(There’s really no such thing as the “quarter pole” of the NHL season, but most teams have cleared their first 20 games. Here are the 10 most unpleasant surprises of the season so far; we’ll get back on the positive tip with the pleasant surprises later.)
10. Alex Semin
Who would have figured that the Montreal Canadiens would be one of the best offensive teams in the League, and free agent Alex Semin would play absolutely no role in it? He has one goal and three assists in 14 games and has been a healthy scratch. If only there was a word that could capture the perplexing nature of a non-North American player’s performance …
After two injury-shortened seasons in which the Calgary Flames defenseman flirted with the Norris Trophy, Giordano has six points in 21 games and it a minus-11. He clearly missed partner T.J. Brodie in October, as did the Flames, whose defense has been hot garbage this season.
8. Dave Hakstol
The former North Dakota coach managed to take a mediocre Philadelphia Flyers offense and make it the worst in the NHL. Worse yet, his former NCAA team is now called the "Fighting Hawks."
7. The Triplets Line
The belles of the Stanley Cup Playoff ball last spring tripped, fell and lost their parasols. Tyler Johnson has 10 points in 19 games. Ondrej Palat had two goals in 15 games before being injured. Nikita Kucherov has managed six goals in 22 games. But the Triplets were broken up as the Tampa Bay Lightning struggled offensively.
6. Raffi Torres
You know, for a second, we thought Torres might have gotten it through his thick skull not to target the thick skulls of his peers with illegal hits. And then he kabong’d Jakob Silfverberg and earned himself a 41-game suspension. Maybe not a surprise, come to think of it.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
The strong finish to last season and the Brandon Saad trade had expectations sky high for the BJs. Then they started 0-7-0, Todd Richards was fired, John Tortorella was hired, Ryan Johansen had some mystery ailment and Nick “Team” Foligno had one goal in 22 games. But hey, they own their first-round pick next summer!
4. Connor McDavid’s Injury
While it’s not the dire moment for professional hockey that some made it out to be, McDavid’s broken collarbone was still a bummer for the Edmonton Oilers, their chances for contention and their utilization for McDavid’s first contract year. But when it comes to the Calder Trophy race … well, all it means is that McDavid will have to win via points per game average. And he could.
3. Sidney Crosby
Eleven points in 20 games for Sidney Crosby? Three goals in 20 games Sidney Crosby? Best player on the planet Sidney Crosby? Your top pick in the fantasy draft Sidney Crosby? What the hell is going on here and how much can we blame Mike Johnston for it?
2. The Coach’s Challenge Cluster-[$@#$]
NHL War Room is like 20 hi-def TVs but no let's do the coach's challenge on a Nintendo DS pic.twitter.com/L5DgXI7bOE
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) November 18, 2015
While the NHL’s decision to review goalie interference and offside calls should be lauded, the decision to have game officials review their own bad calls to make new bad calls simply reinforced their own inconsistent standards.
Also, they’re reviewing calls on a Nintendo DS while the NHL has a Best Buy’s-worth of HDTVs in its War Room.
And finally …
1. Anaheim Ducks
Forget that one of the NHL’s Stanley Cup favorites stumbled badly out of the gate, to the point where Bruce Boudreau’s job was in jeopardy. It’s they way they stumbled: Going from one of the NHL’s best offensive teams to arguably its worst.
One goal for Ryan Kesler in 21 games. One goal for Ryan Getzlaf in 17 games. One goal for Silfverberg. One goal for Patrick Maroon. Two goals for Carl Hagelin. And so on. For losing the way they’ve lost, the Ducks are the most unpleasant surprise of the NHL season.
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