The dreaded sophomore slump. It is something all too prevalent in sports and has plagued many of the promising athletes across the world, not just in hockey.
With a full season now under his belt, Miro Heiskanen will be looking to avoid this pitfall that has plagued many players over the years. He has some advantages though entering the second season that was not available to him last year. These advantages will undoubtedly make an impact and aid him in avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump.
An Actual Off-season
The main advantage for young Miro has to be that he actually got an offseason to rest and recover. Prior to the start of last season, Heiskanen had to deal with playing in the Finnish league as well his national team duties for Finland leading right up to the start of training camp. The physical and mental toll of the NHL season is grueling enough even with a full off-season to recuperate. It was visible in some games towards the end of the season that the young Finn was a half step slower than at the beginning of the season, but was still one of the fastest skaters on the ice. Despite the fatigue and the pressure of his first season, especially with John Klingberg going down with an injury early in the season, Miro Heiskanen had an all-star caliber season and deserved to be in the Rookie of the Year discussion.
There is no substitution for experience. A full year with not just the experience of being a defenseman in the NHL, but also having the experience and chemistry with his teammates will be invaluable. While other teams will now have a full year of tape on Miro, Heiskanen also has a better of understanding of the tendencies of his teammates allowing him to utilize more of his skill set in a refined manner to help better execute not only breakouts but offensive zone plays to create scoring chances. This season will be a chance for Miro to grow his game further and create even more exciting plays for the Dallas Stars.
Monty already displayed immense trust and faith in Miro last season when John Klingberg went out for over a month by letting Heiskanen lead the first power-play unit. That experience was invaluable for the young defensemen and will pay dividends this season. While the power play did have its struggles during that period, the Stars survived the period and provided Miro with some invaluable experience.
New Playing Partner
The probable return of Stephen Johns likely means the defensive pairings will be switched up for this upcoming season. Late in the season, including during the playoffs, Monty changed up his defensive pairs by putting Klingberg and Heiskanen together. If Johns continues to improve and is able to play this season, it’s possible we see Miro paired with Klingberg more consistently, or possibly, see Miro paired with Johns, which is an interesting idea. The pairing of Lindell and Klingberg led to both having excellent seasons this previous year and the two have great chemistry together. Pairing Johns and Miro together provides an opportunity for Johns to hold the blue line while Miro can skate deeper in the zone and use his elite passing ability to find the open man.
Miro Heiskanen displayed remarkable poise while also showing his ability to have an impact every night on the ice. Despite the disadvantages of not having an off-season, coming into a new system with a new coach and joining a new team.
Despite all of the reasons for having a below-par rookie season, the young Finn excelled and will be able to use the snubbing from the Rookie of the Year voting as extra fuel to propel him through his sophomore season.
Featured Image: Accesswdun.com, Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)