The 15 biggest disappointments of the 2014-15 NHL season (so far)

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As teams near the 30-game mark, the 2014-15 NHL season’s biggest frustrations and flops are coming into focus. 

Here’s are 15 of the NHL’s biggest disappointments this season; but fret not those who made the list, there’s still time to turn it around!

Thomas Vanek

It’s been a craptastic homecoming for the former Gopher great, who signed a 3-year, $19.5-million deal with the Minnesota Wild. He’s on pace for his worst offensive season in the NHL with two goals in 25 games; meanwhile, a Buffalo bookie admitted he extorted $230,000 from Vanek and claimed he owed more than $10 million in gambling debts. “This stuff that he’s trying to deal with, I don’t want to say it’s a huge distraction, but it’s got to be weighing on him,” said Coach Mike Yeo to the Star Tribune.

Edmonton Oilers

Just a dumpster fire. They had 19 points in their first 27 games and a goal-differential of minus-31; hey, at least the Carolina Hurricanes can claim a loss like Jordan Staal affected their fortunes. Jerseys hitting the ice, Andrew Ference calling out teammates, Craig MacTavish giving “stay the course but don’t blame me!” press conferences. Can the NHL amend the CBA to keep McDavid and Eichel as far away from here as possible?

Ryan O’Reilly

You can really take your pick when it comes to the Avalanche’s disappointments this season – and don’t sprain an ankle dancing on that grave, advanced stats acolytes – but at $6 million and coming off a 28-goal season and being called one of the best two-way forwards in the game, O’Reilly’s four goals in 27 games and a minus-12 is putrid. Counting down the days before he’s traded …

Peter Chiarelli

No, it’s not his fault Zdeno Chara went down. But it is his fault that he traded Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders out of cap considerations, well before he probably should have. And it is his fault that the loss of Jarome Iginla, the subsequent internal search for a replacement, helped short circuit the top line. And while we don’t necessarily blame him for the Tyler Seguin trade … well, the optics are embarrassing. The Bruins simply don’t look like the Bruins. Hey, maybe he can wrangle Jordan Eberle in a package for Brad Marchand and get off this list in a jiffy.

Mike Smith

Smith has a .894 save percentage at even strength, which is down from a .925 last season. Has he been hung out to dry by the team’s defense? Slightly more than a wet bed sheet. Has he compensated for this by doing what goalies do, which is act as the last line of defense and cover up his team’s defensive lapses? No, and that’s why Devan Dubnyk’s gotten more work than even Devan Dubnyk thought he would. Smith is in the second year of a 6-year, $34-million contract; do the Coyotes still have the receipt? If so, what’s the refund policy?

Patrik Elias

Wonky groin or not, this is one of the most consistent point producers for the Devils who has just three goals and nine assists in 26 games for an offense-starved team, skating to a minus-12. Statistically, the 38-year-old forward’s worst offensive season in 18 years.

Dallas Stars Power Play

Like the Avalanche, you could choose a dozen facets of this team as a “biggest disappoinment” (Seguin aside). But for the amount of firepower the Stars had on their first-unit power play, to see their man advantage clicking at 15.5 percent despite the seventh most power plays in the league is a huge point of frustration. Jamie Benn averages 3:29 TOI on the power play per game. He’s produced three power-play points. Yuck.

Alex Semin 

Hey remember how everyone said the Carolina Hurricanes shouldn’t be charmed by the short-term results of Alex Semin, and that a 5-year deal for a chronic underachiever was a huge gamble? Welp, he’s lost his smile again, with one goal in 21 games this year and in his last 27 games dating back to last season. There’s probably an excuse for it. There always was in Washington, when he’d do the same thing.

Columbus Blue Jackets Health

The biggest bummer of the season. Nathan Horton’s career-ending back condition. Injuries to Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu, Fedor Tyutin, James Wisniewski and most importantly Sergei Bobrovsky. It’s been a season from hell after the heavenly ascent to the playoffs last season.

The Los Angeles Kings’ Hubris

No one wins in the Slava Voynov matter. And yes, we feel the Kings’ frustration in that the NHL made up the rules as they went along with regard to the salary cap. But the Kings know the climate. The League knows the climate. And the climate means the last thing LA should do is get cute with Voynov’s suspension restrictions by allowing him to practice with the team and then being like “whoops.” The $100,000 fine was light in that regard.

John Gibson

Last postseason’s rookie darling was inconsistent before injuring his groin, and then appears headed to the AHL for seasoning for the rest of the campaign as Ilya Bryzgalov backs up Fredrik Andersen.

Paul MacLean First To Go

On the one hand, the Ottawa Senators have had diminishing returns under MacLean, whose greatest success coincided with the team’s goaltending playing above average. On the other hand, he was managing the lowest payroll in the NHL this season. Bottom line: Don’t make self-deprecating jokes about your own team and play Bobby Ryan more than 17 minutes a night.

Buffalo’s Pride

The nerve of these guys being somewhat respectable this season. Connor McDavid isn’t just going to draft himself.

Philadelphia Flyers’ Secondary Scoring

Hooray, Jakub Voracek has 33 points in 26 games! Huzzah, Claude Giroux has 29 points in 26 games! And then … well, no one has more than 18 points and only five players are in double-digits in points for the season. R.J. Umberger has four points in 26 games. Happy homecoming, that one.

And finally ...

Mumps

Nine players have contracted the mumps this season in the NHL, including Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry and the seemingly indestructible Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild. Only 584 people contracted it in the entire U.S. in 2013. This is weird.