This is the next in a series of stories ranking the 24 most important players on the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues.
No. 13 Matt D'Agostini
In sports, they often talk about the sophomore slump for players who had a fabulous rookie year and then struggle to follow it up with a similar second season. Chalk it up to overconfidence, the rest of the league catching up to the player or bad luck, but it happens often enough to garner its own nickname. While Matt D'Agostini wasn't a rookie last season, his 2010-11 performance will be tough to top.
During his actual rookie year, D'Agostini scored 12 goals and nine assists in 53 games in 2008-09 for the Montreal Canadiens. He followed that up with a 40-game performance of two goals and two assists before he was traded to St. Louis for forward prospect Aaron Palushaj. In the seven games he played for the Blues after the trade, he did not score or help a teammate score a goal. So when he netted two goals in the second game of the season last year, we didn't think it would last. Gallagher actually texted me before that game when he saw a D'Agostini jersey hanging in the window of the team store at the stadium. He wondered who would buy one of those things. I asked him after the game if he had bought said jersey. Maybe he should have.
D'Agostini, who turns 25 later this month, played all 82 games and finished the season with 21 goals and 25 assists, more than double his points from his rookie season two years prior. It happened to be a contract season for D'Agostini who could have become an unrestricted free agent because the team elected to not give him a qualifying offer to avoid arbitration. He got a nice little contract for his efforts.
Those 21 goals were equal to his season total in the AHL in 2007-08. I'm not going to say that he'll never hit 20 goals again, but that sophomore slump might be in effect. Let's compare him to another player who had a breakout year not too long ago for the Blues, beloved forward Lee Stempniak.
Dutchie as we call him had moderate success as a rookie playing 57 games after getting called up from Peoria. He scored 14 goals and 13 assists. He played on a horrible team that season, so there weren't expectations on anyone. The next year, 2006-07 he played all 82 games and finished with 27 goals and 25 assists. It happened to be a contract year as a restricted free agent and he signed a nice little contract. Unfortunately he scored only 13 goals the next season, got traded after 14 games in 2008-2009 and has posted the following goal totals: 14, 14, 14 and 19.
At the end of his time in St. Louis, Stempniak got a little predictable. His favorite shot on the power play was a weak side one-timer from the high slot on the left side of the ice. He had trouble driving to the net because of his size (listed at 6 feet tall; I doubt he is actually 6 feet tall) and lack of foot speed. He got stuck in a rut trying the same things and didn't evolve his game.
D'Agostini must work his ass off to keep growing his skill set and expanding what he can do. He certainly made an impression on our friends at Fear the Fin who targeted him as a possible free agent acquisition before he signed in St. Louis.
He may look like a Geico caveman without the hair, but D'Agostini's game is anything but ugly. He's a smooth skater with a nice shot, good hands and decent size for an NHL forward (6'0", 200lb). At just 24 years old, he definitely has some room to grow.
D'Agostini was once one of the Canadiens' top prospects. At just 24, he has time to put everything together and build off a solid season last year.
Couldn't have said it any better. This is the year to prove he has room to grow and move up these rankings for next season. If I ever attempt this stunt again. What time is it anyway? How many more of these do I have to write?