Rangers sophomore Adam Fox and the inevitable Brian Leetch comparison

New York Rangers defenseman, Adam Fox surprised the NHL with a successful rookie campaign under the lights on Broadway. In season number two, he needs to find a way to avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx so many before him have experienced.

When the now 22 year-old Fox was traded to the Blueshirts from the Carolina Hurricanes, many fans and NHL players for that matter, didn’t know much about the Harvard University player.

He began turning heads early in his first season by surprising many with his poise and hockey IQ. Fox also did so playing in front of the toughest fans throughout the hockey world. Almost overnight, Fox became a reliable defenseman on the team. On most nights he looked more like a five year veteran than a rookie.

Adam Fox did everything but win the Calder Trophy

Fox played in all 70 Rangers games this season posting eight goals with 42 points. The Jericho, NY native was a plus 22 while averaging 18:54 minutes of ice time. He also was a strong contributor to the power-play pitching 22 assists. He tied for second among all NHL rookie defensemen in goals.

He became the fifth rookie defenseman in franchise history to have at least 40 points in a season, joining Ron Greschner, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Brian Leetch, and Mike McEwen.

When the Calder Trophy ( NHL Rookie of the Year) finalists were announced, Fox’s name was missing. That didn’t take away from his name being mentioned amongst the many media reporters around the NHL. Fox ended up fourth in voting receiving 430 total votes along the way. After last season. there will be nothing but higher expectations for him.

Adam Fox stats
Fox will be a key player (Getty Images)

Adam Fox in line for a tougher sophomore season

Adam Fox was seventh on the team in scoring, second among defensemen (Tony DeAngelo 53 points) on a club led by forwards Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. He started to emerge as the team’s best defenseman when he was paired with fellow rookie defenseman Ryan Lindgren.

Now the hard part of Fox’s career is set to begin. Several players struggle in their sophomore season in the NHL. The sophomore jinx is a term players do not like to acknowledge, but is one that’s a reality. The NHL knows who Fox is now and the will be gunning for him.

The unavoidable Brian Leetch comparison

Brian Leetch Rangers
Leetch (AP)

There have been many great players who have struggled in their second year. One particular player that was also a Rangers defenseman and an eventual Stanley Cup Champion also suffered a tough sophomore year, Brian Leetch.

Leetch began his career in the NHL as a high potential defenseman with tremendous offensive skills. In his first year, he won the Calder Trophy. His 23 goals was a record that still stands for rookie defensemen. He ended the season by adding 48 assists for a total of 71 points.

In Leetch’s second year, expectations were incredibly high as is the same for Fox. Leetch produced a disappointing 11 goals and 45 assists. In his third year, Leetch recovered producing 16 goals and 72 assists followed by a 102 point season that ended with a Norris Trophy in 1991-92. Leetch was just 23 years-old.

Avoiding the sophomore jinx

Fox needs to continue to play his style of hockey. The best way to avoid the sophomore jinx is to do all the things that made his first season a positive one. He has to avoid trying to do to much, overthinking a play when he is on the ice and try not to attempt t be the one who has to carry the tam on his shoulders.

Too many times players try to do more than they can, especially in tight situations throughout a game. This leads to bad habits, turn-overs and second guessing. All three by themselves are difficult to overcome, but if they become combined into one mass obstacle it could be overwhelming.

A familiar saying comes to mind which wraps up how Fox needs to attack season two. The “1980 Miracle on Ice ” USA and former Rangers head coach, Herb Brooks said it best when he reminded his players to just “play your game.”

Adam Fox will need to take this advice literally if he wants to continue the journey to becoming an elite defenseman in the National Hockey League.