The adage that advises hoping for the best while bracing for the worst is applying with exponential adhesive as the NHL lockout delays the debuts of all summer 2012 free-agent transfers in their new uniforms.
Even in years of normalcy, there are always new acquisitions that will bear such caveats as a history of inconsistent health or inconsistent heart. Others come with an uncertainty as to how they will fare with a substantially more or less competitive team than where they last played.
Some of those prominently exist in the free-agent class of 2012, but there is also the overwhelming presence of players, particularly grizzled veterans, who are potentially prone to rust after this unusually lengthy offseason.
“Potentially” is the most operative term here. There might ultimately be nothing to worry about with these players and their new employers.
But based on a combination of what they can bring based on their best and/or most recent seasons and the potential hindrances they are subject to, these are the 10 signees who could disappoint the most if things do not work according to plan.
Samuelsson should be a helpful depth forward during his second stint in Detroit, especially given that he logged three lengthy playoff runs when he was last a Red Wing. Even if he is not the most dazzling producer all season, that past experience can help in crunch time.
What remains to be seen is whether or not he can still produce at the same pace that he did in his Vancouver years, which were his two best with 0.72 and 0.67 points per game in 2009-10 and 2010-11, respectively. His health could also be a hindrance as he has logged an increasing number of nights on the sideline each of the last three seasons.
All that said, there are reasons why Samuelsson is at the bottom of this list. His acquisition does not come without risks, but his combination of risks and expectations is not as weighty as those of other 2012 free-agent signees.
Essentially tasked with replenishing the offensive output that the Panthers lost when Samuelsson took off for Detroit, the 24-year-old Mueller’s transcript is already saturated with rough patches.
The encouraging news is that, after sitting out the entire 2010-11 campaign and after sandwiching a 41-game injury hiatus with six pointless outings, he charged up a 7-9-16 scoring log in 26 games from mid-January through April.
With the lockout putting his Florida debut on hold, Mueller’s mystery now is whether the extra time off equals more time to get into greater game shape or a layoff that ruins the rhythm he established last winter.
Allen has not played more than 20 minutes per night on a regular basis since before an October knee ailment ended his 2008-09 season early. In the three seasons since, his most efficient stretch was a 19-game sample with the Hurricanes, during which he played a nightly median of 15:51 and retained a plus-five rating.
Yet almost everywhere you look, Allen is projected to be among the top four blueliners with his new team in Anaheim. That will likely mean crossing that 20-minute plateau in several games and could be asking for more than he is capable of handling.
His new employers in Washington can hope that he is back in his healthier form and that he is due for a more consistent, productive season a la 2009-10 and 2006-07.
As it is for almost anybody under any circumstance, a $7 million salary and cap hit is a bit much for Semin. The silver lining is the cautious one-year length of the deal the Carolina Hurricanes made with him.
Maybe the change of scenery will be a boon for both parties, in which case a renewed and slightly lengthier contract will be in order. Either that or this relationship could be more of the same of Semin’s most recent days in Washington, where he had an underachieving 54 points in each of the last two years.
In 2011-12, Sullivan posted a not-so-shabby 17-31-48 log to place sixth on the Pittsburgh Penguins, the NHL’s most prolific offense with a nightly average of 3.33 goals per game.
How he will fare with a substantially shallower cast of teammates in Phoenix remains to be seen.
Consider how many scoring plays he shared with the five Penguins who finished ahead of him on the leaderboard and Sidney Crosby, who would have been hovering at the top had he been healthy all season.
Upon filing through every linked box score on his game log, Sullivan shared a hand in 17 goals apiece with the one-two punch of Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. He split credit on 12 with Pascal Dupuis, 10 with Jordan Staal and five apiece with Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
The Dallas Stars’ import of Whitney was a great idea at the time, when there were still 10-plus weeks left to avert a lockout and the ageless winger was coming off his second 77-point campaign in the last four years.
However, the lockout is now going on nine weeks of age and counting and Whitney has not had any formal hockey action since the Coyotes were eliminated from the playoffs on May 22.
Under ideal circumstances, he would have started training camp with the Stars eight weeks ago. Under reality, he is approaching the six-month mark since he last had meaningful action.
The involuntary layoff could have the 40-year-old veteran’s age breaking the surface when he finally does debut in Dallas. Certaintly any 2012-13 or 2013-14 season output of less than his previous full-season career low of 0.64 points per game would constitute a disappointment.
Here is the $2 million question: Will Corvo prove he is comfortable and therefore confident and competent in Carolina or will he be forever changed for the worse after a disappointing drawback in Boston last season?
As a one-year blunder with the Bruins, the 35-year-old Corvo dipped to a career-low 2.4 percent shooting success rate and 25 points, his lowest total in eight full NHL seasons.
As it is with Semin, there is nothing egregious about the Hurricanes’ decision to sign Corvo. It could be mutually beneficial. But they also made a shrewd choice by only making it a one-year contract, implicitly electing to see how he performs before considering a longer commitment.
With the exception of 2009-10, when his only health problem was a brief bout with the flu that cost him a single game, Bouillon has had multiple stints on the sideline in each season since the previous lockout. In each of those years, he has missed no fewer than eight contests.
Combine that unsavory recent history with the fact that he just turned 37 and it is safe to assume that Bouillon’s best days on the ice are behind him.
The Canadiens can be grateful for their hefty quantity of NHL-caliber defense. But Bouillon along with Tomas Kaberle and a similarly injury-riddled Andrei Markov might not be the most ideal specimens of veteran presence.
Jagr could be the ultimate dud if he elects to retire at the end of the lockout and thus does not show up at all for the one-year pact he signed with the Stars.
Besides that harrowing prospect, it would also not be outside the realm of logic to suppose that Jagr might keep playing, but stay where he is in his native Czech Republic. He has left the NHL in favor of a prolonged stay overseas before and he is presently boasting a 13-16-29 scoring log through 18 games in the Czech circuit.
Even if he returns and suits up in accordance with his contract, he could be prone to the same problems as Whitney, his fellow 40-year-old Dallas signee. Furthermore, one has to wonder if, for sure, he can return to the NHL and match his 19-35-54 output from last year with Philadelphia.
Jagr can still be an appreciable contributor to the Stars as they try to form a foundation for contention, but the lockout is shriveling those hopes by the day.