January 12, 2011
On Tuesday, we covered the MVPs for all 30 NHL teams at the midpoint of the season.
Now it's time for the other end of the spectrum.
Simply put, the Goat is "the guy who has disappointed the most, relative to expectations." But he's also a player that has disrupted a lineup or a game-plan or has generally been a nuisance to management and fans.
Sometimes, injuries are a factor. Other times, it's the weight of a free-agent contract. Bottom line: These are 30 players looking for a second-half rebirth ... even if, in one case ,it'll have to happen in a German league.
Here are the biggest disappointments for each team at the midpoint of the NHL 2010-11 season.
The Puck Daddy staff selected most of these names, but we reached out to some of our favorite team-specific blogs for a hand when necessary.
And here ... we ... go.
Ducks: Andy Sutton(notes), D.
Admittedly, we're not experts on this and we haven't seen the replay, but Sutton
has been a borderline free-agent bust for the Ducks. Breaking
his thumb on an opening night fight, he's struggled to regain his form. As Ducks
Blog wrote: "Injuries and ineffectiveness have stood out
more than his willingness to sacrifice his body in front of the net."
Atlanta Thrashers: Niclas Bergfors(notes), RW. There are signs of life thanks to a 4-game point streak in 2011, but the last three months of 2010 were the nadir of his young pro career. He scored two goals from Nov. 14 through New Year's Eve, suffering through the indignity of several healthy scratches in December.
Boston Bruins: Marc Savard(notes), C. A tough one because we know the root of his struggles. But 6 points in 19 games is still 6 points in 19 games for a player that's been better than a point per game in the past. Every time he scores, the hope is that he's turning things around. It hasn't happened on the score sheet yet.
Buffalo Sabres: Tim Connolly(notes), C. He has 17 points in 30 games and has played to a minus-11, after a season that saw him post 65 points in 73 games, the most he had played since 2003. Where he's really busted is on the power play, posting eight points after having 27 last season. Oh, and he injured himself trying to dance like Shaq. That too.
Calgary Flames: Rene Bourque(notes), F. With Darryl Sutter ineligible and Olli Jokinen(notes) not nearly the disaster many of us expected (though still disappointing), we turn our attention to Bourque. Again, this is about expectations and performance. He signed a new 4-year deal and is making $4 million this season, up from $1.4 million last year. His points-per-game average has plummeted from a 0.79 to a 0.63. He scored six of his 14 goals in October, disappearing in December with two goals. (Take away a 3-point night against Tampa, and he had 4 points in 13 games in December.) He's a minus-10 and has taken some costly penalties. Like everyone else in a Flaming C, he needs to be better.
Carolina Hurricanes: Sergei Samsonov(notes), LW. The quietest 18 points in the NHL. He's always been enigmatic and inconsistent, and this season is no different. Who else but Samsonov could pop off for eight points in seven games during one stretch of the season and then four points for December? OK, probably Kovelev, but you get the point. An early season stretcher ride probably played a role in this, but he's been all over the map. Dishonorable mention: Joe Corvo's(notes) adventures in defense.
Chicago Blackhawks: Dave Bolland(notes), C. While the rest of the Windy City rants about Nick Boynton(notes), a third-pairing defenseman playing 16:06 per game, let's be honest here: More was expected from Bolland this year than 16 points in 37 games. Yes, injuries played a factor. But so did a 16-game goal-less streak.
Colorado Avalanche: Brandon Yip(notes), RW. In a season that's seen Joe Sacco's group of forwards play beyond expectations, Yip hasn't met them. He currently has 15 points in 38 games, playing to a minus-5. As Dustin from Mile High Hockey wrote: "Not sure what's up with Yip. Sometimes he looks amazing and sometimes I'm not even aware his playing. He better start playing with a little more consistency or he'll be squeezed out when Stewart returns."
Columbus Blue Jackets: Anton Stralman(notes), D. Really, so many players to choose from here, but we'll go with Stralman, whose 34-point season in 2009-10 is looking more and more like a free agent singing for his supper. He has 10 points in 33 games, playing to a minus-4. The Jackets' power play is second-to-last in the NHL. Injuries were a factor in the first half; but he was a healthy scratch last night. Special nod to Steve Mason(notes) for making Mathieu Garon(notes) look like Jacques Plante.
Dallas Stars: Toby Petersen(notes), C. Not an easy one considering how the team has excelled but we'll give the dishonor to Petersen for a team-worst minus-7, and a first half that ended with him IR. He has three points in 34 games.
Detroit Red Wings: Jiri Hudler(notes), F. No-brainer here, as Ansar Khan writes: "It was a miserable first half for a skilled player who returned from Russia with high expectations. He collected only three goals and 12 points in 36 games, while sporting a team-worst minus-8. He has improved lately, but needs to be more involved, go to the net and shoot more."
Edmonton Oilers: Kurtis Foster(notes), D. A name we didn't expect to be here. He has 11 points in 39 games, playing to a minus-8, after looking like one of the best free agent bargains on the market. His ice time is now declining, too.
Florida Panthers: Steven Reinprecht(notes), C. With a nod to Dennis Wideman's(notes) impressive minus-13, we have to go with Reinprecht's 1 power play point in 29 games for the worst power play in the League, and a performance that eventually landed him on a German team.
Los Angeles Kings: Alexei Ponikarovsky(notes), LW. An injury wiped out his November, but in the 24 games the free agent acquisition has played he has 3 goals and 4 assists. He was demoted to the fourth line for a spell in December. All of this is partially why Marco Sturm(notes) was added on left wing, we imagine.
"At one point, Barker was scratched in a game in favor of three rookie defensemen. This is a huge blow to the ego of anyone, but for a former third overall pick, the expectations for Barker are higher. After trading Nick Leddy(notes) and Kim Johnsson(notes) for Barker, Chuck Fletcher had to think he was getting more than a third pairing d-man who would need continuous motivation to simply do his job. An offensive defenseman, Barker scored his first goal in 47 games against Phoenix on January 2. He has five total points and is a -12 on the season. His defensive liabilities in the first half are the stuff of legends in Minnesota. Not good for a RFA making $3 million a year already."
No sir, it sure isn't.
Montreal Canadiens: Andrei Kostitsyn(notes), LW. Brilliant start with six goals in October, and then ... nada. Three goals in November, one in December, zero in 2011. Wrote Scott Burnside of ESPN: "Maybe the Habs got rid of the wrong Kostitsyn? Andrei's brother Sergei is thriving in Nashville."
Nashville Predators: J.P. Dumont(notes), RW. Jason Arnott(notes) goes to New Jersey and Dumont goes in the tank. Four goals in 42 games puts him on pace for less than 10 on the season, which is flabbergasting given his track record. He's not looked bad all the time, but the results simply aren't there on the stat sheet for a team that needs goals.
New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur(notes), G. No, not Ilya Kovalchuk(notes). Yes, he's having the worst offensive year of his career and is a minus-29(!), but he's still managed 23 points in 41 games. Brodeur, on the other hand, has a GAA of 3.05 and a save percentage of .890. He's 6-18-1 on the year and has been pulled from five starts. Kovalchuk isn't the only offensive player struggling. In the past, Brodeur might have bailed them all out. But he just doesn't have it this year or, potentially, any more.
New York Islanders: Josh Bailey(notes), LW. For a team besieged by injuries and lacking quality depth as is, having Bailey regress in the first two months of the season was detrimental. He went without a goal between Oct. 18 and Nov. 21, getting demoted on Nov. 24 to the AHL. He's improved since returning, but his first half was rather dreadful compared to the potential he showed last season.
New York Rangers: Alex Frolov, LW. His season has ended thanks to an ACL tear and other ailments, but not before he stunk up the joint to the tune of 7 goals in 43 games. He complained about his ice time and the fans complained about his effort. Thank the Hockey Gods for 1-year contracts.
Ottawa Senators: Alexei Kovalev, RW. With 8 goals in 42 games, Year 2 of his 2-year, $10-million deal with the Senators is shaping up to be worst than the first -- which is no small feat. He has a lingering knee injury that no doubt doesn't come close to the pain he felt skating on the fourth line this season.
Philadelphia Flyers: Nikolay Zherdev(notes), RW. Wait, what? Zherdev playing like an enigma? Why, that's so completely like him. Nik has 13 goals, which is great. He's also been a healthy scratch, which isn't so great. From The Hockey Guys: "For how good he's been at putting the puck into the net - his defensive play and 'spark' has been equally bad. He needs to stop gliding around on the ice in the offensive and defensive zone and start skating. Zherdev needs to at least look like he's hungry and wants to be an elite player or he will find himself in Peter Laviolette's doghouse once again."
Phoenix Coyotes: Wojtek Wolski(notes), LW. Gone but not forgotten is Wolski, who signed a 2-year, $7.6 million deal last summer. He managed six goals in 36 games, seeing his ice team shrink faster than George Costanza outside the pool in the Hamptons.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Mike Comrie(notes), F. A bargain bin free agent who sought to resurrect his career skating with Sidney Crosby(notes), Comrie was injured in the second game of the season and didn't score a goal in 16 games before shutting down for hip surgery. Perhaps his biggest failing for the Penguins' season: His bust/absence meant zero Hilary Duff on HBO 24/7.
San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau(notes), C. Marleau should be writing thank you notes to Kovalchuk for hogging the spotlight on the "dude who cashed in and then crapped the bed" story. Marleau signed a 4-year, $27.6 million contract extension to avoid free agency last offseason. Marleau has 30 points in 43 games and is playing to a minus-17. At this point last season he had 29 goals; this season, he has 15.
St. Louis Blues: Patrik Berglund(notes), C. Wildly inconsistent in effort and effectiveness in a season that many felt would be a return to form. Instead, he's on pace for 16 goals (and 41 points). Berglund has two goals and four assists since Dec. 1; Eric Brewer(notes) has three goals and five assists in the same span.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Simon Gagne(notes), LW. He missed 18 games to an odd lingering neck injury early in the season, and currently has seven points in 25 games, playing to a team-worst minus-21. As he said to the Tampa Tribune: "The most important thing in hockey is coming at the end of the season and into the playoffs, and that's when I want to be at the top of my game. ... And I still have lots of time to do that. I've got 41 games left and it's the midpoint of the season. So, I'm going to look at it that the first part is done, so let's focus on what I can do for the next 41 games."
Toronto Maple Leafs: J.S. Giguere, G. Despite a strong challenge from Mike Komisarek(notes), Giguere takes the goat according to Julian from Pension Plan Puppets: "I actually have to give the crown to Giguere because he's been injured just like Toskala was last year forcing more work on Gustavsson. It's no surprise that when Gustavsson was able to mix some practice time in with his playing time that he was much better. Since Giguere's groin issues flared up and Gustavsson's workload increased significantly he's struggled."
Vancouver Canucks: Keith Ballard(notes), D. His offseason acquisition carried some expectations with it, and they weren't met in the first half of the season. He's averaging 15:38 TOI per game, down from 22:24 last year with the Panthers. He's a C-plus player who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.
Washington Capitals: Marcus Johansson(notes), C. The Capitals don't really have one player on whom blame should fall. So many of them have been inconsistent, but not terrible. Johansson, a rookie, wasn't terrible either in the opening half of the season but he didn't make an impact: 7 points in 29 games. The reason he's listed here is symbolic: The second-line center spot for the Caps has been the positional goat for the team this season, just as it was a glaring hole last postseason. Perhaps Johansson ends up being the answer: True to form, he's on the way up in the second half of the season with two goals against Florida last night.