NHL

NHL Players Out of Excuses in the 2013-14 NHL Season

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2013

NHL Players Out of Excuses in the 2013-14 NHL Season

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    James van Riemsdyk must produce consistently this season.
    James van Riemsdyk must produce consistently this season.Abelimages/Getty Images

    Coaches and fans have one thing in common. They get tired of waiting for talented players to play to their potential, especially when they see grinders go into the corner, come out with the puck and create a scoring opportunity.

    Players who produce great games once in a while and average games most of the time fray everybody's nerves.

    Some players were injured, some had bad years and some just did not do as much as they should have.

    Here's our look at players who have run out of excuses and must produce in a substantial manner this season.

LW Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Scott Hartnell can put the puck in the net, and that's an aspect of his game that the Philadelphia Flyers missed last year.

    Hartnell had just eight goals in the lockout-shortened season. While the Flyers were dogged by major problems on the defensive end last year, the fact that their stalwart left wing suffered a broken left foot and was also stymied when he was in the lineup did not help them either.

    Hartnell, well-known for his halting skating—Hartnell Down!—was determined to have a great start to the 2013-14 season. It hasn't worked out that way.

    Hartnell has not had a goal or an assist in five games, and he also suffered a lower-body injury that has kept him out since Oct. 11. It is not a serious injury, and Hartnell should be back in the lineup shortly.

    Hartnell scored 37 goals in 2011-12, and the Flyers need him to get back into 30-goal form this season.

C Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    When the Vancouver Canucks dominated in the 2010-11 regular season and went to the Stanley Cup Final, Ryan Kesler was, perhaps, their best all-around player.

    He scored 41 goals, 32 assists and he finished with a plus-11 rating. Seven of Kesler's goals were game-winners, and he also dominated on the power play with 15 markers.

    Kesler has been troubled by injuries ever since. He has battled hip, shoulder and wrist problems in addition to having a broken foot. 

    The Canucks have endured two first-round playoff losses each of the last two years. If they are going to make a run at another dominant season, they need Kesler to be at his best. 

    While Kesler has three goals in his first eight games, he's not at his best yet.

LW Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins

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    Scott Audette/Getty Images

    Claude Julien saw Milan Lucic at his best in the 2013 playoffs. He used his 6'4", 225 pounds to exert his will throughout the playoffs, and no player was more physically involved in the Boston Bruins' memorable seventh-game comeback over the Toronto Maple Leafs than Lucic. 

    His playoff performance that saw him score seven goals, 12 assists and finish with a plus-12 rating is testimony to the way he can play when he is fully engaged.

    Lucic did not come close to that form during the 2013 regular season. He scored seven goals and 20 assists and was hard to spot in a number of games. His indifferent performance led head coach Claude Julien to bench him for a game.

    The Bruins simply can't have that from Lucic this year.

    He has scored three goals and three assists in the Bruins' first seven games, and he looks more like the player who dominated in last year's playoffs than the one who slept through the 2013 regular season.

C Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Mike Richards was a key member of the Philadelphia Flyers when they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, and he took it a step further in 2011-12 when he scored four goals and added 11 assists in the postseason as the Los Angeles Kings won their first Stanley Cup.

    Richards is a tough player who will go into the corners, win the battle for the puck and then set up a scoring chance for himself or his teammates. 

    But Richards was not himself in 2013. He scored just 12 goals and had 20 assists in the 48-game season, and he was also minus-eight on the season. Richards often seemed unsure on the ice, and he did not play with the same aggressiveness that has marked his career.

    Richards scored 30 goals in 2008-09 and 31 goals the following season. However, he has not had more than 23 goals since then. Richards needs to show he can score consistently and get an edge with his physical play.

    Richards has five assists in his first eight games, but he has not found the back of the net. That's not good enough.

C Stephen Weiss, Detroit Red Wings

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Stephen Weiss was a dominant player for the Florida Panthers from 2001 until he got hurt last season.

    Injuries allowed him to play in just 17 games last season, and he scored one goal before he was sidelined for the remainder of the year.

    Weiss, injured in his free-agent season, missed a chance to be traded to a Stanley Cup contender. However, he didn't miss a chance to capitalize on his contractual status. He signed a five-year, $24.5-million contract to play with the Detroit Red Wings.

    Now Weiss is on the big stage and finally gets a chance to play with a contender. The Red Wings are expecting Weiss to score 20-25 goals and at least 60 points. He has two goals in his first nine games, and he has not recorded an assist. That's not good enough.

LW James Van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Abelimages/Getty Images

    James van Riemsdyk was the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft.

    When Philadelphia selected this big left winger, they expected to get a player who could score 35 or more goals per season and become a dominating power forward.

    Van Riemsdyk played well with the Flyers and has also put decent numbers on the board since he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, van Riemsdyk has not come close to meeting expectations.

    He scored 21 goals in 2010-11 and that's the only time in his career that he has broken the 20-goal mark. The Maple Leafs need him to take a big step up if they are going to contend in the Atlantic Division.

    Van Riemsdyk has started the season like this will be his year. He scored five goals in his first six games, before missing two games with back spasms. He returned to the lineup Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks and did not score, but if he can stay healthy, this could be the year he fulfills his potential.

C Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    The Montreal Canadiens are depending on Tomas Plekanec to have a big year.

    The smooth-skating, slick-passing center has overwhelming talent. Once he gets a step on the defense, he can score picture-book goals and set up his teammates.

    He has wowed the crowd at the Bell Centre many times, but he has also left them perplexed just as often. Plekanec has a propensity to cruise through games, perhaps, a bit more often than he commands them.

    Plekanec has never scored 30 goals in a season, and he has not reached the 25-goal mark since the 2009-10 season. If Montreal is going to overcome Boston and Detroit, Plekanec needs to have a big year.

    He has three goals and one assist in his first eight games, and more important than those numbers, he has looked fully engaged.

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