When Derek Stepan was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on December 27, he said he was “super-excited” to start playing hockey for the Ottawa Senators.
Stepan said at the time of the trade, “I really am excited, I’ve looked at the roster. I talked with the coach (D.J.) Smith. I talked to a couple of the young guys already. It’s something that I really enjoy, playing with a younger group. I like being able to teach them, I really feel like at this point in my career, I’m ready to get back to that production I was at for the majority of my career.”
Fast forward a little over six weeks later, and it’s certainly hasn’t gone as planned for the 30-year old. On the ice, Stepan has posted only four points (one goal, three assists) in 14 games. Off the ice, the veteran centre struggles with missing his family.
Who can blame him? Just four days after his wife, Stephanie gave birth to a baby boy, Stepan arrived in Ottawa to begin a 14-day quarantine. He also left behind two young children, ages five and three, in doing so.
“I’d be lying to you if hasn’t been on mind. Obviously my family is in Scottsdale. My wife whose been an absolute Rock Star, is grinding away with a newborn and two other ones. It’s certainly been in my head. This is a job,” said Stepan via Zoom Thursday.
“This is a situation we’re in. I’m doing the best I can to stay focused on Ottawa Senator hockey. That’s really all I can control right now is focusing and helping this group the way I want to – in the way that I planned to when I first got here.”
Recording only two victories in their first 15 outings, it’s no doubt it’s been a disappointing start for the entire team, let alone Stepan himself.
There were rumblings Stepan requested a trade closer to his Arizona home recently. However, he denied this occurred during a postgame interview Monday.
Coming off a playoff in which the Rangers 2008 second-rounder compiled five points (one goal, four assists) in nine games, Stepan was eager to start anew, especially after his subpar 2019-20 28-point campaign (10 goals, 18 assists). Stepan was hoping to increase his production closer to his five 50-plus point seasons in New York – far cry from his totals posted over his past two years with the Coyotes of 35 and 28 points.
“I believed that I was going to be able to come in and make a bigger impact right away with my play,” explained the 11-year veteran. “No training camp and the situation just kind of came up on me. I knew that it was going to be difficult.”
Stepan thought his move to Ottawa would’ve been a bit more seamless, “When it happened I knew that it was going to be a lot of fun. The more difficult part was going to be the family stuff. I was aware of it. And I just think as I continue to battle through this, I’ve got to keep my head going forward, and focus on that. Like I said, one game at a time, I know it’s a cliché right now, but you have to focus one game at a time. Like I said, there were things I wanted to do when I got here.”
“I’m going to continue to push. Everyone, the coaching staff has been great. It’s a great group of guys. They have a lot of good pieces here. I enjoy coming to the rink every day. I like to believe that I’m helping.
As for the trade rumours, Stepan deadpanned, “I’ll leave that up to you guys.”
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