There's nothing like getting off to a sharp start to let a player know that this is going to be his year in the NHL.
However, it doesn't always go according to plan. Teams can get off to disappointing starts and players can also follow suit. It doesn't mean that a slump is going to last for a full season and the player has lost his skills, but a bad start can result in self-doubt and cause others to lose confidence as well.
A bad start often means more than a slump in the middle of the season. Instead of being up among the league's leaders, a star player can find his name listed with the also-rans.
It takes mental and emotional strength to overcome a poor start. Here's a look at several players whose stocks have hit a severe downturn early in the season.
2013 stats: 48 games, 13 goals, 35 assists.
Best season: 28 goals, 65 assists in 2011-12.
Honors: 2-time NHL All-Star.
2013-14 stats: 9 games, 0 goals, 3 assists.
It's been dramatic in Philly.
Former head coach Peter Laviolette once referred to Giroux as "the best player in the world," but he hasn't been anything close to that since the Flyers eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Flyers have gotten off to an awful start and Laviolette has been fired.
Philadelphia's 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers Thursday night was only its second of the season and both Giroux and the Flyers are a long way from being elite this year.
When Giroux is on his game, he is a top-10 player in the NHL—if not higher.
NHL Network analyst Craig Button told Mike Sielski of The Philadelphia Inquirer that Giroux's slump is impacting the organization. "He's obviously an elite star in the National Hockey League, but he's not productive right now," Button said. "I really think that's had a material effect on their team. The other team never feels threatened."
2013 stats: 44 games, 13 goals, 31 assists.
Best season: 40 goals, 44 assists in 2009-10.
Honors: 7th in goals scored in 2009-10.
2013-14 stats: 10 games, 3 goals, 2 assists.
Some might argue the fact that Alex Semin is not a superstar, but the Carolina Hurricanes would not be among those advancing that thesis.
They signed Semin to a five-year, $35 million contract and the only reason they did that is the belief that he would produce on a consistent basis.
Semin had a bounce-back season for the Hurricanes in 2013 after a poor year in 2011-12 during which he was held to 21 goals.
Semin has had three 30-plus-goal seasons in his career and Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford expects him to produce at that level again.
2013 stats: 42 games, 11 goals, 5 assists.
Best season: 16 goals, 35 assists in 2011-12.
Honors: All-Rookie First Team in 2011-12, led NHL in shorthanded goals (4) in 2011-12.
2013-14 stats: 10 games, 2 goals, 1 assist.
The Devils have suffered some devastating personnel blows in the last two offseasons.
After superstar Zach Parise left to sign a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Wild in 2012, the remaining Devils players were put in the near-impossible position of making up for his absence. They failed to do so, as the 2012 Stanley Cup finalists did not even make the playoffs last year.
The Devils lost David Clarkson to free agency last summer and Ilya Kovalchuk left the team so he could go back to Russia and play in his home country.
The Devils have been counting on Henrique to pick up where he left off as a rookie and perform like an elite player at both ends of the ice. He has struggled and the Devils are finding it difficult to win games. They have won just once in their first 10 games.
Head coach Peter DeBoer should be counting on Henrique for production, but he can't at this point.
2013 stats: 36 games, 11 goals, 10 assists.
Best season: 50 goals, 55 assists in 2006-07.
Honors: 4-time NHL All-Star.
2013-14 stats: 11 games, 1 goal, 2 assists.
Dany Heatley is in the final season of a six-year, $45 million contract. At one point in his career, he scored 39 or more goals in five straight seasons.
He is a shadow of that player right now, and it could end up costing the Minnesota Wild dearly. While they have a couple of superstars in Parise and Ryan Suter as well as a fine supporting cast, they need a proven goal scorer like Heatley to put the puck in the net.
It seems he can't do that anymore, and it's a huge problem for head coach Mike Yeo. The Wild is once again a middle-of-the-pack team in the Western Conference and their key issue is goal scoring.
They have just 24 goals in 11 games, and an average of 2.18 goals per game is not going to get it done.
2013 stats: 39 games, 10 goals, 22 assists.
Best season: 52 goals, 56 assists in 2006-07.
Honors: 4-time NHL All-Star.
2013-14 stats: 6 games, 1 goal, 2 assists.
Vincent Lecavalier was forced to absorb a huge blow to his ego when the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out his contract at the conclusion of the 2013 season.
While that had to sting, the Philadelphia Flyers demonstrated that they still believed in Lecavalier's talent by signing him to a five-year, $22.5 million deal.
General manager Paul Holmgren may be asking for a do-over on that deal.
Lecavalier looks nothing like the swift-skating and opportunistic playmaker he was during his prime with the Lightning. At 32, Lecavalier should have several good years left, but he appears to be chasing the play much of the time, which is not going to get it done for the Flyers.
Ideally, Lecavalier projects as the team's No. 2 center behind Claude Giroux. Neither of them is performing at anywhere close to expectations and the team has been abysmal.
2013 stats: 38 games, 20 goals, 21 assists.
Best season: 43 goals, 41 assists in 2006-07.
Honors: NHL All-Star in 2009.
2013-14 stats: 11 games, 3 goals, 4 assists.
Thomas Vanek is the most talented forward on the Buffalo Sabres, but it appears that this team is destined to remain at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference all season.
The Sabres aren't prepared to square off with the best teams and compete for 60 minutes.
Vanek is not the kind of player who is going to rally his teammates and get them to start playing better. He can play a key offensive role and score important goals, but he does not appear to have much leadership ability and may be willing to just take the poor season and wait to be traded.
Vanek and goalie Ryan Miller are the team's two most attractive trade assets should the Sabres decide to go into a full rebuilding mode.
2013 stats: 45 games, 5 goals, 24 assists.
Best season: 13 goals, 42 assists in 2006-07.
Honors: 5-time All-Star.
2013-14 stats: 9 games, 0 goals, 0 assists.
Since the presumably career-ending injury suffered by Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen has been the Philadelphia Flyers' best defenseman.
Even though they struggled and did not make the playoffs last year, Timonen's play never wavered.
The 2013-14 season has been a different story. Timonen does not have a point and has been removed from the team's top power-play unit.
Timonen, 38, has been a productive offensive player for years, but he has slowed down dramatically in that area. According to Kyle Phillippi of The Hockey Writers, he's also a risk on the defensive end because he's being beaten on plays and taking poor penalties.
While that may be the only alternative when it comes to giving up an odd-man rush, it is indicative of how much he has slowed down.
2013 stats: 29 games, 2.22 GAA, .901 SV%, 2 shutouts.
Best season: 67 games, 1.88 GAA, .927 SV%, 10 shutouts in 1996-97.
Honors: 3-time Vezina Trophy winner, 9-time NHL All-Star.
2013-14 stats: 4 games, 3.40 GAA, .865 SV%.
Martin Brodeur holds nearly every important goaltending record in NHL history. However, nothing lasts forever and even Brodeur, 41, is not immune to the aging process.
The Devils brought in Cory Schneider to eventually take over as the team's top goalie, but it seemed like Brodeur might have one or two more good years left in him.
That may not be the case. Additionally, the Devils have struggled coming out of the gate and Brodeur may not have the ability or desire to turn a substandard team around at this point in his career.