Report: Babcock and Nylander speak out about sophomore “slump”

Demotion to the fourth line was a wake-up call, but it won't last long.

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One of the strange curses in the NHL over the years has been that of the "sophomore slump". Most rookies follow up a successful first season in the NHL with a difficult second one.

Mitch Marner and William Nylander appear to be victims of the aforementioned curse, although head coach Mike Babcock doesn't really believe in it.

“So if you look at it today, he’s going to have more points than he had last year,” said Babcock, as reported by Sportsnet's Chris Johnston. “I don’t know what it’s all about. Just play hard and work hard and you’re a really talented player. The league is really hard. Your first year no one knows who you are and after that they know who you are. If you want to be a star, you’ve got to dig in and become an everydayer.

“It’s a hard league and it’s supposed to be a hard league. The best league in the world is supposed to be hard, and if you want to be a guy who becomes a star, it’s about heart and soul and digging in and getting better.”

Babcock essentially says that the reason behind the sophomore slump is that teams adjust to young players in their second seasons because they are no longer an unknown entity to them. They have sufficient tape to prepare for them, and it becomes the sophomore's responsibility to adjust and add new weapons to their arsenal.

Babcock also mentions that Nylander is on pace to get 61 points this year, equalling his output from his rookie season, so doesn't see the cause for concern. On top of that, Nylander has been trending upwards, with 6 points in his last 4 games after going pointless in the 3 prior to that.

He finally scored against the Edmonton Oilers after going goalless for the last 2 weeks. 

“Probably a little relief, for sure,” he said post-game. “It’s always nice to score.”

Nylander's relief was clear as he celebrated with Leafs fans on the road, banging the glass as a huge weight lifted off of his shoulders.