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Earlier this week, we covered the 13 most pleasant surprises in the NHL through the first quarter of the season. It was filled with puppies sliding down rainbows into a pool of Skittles. Just an orgy of optimism.
But how would you know what a sunny day looked like if not for the cloudy ones?
Now, we present the 13 biggest disappointments in the NHL during the 2013-14 season, a.k.a. we grouped several of them under the banner “METROPOLITAN DIVISION.”
And here … we … go.
The Steven Stamkos Injury
The leading goal scorer in the NHL at the time, Stamkos broke his tibia after crashing into the net against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11. It’s an injury that will cost him the goal-scoring title and, potentially, a chance to play in Sochi with team Canada.
Honorable mention: Mark Giordano’s broken ankle in late October, which could shelve him for two months and helped knock the Flames off track after a fast start.
The only people who don’t believe the Metroterrible Division isn’t one of the season’s biggest disappointments are the disappointing teams who created that disappointment, and that still have playoff aspirations because the Meh-tro is that abjectly putrid.
Here are the standings for the entire National Hockey League. Five of the 10 worst teams are from the Metro. Vomit.
Three of our exalted pundits predicted that the Oilers would make the playoffs this season. But after a 7-15-2 start, Dallas Eakins’ group has a 0.3 percent chance at making the postseason in the Western Conference. But boy, those odds in the lottery (again) …
Before the season, Detroit Red Wings management talked about Weiss having difficulty grasping the team’s system. But no one could have predicted that would manifest in a 2-goal, 1-assist campaign through 17 games for a guy who signed a 5-year, $24.5 million free-agent deal to be the team’s No. 2 center.
Return Of Stretchers
Steven Stamkos, Jacob Trouba, Craig Anderson, Niklas Kronwall, Rusty Klesla (preseason), George Parros, Dan Boyle … we’ve seen more stretchers this season for various reasons than we have hat tricks (or so it seemed). The Department of Players safety, overall, was busy in October and the preseason, with 17 suspensions.
Lack Of Goals For Giroux, Malkin
It’s hard to call a player with 22 points in 22 games or 13 points in 21 games a “disappointment,” but it’s all a matter of perspective. In Claude Giroux’s case, he went 15 games without a goal which contributed to the Philadelphia Flyers’ dreadful start. In Evgeni Malkin’s, his current goals-per-game through 22 contests (0.14) is by far the lowest of his career. Three goals in 22 games, despite the 19 helpers, has drawn some heat. But maybe those people should just accept he's the Russian Joe Thornton. Well, one with a Conn Smythe.
What the heck happened with Ottawa? The Sens are 8-10-4 in the Atlantic Division, and the defense that ranked second in the NHL last season is 24th overall with a 3.09 GAA. Who knew Sergei Gonchar was the lynchpin?
In fairness to Bob, the team in front of him hasn’t exactly played well this season. But his 2.77 GAA and .909 save percentage are a dramatic flip from this 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage that earned him the Vezina. Through a quarter of the season, the hold he had on the Russian goaltending job for Sochi has slipped, too. Coach Todd Richards has gone from “trust in Bob” to figuring out what’s troubling him.
Last season, he was a coach that turned the Sabres around after Lindy Ruff’s firing and looked primed to work with the team’s young players. This season, saddled with a rebuilding roster, Rolston flailed without answers to the team’s early season death spiral, unless that answer was to goon it up. He was fired along with GM Darcy Regier after 20 games.
Salary Cap Stranglehold
The Vanek/Moulson trade aside, the drop in the salary cap this season has created a stagnant marketplace. Around a dozen teams are capped out; half the lead has less than a million under the cap. Sigh.
Rookies Who Don’t Meet The Hype
The Winnipeg Jets have given Mark Scheifele ice time and 24 games, and he’s given them one goal. Sven Baertschi was a sensation for the Calgary Flames last season; this season, he has one goal in 19 games and has been a healthy scratch. They’re young, they’ll be fine … but put those Calder hopes in mothballs.
U.S. Olympic Goalie Struggles
The competition for the crease in Sochi for the U.S. team was supposed to inspire its candidates to do great things in the regular season. Instead, Jonathan Quick (.905 save percentage before his injury), Jimmy Howard (.911, 2.79 GAA), Craig Anderson (.900) and Cory Schneider (who couldn’t keep Marty Brodeur from retaking his job and has gotten poor goal support) have had their struggles. On the flip side, Ryan Miller’s been the best thing on a terrible team, Ben Bishop has played himself in the conversation and there are even those who’d like to see Tim Thomas in the mix.
Ray Emery Beats Up Holtby
Finally, the idea that this could happen and there was no mechanism for supplemental discipline still boggles the mind:
Ray Emery’s assault on Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals led to plenty of heat on the NHL for the incident, as well as on one plucky Philadelphia reporter for making him the third star that night.
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