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Ryan Lambert

At the break: NHL's five biggest disappointments

Ryan Lambert
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We're still a week away from the NHL returning from its Olympic vacation, but let's take a look back, as well as look forward, at the 2009-10 season.

5. Steve Mason(notes)

It was about this time last year that everyone was considering the kid for a Hart award and already chiseling his name onto the Calder. He, along with Rick Nash(notes), pretty much carried the Blue Jackets into the playoffs kicking and screaming.

This year, not so much. Instead, he's wrapped himself around Columbus' neck and is dragging them farther and farther down the standings like an anchor. The stats are predictably ugly. His GAA his taken off like the space shuttle, from 2.29 to 3.08. His save percentage has dropped off a cliff from .916 to .897.

And with that, the team's winning percentage has dropped from .561 to just .476. Looks like the CBJ Playoff Appearance Counter will stay firmly fixed at "1."

4. Every skater on the Rangers not named Marian Gaborik(notes)

The only reason, and I mean only reason, the Rangers are still even talking about a playoff spot (they're currently a point out of eighth, tied with Tampa) is Marian Gaborik and his 35 goals. That's 35 of the team's 161, or 21.7 percent.

Only two other teams in the league have their leading goalscorers at anything close to that total. One is Sid Crosby for Pittsburgh, who at least has Evgeni Malkin(notes) to take away some of the offensive pressure. The other is Steven Stamkos(notes) in Tampa, who actually leads the league in this category with 21.9 percent of his team's goals, but he has Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.

And who does Gaborik have? The team's next-highest point total belongs to Vinny Prospal(notes), who has 22 fewer points than Gaborik. Its second-leading goalscorer is Ryan Callahan(notes), who has 20 fewer goals. The Rangers offense is 24th in the NHL. Imagine what happens if Gaborik's injury holds him out for a significant amount of the season's remainder. Two words: Lottery. Pick.

3. Florida's offense

It may not be the worst in the league (yet) but it slouches closer with each passing game. Trivia question: when was the last time the Panthers scored three in a game. Take as long as you need because you won't believe that an NHL team can reach these levels of offensive futility. Give up? It was January 16, or 14 games ago.

They've scored two goals or fewer in 36 of their 61 games this year, and they have one player with 20 or more goals (Stephen Weiss(notes)). None have 50 points.

And poor Tomas Vokoun(notes). He leads the league in save percentage (.931) and shutouts (7, tied with Marty Brodeur), and is 11th in GAA (2.36). And yet he only has 19 wins in 51 starts. That kind of stat sounds too insane to be true, but it is.

If the offense had any degree of competence, they'd at least be competing for a playoff spot in the awful, awful East.

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2. Brent Sutter, Jay Bouwmeester(notes) and the Calgary Flames

The Flames just barely made the playoffs last year, largely because they faced injury problems of Red Wings-like proportions and suffered through some painfully average goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff(notes).

Then this summer, everything seemed on the way to turning around. Mike Keenan got the boot (finally), Sutter somehow signed Bouwmeester to a semi-reasonable contract, and then brought on his brother, who had coached the Devils to 97 wins over the previous two seasons. How could they not succeed?

It's simple, really. Almost everything has been a giant disappointment. Calgary's goals per game is 26th in the league. The dressing room has been a mess of egos and dissension. Brent Sutter has gotten into screaming matches with players. The team has had to trade away like a quarter of the roster for bit players. Injuries have plagued some of the better players. They lost nine games in a row and only won because they happened to be scheduled against Edmonton.

And Bouwmeester? Well, with 2-21-23 in 62 games (and a 1.9 shooting percentage), he's not exactly hauling his part of the load as an "offensive defenseman." His play has been offensive, alright. Just not in the sense anyone in Calgary would like. He is, in fact, on pace for his worst offensive output since 2003-04, when he was 20 years old.

To summarize: everyone but Kipper, who would be having another Vezina-quality season (2.18/.925) if not for Ryan Miller's(notes) brilliant performance, has been complete crap.

1. The Boston Bruins

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How do you go from 53 wins and a point away from the President's Trophy, with an eye-popping offense and a stifling defense to, well, this?

The Bruins are in the thick of the fight for a bottom-2 Eastern Conference playoff spot (meaning they'd be miles out of it if they played in the West) and can't seem to do anything all that well.

Let's talk about the forwards. Not one has 40 points. Really. Not one has 20 goals. Only four who have played in 30 or more games have a positive plus-minus. If it weren't for Marc Savard's(notes) 31 points in 37 games, no one would even be close to a point-a-game pace. Besides Savvy and Patrice Bergeron(notes), it's hard to think of anyone that hasn't at least been a disappointment at best, or a colossal, blown-up-on-the-launchpad disaster (hi, Milan Lucic(notes)!). The power play has dropped off by a solid five points as well.

And let's go over the defense. Zdeno Chara's(notes) a plus-6. Johnny Boychuk's(notes) a plus-3. That's it for positive plus-minus ratings there as well. Remember last year when the Bruins defensemen scored 50 goals? Yeah, they must not either, because they have 19 this year with a pretty similar D corps. And yeah, they're fifth in the league in goals against, but last year they were first.

A lot of that defensive slump, though, has to do with Tim Thomas(notes), who has been very mediocre pretty much all season, but only recently was benched by Claude Julien in favor of Tuukka Rask(notes), who, if he had more games, would be getting Steve Mason-type plaudits from pundits for his 2.08/.928 performance. Especially in front of a team as terribly disappointing as the Bruins have been this year.

Tomorrow, five storylines to watch after the Olympic break.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness pretty much every day over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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