NHL Frauds: 50 Teams, Coaches and Players We Don't Believe in for 2011-12
Fraud is a strong word. The idea that someone or something is not actually as it appears can be a damning concept. Well, get used to it NHL fans, because a lot of the players, coaches, and teams that seem to have the league figured out are in for a rude awakening as the NHL season approaches.
After breakout campaigns many one year wonders fall to the wayside, leaving their success as just a distant memory in the minds of fans everywhere. So, yeah, fraud might be a bit of a harsh word, but the guys on this list are bound to disappoint next season. Whether they are perennial failures or players who will be unable to duplicate their success, this list is dedicated to those who are no inspiring a ton of faith heading into next season.
In one of the most puzzling signings of the offseason, the Montreal Canadiens opted to re-sign defenseman Andrei Markov to a three year contract worth $5.75 million per season.
Markov, who will turn 33 later this year, has played in just 52 games over the past two seasons, leaving some to question what he has left in the tank.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens could have resigned James Wisniewski for a similar clip or Roman Hamrlik for much cheaper. It's tough to put faith in a player with the injury history that Markov has, but the Canadiens chose to roll the dice.
While we're on the subject, the Montreal Canadiens have had a lackluster offseason. Montreal lost two of its best defensemen in Wisniewski and Hamrlik, instead opting to bring back the injury plagued Andrei Markov.
Then, the Canadiens used the extra cap space on Erik Cole, signing the veteran to a four year $4.5 million deal. The roster became thinner and the team spent money rather irresponsibly in the past few months. Montreal fans will not be pleased with the result.
The signing of Erik Cole by the Montreal Canadiens was one of the most reckless signings of 2011 NHL Free Agency. Cole had over 50 points a season ago, but that marked the first time the soon to be 33 year old winger had scored more than 27 points since the 07-08 season. Investing $18 million over the next four years in his services was a bit over the top.
Nobody is entirely sure whether or not Alexei Yashin will play in the NHL next season or not. One thing is certain, though. It doesn't matter.
Yashin has been a fairly average player over seas and is not likely to bring much of a spark to the New York Islanders if he decides to come back for one last rodeo.
The Colorado Avalanche definitely lost out on the goaltending market this offseason. Instead of bringing in Ilya Bryzgalov or Tomas Vokoun, as many thought that they would, the Avs decided to trade a first and a second round pick for Semyon Varlomov.
Varlamov has never started in more than 27 games in a single season, and while 2010-2011 was somewhat of a breakout year for the Russian youngster, it wasn't even enough to win the starting job.
Those expecting a quick turnaround for the Colorado Avalanche after a bismal 2010-2011 campaign are in for a rude awakening. The rebuilding process in Colorado is still likely to take another season or two before the team can compete for a playoff spot.
It remains to be seen whether or not Semyon Varlamov can handle the workload he is likely to get, and the defense in front of him is not going to make life a whole lot easier.
The 2011 NHL PLayoffs was a coming out party for 30 year old Joel Ward. Ward had 13 points in just 12 postseason games for the Nashville Predators after amassing just 29 during 80 regular season games. The postseason breakout earned him a $12 million contract spread out over four seasons with the Washington Capitals. Something tells me the postseason was the exception and not the norm as far as Joel Ward's output.
Loui Eriksson is a hell of a hockey player, and certainly fraud is not the way to accurately describe the kid, however, Eriksson is likely to see a huge drop in production with the departure of Brad Richards. Eriksson posted over 70 points last season for the second year in a row, but I expect him to drop down into the 50-60 range without his favorite center.
Kari Lehtonen, along with Brad RIchards, was the reason the Dallas Stars were leading the Pacific Division well into the second half of the season. However, Lehtonen wore down completely last year, and without another goaltender taking 25-30 games off of his hands he will never be able to carry this team through the playoffs.
The Dallas Stars were one of the biggest surprises during the first half of the 2010-2011 season in the NHL. They stormed out to a terrific start, leading the Pacific Division and challenging for one of the top spots in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, it all came crashing down for the boys in the Lone Star state as they started to show their true colors.
Kari Lehtonen, who had dominated during the team's spectacular first half run, came down to earth and the team struggled as a result. The injury to Brad Richards only furthered the struggles the Stars had. Now, Richards will be gone for the entirety of the schedule and not a whole lot has changed with the goaltending situation. Expect a down year from the Dallas Stars.
As long as we are on the subject of the Dallas Stars, let's point out the team's biggest fraud, Mike Ribiero. Ribiero is very talented and a valuable asset to his team, but he is also one of the biggest floppers and whiners in the entire league. He defines fraud.
Brian Campbell has been considered a top flight defender in the NHL for a number of years now, but after being traded to the Florida Panthers, along with his $7 million contract, Campbell might find life pretty difficult. It's a lot tougher to play defense without Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook handling the top guns on the opposing team.
Drew Doughty is in the midst of a messy holdout with the Los Angeles Kings, and the club may want to proceed with caution before opening their checkbooks to the young star. I'm not suggesting that Doughty has seen his best seasons, however, I don't think he deserves the type of cash Shea Weber is being paid by the Nashville Predators. And that is what Doughty seems to want.
Ville Leino was once a castaway of the Detroit Red Wings. The Flyers scooped him up and slid him in on the third line alongside Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell and the results were fruitful. Leino was a huge part of the Flyers' team that went to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, and he continued that success this past season.
That being said, there is nothing that suggests that Leino deserves the $4.5 million he is going to be paid by the Buffalo Sabres for each of the next six seasons.
Roberto Luongo catches way more heat than he deserves, but count me as part of the camp that has lost some faith in the Canucks' netminder. He is a mentally weak player who simply crumbles at the most opportune times for his hockey team. Whether he continues to turn in Vezina-type seasons is somewhat a mute point if he is unable to bring Vancouver its first Stanley Cup.
The Calgary Flames are constantly on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason race in the Western Conference. The Flames are good enough to compete, but not nearly skilled enough to make a deep postseason run. Drastic change could be coming to this organization if the Flames are unable to buck the trend this season.
The Edmonton Oilers are not exactly a fraudulent group of players, but they still do not inspire much faith for the upcoming season. The young talent on this roster is astounding, and while I have little doubt that Edmonton will be in the playoffs within the next few seasons, the team is not ready to make much noise in the short term future.
Henrik Sedin is a legitimately elite player in the NHL, but for the upcoming season he inspires very little faith. Sedin will likely spend the early part of the 2011-2012 season in recovery mode from his mysterious injury in the 2011 NHL Playoffs. His recovery will undoubtedly cut into his production and impact on the Vancouver Canucks. Do not count on another MVP-type season from Henrik.
The Vancouver Canucks came into the 2010-2011 season as favorites to win the Stanley Cup and did not disappoint. The Nucks won the Presidents' Trophy and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, falling in seven games to the Boston Bruins.
However, next year could prove to be quite a bit different for Vancouver, who should enter the season as top contenders to be the best team in hockey once again. The team will be without Ryan Keslerto start the season, which will only add to the hangover the team is likely to encounter after losing in the finals a season ago. Not to mention, Henrik Sedin's mysterious injury from the playoffs has the potential to linger.
I am not too high on the Canucks entering next season.
Alain Vigneault has a ways to go before he becomes an elite NHL coach. Look at the talent on the Vancouver Canucks roster and try to figure out how they have not won a Stanley Cup. The answer starts behind the bench.
On the surface, Matt Carle appeared to have one hell of a season. The puck moving defenseman piled up 40 points during the regular season for the Flyers, but he was a part of Philly's high octane offense, making his production a bit less impressive.
To make matters worse, Carle was a defensive liability in the postseason, and his offensive production was not on par with what the Flyers came to expect.
No player has been more overvalued in the past six months than Tomas Kaberle. First, he was traded to the Bruins in exchange for a first round pick and a top prospect and proceeded to become nothing more than a bottom pairing defenseman for the Boston Bruins. Then, despite a lackluster postseason, the Hurricanes decided to bring in Kaberle for $4.25 million a year. I don't get it/
I'm not ready to write off Dany Heatley after one marginally below average year by his standards. However, the idea that Dany Heatley is going to be part of changing the tide in Minnesota is overblown. Heatley may dominate the regular season excite the Minnesota faithful, but his history of disappointment in the postseason is likely to continue.
A lot has changed for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but one thing that has remained the same is the goaltending situation. Steve Mason will still be expected to be the main cog for the Jackets between the pipes, and there is not much to inspire confidence there.
After a tremendous rookie season, Mason has struggled to recapture that form and it appears he is a bit of a flash in the pan. The fact that Columbus was toying with the idea of dealing him this offseason is another sign that he is not quite what they had hoped he would become.
The Philadelphia Flyers have finally solved their goaltending woes, but will that be the solution to them bringing the Stanley Cup to Broad Street? Ilya Bryzgalov is going to be rock solid between the pipes and even possible contend for the Vezina Trophy, but how much better will that really make the Flyers? It's an impossible question to answer after the team had to deal two franchise players just to acquire Bryz. I won't say I have no faith, but there is certainly cause for skepticism in Philadelphia.
I realize that fraud is a very strong word to describe a coach that just one the Stanley Cup. Relax. This list also embodies some players, coaches, and teams that I have little faith in for the coming season. Claude Julien falls into that category. Julien is a very solid coach, but I think the cards fell just right for the Boston Bruins. They matched up well against every team they played against, making Claude Julien's job a bit easier. Not to mention, Tim Thomas played outside of his head. Claude had nothing to do with that.
The Boston Bruins were one of the more impressive Stanley Cup victors since the turn of the century, but I do not have much faith in their shot at repeating as kings of the NHL word. Sure, all of the essential pieces are back from a year ago, but the circumstances are going to be far from the same.
For starters, expecting another historical season from Tim Thomas is probably a bit optimistic given his age. Also, hoping for the cards to all fall into place as nicely as they did with the matchups is out of the question as well. Lastly, the team no longer gets to play as the underdog, a role the team thrived in last season.
It's going to be a long road to a repeat for the Boston Bruins.
Those hoping that Michael Ryder would help ease some of the pain that the Dallas Stars are feeling from losing Brad Richards, think again. Ryder is quite talented, but his inconsistency kills him. He is not to be relied upon on a nightly basis without a solid supporting cast in place.
The Florida Panthers have replaced Tomas Vokoun with Jose Theodore, perhaps the most disappointing replacement in recent memory. Theodore is well beyond the prime of his career and nothing more than a stop gap to the Jacob Markstrom era in Florida.
One of the most blatant misconceptions of the offseason is that the Florida Panthers improved themselves by signing and trading for so many players. This could not be more off-base. The Panthers brought in castaways and over the hill players to reach the salary floor. This is the same old bottom feeder team.
It has become quite clear that the New York Islanders are starting to view Rick Dipietro as more of a part of the problem than the solution. This is not entirely Dipietro's fault. He has been injured nearly every season and was never really healthy enough to earn his paycheck.
If the former BU Terrier can't figure out how to stay in the lineup, he could be shown the door by season's end.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders are vastly improving and likely on their way to becoming a playoff team. However, I just don't see where they fit into the picture this coming season. There are three teams that are near locks to make the postseason in their division alone. Add to that the Bruins and Sabres from the Northeast along with the Capitals and Lightning in the Southeast, and that leaves one single spot for the Leafs, Islanders, Devils, Canadiens, and Canes to grapple over. It may be another year before Long Islander is celebrating a birth in the NHL postseason.
Martin Brodeur has always been a bit of a fraud on some level. Playing behind a dominant defense, Brodeur managed to accumulate insane statistics throughout his career and capture far more glory than any other member of the Devils.
Now, with the defense completely eroded along with Brodeur's skills, his true colors are starting to show, and it is not pretty.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils were downright awful last season. Many will point to the injuries New Jersey dealt with, but Zach Parise only adds so many wins to the record at the end of the day.
This is a rebuilding roster that has enough pieces to be marginally competitive. Don't mistake the Devils for a threat to go deep in the postseason.
The Ottawa Senators have hit rock bottom. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. This team is ready to scrap its roster of the overpriced talent that is weighing down their salary cap. Nothing suggests that they are even remotely ready to contend for a playoff spot.
Every year the San Jose Sharks are picked as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, and for good reason. The Sharks are loaded with talent, especially on offense, and should have no trouble reaching the Western Conference Finals on any given year.
However, the team has never been able to take the next step and reach the Stanley Cup Finals, as the Sharks have been stomped in consecutive Conference Finals. Some of that blame has to fall down on Todd McLellan.
The failures of the San Jose Sharks can not be put entirely on Todd McLellan. The captain shoulders a fair share of the responsibility as well, especially when that captain plays so poorly in crunch time.
Joe Thornton has never been able to step up when it matters most. He put together a solid postseason a year ago but faded towards the end. I have no faith that he will ever lift the Stanley Cup.
Jarolslav Halak was supposed to be the piece that made the St. Louis Blues contenders. They got off to a roaring hot start, but eventually were unable to put it all together as the season progressed. However, the team has the talent to be a fringe playoff contender. I attribute some of the lapses in play to coach Davis Payne. He is likely firmly on the hot seat at this point, so there is significant pressure for him to perform this season.
He may not be a coach or player, but Gary Bettman is the biggest fraud going in the NHL. Despite being met by boos wherever he walks, Bettman walks around with a smug look on his face as if he knows there is nothing the fans of the game can do to unseat the commissionner.
The Phoenix Coyotes are very likely in the final season of their existence. A product of Gary Bettman's insistance upon making hockey work in the south, the Coyotes are going to cost tax payers a boat load of money this season, likely sparking a relocation.
The Buffalo Sabres brought in new ownership towards the end of last season which sparked a frenzy of offseason spending by the club. The players brought in will undoubtedly improve the overall build of the team, but to think that the Sabres are now a legit threat to win the East is a bit farfetched.
The defense got unquestionably stronger, but the forward crop is still a bit weak. Ville Leino is not the spark this team needed up front. We'll see how the club gels, but for now, I don't quite have faith in this team.
Bruce Boudreau is a bit overrated as a coach. After being in HBO, Boudreau's popularity skyrocketed. However, the fact of the matter is that Boudreau has never taken his team to the Conference Finals. He has the image of a top notch coach with the accolades of a middle of the road type of coach.
The Washington Capitals are a perennial favorite to win the Eastern Conference. Every season is supposed to be the year the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup. Although it has never happened, Washington is constantly knocking on the door of greatness.
For now, the team is a bit of a fraud, but at some point I expect this team to win a Stanley Cup Championship, though it may not be this season.
For a franchise in as much turmoil as the Columbus Blue Jackets, it takes more than a guy like Jeff Carter to turn things around. Carter is a 60-70 point per season type of player with 40 goal upside, however, he never seems to get it done when it counts the most. Injuries and inconsistent postseason play have plagued his career.
James Wisniewski was arguably the most grossly overpaid player on the free agent market this offseason. The situation on Columbus's blueline was desperate, but signing Wisniewski to as hefty a contract as they did was taking desperation a bit too far. Wisniewski had never suited up for 70 games in a season until this past year, and last year was also the first in which the puck moving defenseman actually netted 50 plus points. The Jackets aren't exactly paying for proven production.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets are vastly improved this offseason with the additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, but those two alone are not enough to fix the deficiencies this team has suffered from. The suspect goaltending will continue, and the blueline is far from fixed. No matter how many points Nash and Carter combine for, forward depth will still be an issue, especially with Kristian Huselius now out for an extended period of time. Columbus still has some work to do.
John Tortorella has lost his edge as a head coach in the NHL. If you can't figure out a way to piece together a team that can go deep into the playoffs in New York, than it is tough to contend that you are doing your job.
Torteralla has one last chance to make things happen this year, and if he doesn't, he is a complete and total fraud with the Rangers.
Brad Richards was a bargain signing by the New York Rangers in the ballpark of $6 million per year. It was clear that he wanted to be matched up with Marian Gabrorik for a shot at the title.
However, given the injury history each player has, it is strange to think that the two will truly light it up this season. I mean, how any games can we realistically expect the two of them to be on the ice together for?
Marian Gaborik is one of the most talented players in the NHL and a true joy to watch. Unfortunately, he is rarely on the ice. The 29 year old superstar has never played a full 82 game season in his NHL career.
The thought of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik playing alongside one another for a full slate of games is definitely a scary thought, but how often will they be on the ice with one another is the big question.
New York Rangers
Upon signing Brad Richards, the New York Rangers were thought to be a significant contender to come out of the Eastern Conference and battle for the Stanley Cup. I, however, am not buying into the hype.
For starters, as I have mentioned ad nauseum, the duo of Gaborik and Richards is unlikely to be on the ice with one another for the entire season, which will obviously kill the Rangers every time. Not to mention, the Rangers failed to improve the defense in front of Henrik Lundqvist, an area of significant concern.
There are still question marks on this team, as well as many well seasoned contenders in the East that the Rangers will have to fight through. Let's slow the roll on the Rangers' bandwagon for now.