Me too, because not only is it that much closer to the start of the new season, but it’s also the start of weather that doesn’t suck. *glances longingly at the comfortable weather in Thunder Bay, ON*

Hockey Biltong

August 4th, 2010
12:19 pm

Raffi Torres and Stempniak…in Blue…

J.B.

August 4th, 2010
12:34 pm

Biltong – is that a fact, rumor, or wish?

J.B.

August 4th, 2010
12:35 pm

i think we’re over-due for a juicy insider tidbit from Flames…

ben

August 4th, 2010
12:46 pm

Something is up. We’re getting a scorer.

World Be Free

August 4th, 2010
12:47 pm

ben

August 4th, 2010
12:59 pm

MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAX! OH THE MADNESS!

Flames

August 4th, 2010
1:06 pm

Something is going to happen soon. Duds isn’t done. Things just need to fall into place.

Zoomo

August 4th, 2010
1:06 pm

I’ve always thought the proverbial sophomore slump is usually caused by 1) Your opponents now have a book on you, and/or 2)You stop doing what you did to get there, because you’ve now made it.

Overcoming these obstacles is key to keeping your mojo.

J.B.

August 4th, 2010
1:13 pm

Something is going to happen soon. Duds isn’t done. Things just need to fall into place.

Any ideas on what may happen and/or what needs to fall into place?

Excuse me but....

August 4th, 2010
1:13 pm

Did you just drop “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” on us?

kracker

August 4th, 2010
1:13 pm

Chicago_Wolves Wolves Bolster Blueline With Phillips: The Chicago Wolves have signed defenseman DAVE PHILLIPS. http://bit.ly/clgEpH

Jack

August 4th, 2010
1:14 pm

The key to avoid the slump is adapt and change. Adapt to what your opponents give you and continually make changes to being productive and attacking their weakness.

Zim

August 4th, 2010
1:16 pm

The Thrashers playoff hopes in 2010-11 could hinge on productive sophomore seasons from Kane, Bergfors, and Pavelec. Many fans expect Kane to jump into the top six while also counting on Bergfors production to go up, not down.

One quick note… You’ve got Little listed for ‘31 goals and 31 assists’ during his first full year in 2008-09. Little had 20 assists that season. Last year’s 21-assist effort was a career-high for Bryan.

Jack

August 4th, 2010
1:19 pm

Sorry we can not trust Pav to be productive inorder to get into the playoffs

ben

August 4th, 2010
1:23 pm

I think that MAX is coming back

Diego from Lilburn

August 4th, 2010
1:27 pm

I’m with Zoomo on the reason for the sophomore slump. You could see folks finally figured out Kane’s mad dash up the boards by the end of the season. Didn’t mean they could always stop him but they knew to expect it. Hopefully he will mix it up a little this season so they don’t know which direction he is going to dash.

I think the other reason for a Sophomore Slump (and Freshman Success) is that the noobies are playing a style of hockey that is different from what veterans play and the veterans have to think differently to deal with it. By year two, the noobs are learning how to play “NHL style” and so some of their unpredictability is gone.

Rawhide

August 4th, 2010
1:30 pm

Dudley thinks that Byfuglien may be moved back to his roots on Defense. A big man and experience would help Bogo out too.

ATF13 – I saw that last night. I know Buff is a converted blueliner, but I’d rather keep him up front. Hard nosed, back-checking wingers is something the Thrashers have been in short supply of recently. But that’s just my 2 cents.

It is nice to have the option, though.

Also… if the Thrashers were to bring Schubert back, than we’d have two players that could be used that way.

I’ve always thought the proverbial sophomore slump is usually caused by 1) Your opponents now have a book on you, and/or 2)You stop doing what you did to get there, because you’ve now made it.

Zoomo – Good points…a players talents gets him there but he has to change and adapt.

Zim – Thanks…the stat didn’t make it from my brain to the keyboard correctly. Post is corrected.

BTW, good luck (re: your ‘goosebump’ tweet yesterday).

I think that MAX is coming back

ben – I would welcome that bit-o-news.

AThrashrfan13

August 4th, 2010
1:41 pm

RH – ” Hard nosed, back-checking wingers is something the Thrashers have been in short supply of recently. But that’s just my 2 cents.”

RH you do have a valid point there……I guess its just my hope for the scoring machine

kracker

August 4th, 2010
1:48 pm

Eklund on Niemi – I have been wondering if the Atlanta/Chicago connection comes into play here. And if Eklund is correct (ha!) keeping Niemi out of DC also would be a factor if the Thrashers expect to contend for the SE Division any time soon.

On Antti Niemi…

Three teams from the Southeast are rumored to be showing interest in the UFA Goalie. Florida, Washington, and Atlanta. In Florida and Atlanta you have GMs who were a part of bringing Niemi to Chicago and have a a strong belief in Niemi.. In Washington, who last night I was told was not in on Niemi, only to be corrected today, you have a team who has gone out of its way to let people know they are going with their two young goalies.

However a Washington source put it best saying…”The knock on this team continues to be its inability to perform in the playoffs. Especially in net. In Niemi you can show the fans you are getting a proven winner. And reasonably..”

kracker

August 4th, 2010
2:01 pm

twitter on Kennedy – mirtle Four teams have expressed interest in former Sabres forward Tim Kennedy. Expect him to sign somewhere in the relatively near future.

(He doesn’t know what teams, just that the agent says Kennedy will have a home soon)

AThrashrfan13

August 4th, 2010
2:01 pm

2 sources I saw last night (one to temper the Eklund factor) says the Caps are not in the Goalie mix.

Smoothie

August 4th, 2010
2:01 pm

If we sign Niemi, we better parlay Pavelec’s potential into a Top 6 forward or a young prospect like Bergfors with Top 6 potential.

Just don’t see it happening…we have too much invested in Pavs at this point…he deserves the chance to prove himself. The talent is there; let’s hope the competition with Mason and the example he sets teaches Pavs a couple of things about how to be a consummate pro.

AThrashrfan13

August 4th, 2010
2:04 pm

Niemi would be a fit here….young with experience…but who could also learn from Mason and take over in a year or 2. Maybe trade out Pavs and Thorburn and maybe a prospect if we had to for a decent forward?

kracker

August 4th, 2010
2:14 pm

Smoothie, I would normally agree about letting our investment in Pavs mature, demonstrating organizational loyality to your goalie prospect, etc.

However, in this case, it’s an I.D.W.T. call for sure. Duds and the Torch are familiar w/ Anti Niemi, who played exceptionally well in the playoffs and was instrumental in the Hawks capturing the Cup…..thus states Captain Obvious. So if the new suits running the Thrashers decide to make the change, I’m all in. Such a move almost necessarily should include, as you say, a following deal trading Pavlec for a quality forward.

Factor in that it may also be a defensive move to block a division foe from upgrading in goal and it looks even better.

glovesave29

August 4th, 2010
2:25 pm

With Mason on board, I am not sure about Anti Niemi here. Too high a % of our total payroll tied up in one position for the Octotards. In my perfect world, we wait until FLA drops out of the playoffs and make a run at soon-to-be UFA Tomas Vokoun. Not sure if the Panthers trade within the division…

What about EDM? They have Khabibulin at $3.75M and will never eat that contract or send him down. And they have two really promising young goalies in Deslauriers and Dubnyk. For some reason, both were signed to one-way contracts and must clear waivers to be sent down to OKC. Might take advantage of that and save the $$$ to sign Stempniak, Max and Kennedy.

Don’t want Buff on D. I want a true power forward. They are so hard to come by and they change the entire complexion of a game.

Kovy is in his arbitration meetings as we speak. Has something to do with the fact he is really upset that I took the 17 off of my Thrashers jersey and replaced it with 33. Poor guy has some issues…

J.B.

August 4th, 2010
2:25 pm

Here’s the quasi problem with trading away pavelec for a forward+ … most teams if not all are pretty set in goal already right? I’m not opposed to it but trading partners would be very limited and as such the return not as good, I would think.

Red Light

August 4th, 2010
2:27 pm

Good call J.B.

Concerning Niemi…

Ottawa, Nashville, San Jose and the Islanders would make the most sense, but Ottawa would have to make room somehow. Here, Pavelec would still make $1 million this year regardless if he was sent down or not. He has a one-way deal.

kracker

August 4th, 2010
2:29 pm

Lots of good points on Niemi. Glad I’m not making that call….or DW.

Red Light

August 4th, 2010
2:30 pm

Most teams that need goalies are up against the cap, and if you look at the goalie tandems at $6 million plus, then those teams would have to get rid of the higher priced guy. I think the days of the 2-goalie tandems making $6 million collectively are coming or have come to an end.