The Biggest Underachievers so Far in the 2014 NHL Playoffs

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistMay 1, 2014

The Biggest Underachievers so Far in the 2014 NHL Playoffs

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    The first round of the NHL playoffs is finally over. There were plenty of surprises and new heroes and villains in every series.

    Some of the biggest names in the hockey world barely made it through Round 1, and they needed the help of lesser players to do it. They will live to play another round of the postseason. Other impact players weren't so lucky—their teams went down with them, victims of poor performances by their best players.

    Here are the 10 biggest underachievers so far in the 2014 playoffs.

Ray Whitney, LW, Dallas Stars

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    What Was Expected? Ray Whitney had an effective season on the power play with the Dallas Stars. More of the same was expected during their postseason series against the Anaheim Ducks.

    What Was Delivered? Whitney's performance fell off a cliff in the playoffs. The Stars struggled with the man advantage, and the veteran didn't manage a point. The Stars gave him almost five minutes a night to do damage and got nothing in return.

    The Future: Whitney had a fairly productive regular season, but the Dallas Stars will probably move on from the 41-year old veteran. He is a free agent this summer.

David Legwand, C, Detroit Red Wings

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    What Was Expected? The Detroit Red Wings were looking for a veteran center to improve depth and chip in offensively when they traded for David Legwand. Nashville received Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok and a conditional third-round pick in the deal.

    What Was Delivered? Legwand didn't bring enough offense, despite getting all kinds of opportunities with high-end skill. The Red Wings had injury issues at center, including Henrik Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss, but Legwand didn't score a point in the series against Boston.

    The Future: Detroit paid dearly for Legwand, but it won't throw good money at him following a poor postseason performance. It's a reasonable guess to suggest that it's not a lock Detroit makes an effort to sign him next season.

Vincent Lecavalier, C, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    What Was Expected? The Philadelphia Flyers were counting on Vincent Lecavalier to provide experience and score goals on the power play. He scored eight goals with the man advantage during the regular season.

    What Was Delivered? Lecavalier did score on the power play, but he saw reduced playing time as the series wore on. In the biggest game of the season, he played less than 10 minutes.

    The Future: The Flyers have Lecavalier signed for four more seasons. He's not going anywhere in the short term.

Valtteri Filppula, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    What Was Expected? Valtteri Filppula is a veteran two-way forward with playmaking skill. The Lightning signed him to a big contract with the postseason in mind and expected him to deliver at both ends of the ice.

    What Was Delivered? Filppula picked up an assist in four postsesaon games, which was a disappointing total. The Lightning pulled a high number of pucks out of their net while he was on the ice at even strength.

    The Future: The Lightning are committed to Filppula for several more years, and he delivered quality play during the regular season. Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune details an injury to Filppula but also quotes the player as saying he was fine to play.

Jan Hejda, D, Colorado Avalanche

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    What Was Expected? The Colorado Avalanche have come to rely on Jan Hejda to face the opposition's best players. Hejda has been very effective in the role.

    What Was Delivered? The Avalanche did not win the possession game during their series with Minnesota, and Hejda was overwhelmed by the oncoming Wild. His Corsi percentage for the series was 37.3, indicating the extent of the carnage.

    The Future: Hejda remains one of the best defensemen in Colorado. The team's possession numbers were very poor, and there's a lot of work to do before they can get better. Hejda, despite a poor playoff showing, is not the biggest worry on the defense.

Ryan Miller, G, St. Louis Blues

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    What Was Expected? The St. Louis Blues expected Ryan Miller to give them elite-level goaltending during what was supposed to be a deep playoff run this spring. The club paid a dear price in acquiring Miller and Steve Ott from Buffalo. St. Louis sent Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a first-round draft pick in 2015 and a conditional third-round draft pick in 2016 to complete the deal.

    What Was Delivered? Miller's playoff performance was very disappointing. The Blues needed 16 wins but received only two, and their deadline acquisition stopped fewer than 90 percent of the shots he faced.

    The Future: St. Louis surrendered a tremendous amount of key assets when it acquired Miller, and it needs a veteran No. 1 goaltender. Club management evaluated him as elite in acquiring him and will likely sign him to a long-term deal. 

R. J. Umberger, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    What Was Expected? The Columbus Blue Jackets needed R. J. Umberger to deliver offensively, especially on the power play. He led the team during the regular season with eight power-play goals.

    What Was Delivered? The power play performed well overall, but Umberger was shut out. What's more, he managed only one point during the entire series against the Penguins.

    The Future: There appears to be blood in the water in regard to Umberger. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch suggests the Blue Jackets are more likely to trade him than buy him out this summer.

Antti Niemi, G, San Jose Sharks

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    What Was Expected? The San Jose Sharks expected adequate goaltending for what looked like a long playoff run. The club rode Antti Niemi all season long, and he finished inside the league's top 30 in save percentage at .913.

    What Was Delivered? Niemi was poor, finishing near the bottom of the league for first-round starters. He wasn't the only disappointment, but Niemi was the obvious one.

    The Future: There will be changes in San Jose this offseason. Another disappointing exit will likely force a review from the top down. Niemi has one more season on his contract, but there's no guarantee it'll be spent in San Jose.