Each NHL Team's Player Who Needs To Get His Butt in Gear This Season
NHL players are not paid based on their ability to try their hardest or be all that they can be.
These professional hockey players are at their jobs when fans tune in to watch. Simply enough, some just are not getting their job done.
This current season has been the source of many pleasant surprises across the NHL (See: Florida Panthers, Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel), but the league is filled with many disappointments as well (See: Columbus Blue Jackets, Columbus Blue Jackets, Columbus Blue Jackets).
Each team has at least one player who needs to do more.
The Anaheim Ducks are following up last season's fifth-place finish in the Western conference by losing 21 of their first 29 games.
Jonas Hiller, who missed much of last season with vertigo, says he is partly to blame for the under-performing team.
He told Ken Baker of NHL.com, "I am having some really good games, but I don't think I am consistent enough, which has always been a strength. That extra-good feeling every night is still missing."
Hiller is spot-on with that comment.
He's lost nine of his last 11 games and has a season save percentage of just .901.
However, during a November 30th game against the Montreal Canadiens, Hiller stopped 19 of 20 shots. He stopped 37 of 39 shots against the Los Angeles Kings on December 6th. In an overtime loss against the Kings on November 16, Hiller stopped 36 of 37 shots.
Hiller is clearly able to play to the all-star level he was at last season, but he needs to do so on a consistent basis.
In the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, David Krejci tied for the Boston Bruins' team lead in points.
The young Krejci is expected to improve his game as he becomes more experienced at the NHL level. However, this season he has a relatively low 17 points in 25 games. Eight Bruins have more points.
Though Boston is certainly not hurting from Krejci's drop in production, winning 15 of their last 18 games, all teams need the right players to contribute effectively.
Krejci was connected in a trade rumor involving Anaheim's Bobby Ryan earlier this season. Though Krejci will likely stay in Boston, he will still need to pick up his game.
Krejci should not be behind Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly in scoring.
Ville Leino was completely unheard-of until the 2009-10 season. After being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for the small price of Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a fifth-round draft choice, the 26-year-old winger was placed on a line with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell.
Leino scored 21 points in 19 playoff games that year, and he followed that with a 53-point 2010-11 season.
In this previous offseason, the Buffalo Sabres paid a hefty price for the free agent and signed him to a six-year contract worth $27 million (or roughly $675,000 for every NHL goal he had ever scored).
Not only is Leino's production this year failing to meet his previous work, he's proving to be one of the league's most useless $4.5-million cap hit.
Leino has 10 points in 28 games (on pace for just 29 total this season).
Comparably, Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan has a $4.55 million cap hit and is scoring 19 points through 29 games.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester somehow convinced the Calgary Flames that he was worth an average cap hit of $6.68 million when he signed a five-year contract before the 2009-2010 season.
That cap hit is the fifth-highest among NHL defensemen. Bouwmeester's whopping 10 points this season is not.
The offensive defenseman's production is below his career average, and his capability to notch above 40 points in a season seems to be lost. Additionally, his turnover ratio is the worst of anyone on the Flames.
He's given the puck away 25 times, but has just eight takeaways.
Now that the Carolina Hurricanes have rid themselves of Tomas Kaberle, their biggest disappointment is now with another teammate.
Another defenseman on the team could benefit from stepping up his play.
Bryan Allen is in the final year of his contract at age 31. His turnover ratio is nothing to be proud of; he's given the puck away 16 times but has just six takeaways. Additionally, he has just five points this season and is a minus-one.
If he wishes to cash in on free agency this summer, he will need to do better.
Andrew Brunette is by no means meant to be the heart and soul of the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, there is no excuse for the 38-year-old's team-worst minus-11 plus/minus rating. Brunette has been a liability for several seasons—he has not finished with a positive plus/minus since the 2007-08 campaign.
Colorado paid a price to get Erik Johnson in an Avalanche uniform, giving up Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and a second-round choice for Johnson, Jay McClement and a first-round pick.
Johnson has responded to the move this year by being a turnover machine and by posting a team-worst minus-14 plus/minus.
While other Colorado players like Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog have been pleasant surprises for the Avs, Johnson has been a disappointment.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets were looking to improve this season by acquiring James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter.
However, the team has done the complete opposite, and they now find themselves at the bottom of the NHL standings.
One of the soft spots on the Blue Jackets is former Rookie of the Year Steve Mason. Mason lead the league in shutouts that season and showed promise as a talented young goaltender.
Mason lost his job as the team's starting goalie this season to 32-year-old Curtis Sanford, who spent the past two seasons in the AHL.
Mason has not played since November 15, leaving the Blue Jackets to question his future.
Alex Goligoski has not been helping the Dallas Stars. Goligoski was injured with a broken thumb in November, but he will need to play better upon his return.
In addition to having a team-worst minus-six rating, Goligoski runs the below-average Dallas power play.
The defenseman averages 3:16 of ice time per game on the power play, which has a 15.38-percent success rate—23rd out of 30 teams.
Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Ericsson should be proud of being tied with Pavel Datsyuk in a statistical category.
The players share a stat of 14 giveaways this season.
Datsyuk pairs that turnover number with 38 takeaways. Unfortunately for the 27-year-old Swedish winger, Ericsson cannot match that amount.
In fact, Ericsson's four takeaways is the worst total of any regular Red Wings player. Additionally, his 27 penalty minutes leads the team; his play puts his team shorthanded.
Ericsson makes Detroit fans cringe on the ice, as he is one of the few bad spots on one of the NHL's best teams.
Ryan Whitney has a legitimate excuse for his poor play lately; the 28-year-old missed most of last season due to an ankle injury and also injured his knee this season.
Still, Whitney has not looked like himself at all recently—lost in his own zone and unable to produce points on offense.
But Oilers fans can be happy knowing that Whitney is seeing improvement in his game.
Marco Sturm was once a 40-point scorer who was the centerpiece of the trade that brought Hart Trophy-winner Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks.
This season, Sturm has three points in 28 games and is a minus-10.
Florida is doing surprisingly well; their 37 points rank them fourth in the eastern conference.
Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty's semi-holdout this summer earned him an eight-year contract averaging $7 million in annual salary.
The former James Norris Trophy nominee responded by playing at the lowest level he has since his rookie year.
Doughty is on pace for his lowest career point total (26) and is a minus-four. He has five giveaways for each takeaway (a 20-5 ratio) and has the sixth-most blocked shots of any Los Angeles defenseman.
He is not playing to his ability or to the level of a former Norris nominee. He is not doing enough to earn his $6-million salary for this season.
Marek Zidlicky has missed time this season due to a concussion.
However, even when he was playing, he was not helping the team. Zidlicky's blocked-shots-per-game average is ninth among all Wild defensemen. He's given away the puck 14 times but has just four takeaways—by far the worst turnover ratio on the team.
Finally, his point-per-game production is at an all-time low. Hopefully for the Wild, Zidlicky's return will result in better play.
The Puck Daddy blog at Yahoo.com said it best when breaking the news of Tomas Kaberle's trade to the Montreal Canadiens. The article was titled: "Montreal Canadiens trade for what used to be Tomas Kaberle."
Last season, Kaberle totaled 47 points while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Stanley Cup-winning Boston Bruins.
This season, Kaberle has been a disaster. The 33-year-old offensive defenseman has the lowest point-per-game total of his career.
Additionally, he is a minus-12 and has just nine total hits this season.
Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz recently benched 22-year-old Jonathan Blum, serving as a wake-up call to the young defenseman.
Blum was drafted in the first round of the 2007 entry draft. He made his NHL debut last season, recording eight points in 23 games with a plus/minus rating of plus-eight.
This season, Blum has disappointed; in 27 games, he has just five points and is an abysmal minus-11.
New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur is one of the greatest NHL goalies of all time.
At age 39, he is now the backup on the team he became a legend with, to none other than career-backup Johan Hedberg.
Brodeur has a terrible .884 save percentage and 3.18 goals-against average. Hedberg's marks in those categories are .915 and 2.26. Though Brodeur is the NHL's all-time career shutouts record holder at 116, he has not recorded one this season.
Age is no excuse for Brodeur; former-great Dominik Hasek maintained a starting job with the Detroit Red Wings in the 2006-07 season at the age of 42.
New York Islanders
Rick DiPietro was drafted first overall in the 2000 entry draft.
Instead of being the man to save the New York Islanders franchise, DiPietro is one of the league's most overpaid laughingstocks.
DiPietro's current season is not much more pathetic than any of his previous ones. But at some point, he needs to at least prove he should be the starter of the franchise that signed him to a 15-year contact.
New York Rangers
Sean Avery is almost too embarrassing of a player to continue putting a negative spotlight on.
Avery was demoted to the AHL earlier this season, the result of his career-long streak of being a terrible hockey player and proving to coach John Tortorella that he has no credibility at the NHL level.
Avery was scratched for Sunday night's game against the Panthers. According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, "Avery had averaged 5:44 over the last six games. Had total of five third-period shifts in last four games."
Avery has three points in 15 NHL games this season.
As we approach the halfway point of this 2011-12 NHL season, the Ottawa Senators find themselves just one point out of a playoff spot.
A roadblock to Ottawa's playoff path is their NHL-worst 3.43 goals-against average. Though the Senators have given up a fourth-worst 31.7 shots-against per game, the goaltending has not helped.
Starting goalie Craig Anderson has not played to his fullest ability, recording an .895 save percentage in 26 games played. This is the result of extremely inconsistent play; Anderson might make 30+ saves one game, then give up three goals on 20 shots the next.
Anderson's game log shows exactly how unpredictable the Ottawa netminder is.
Before this season, the Philadelphia Flyers traded for and signed Ilya Bryzgalov with hopes of ending an age-long goaltending fiasco.
To this point, Bryzgalov has been just another chapter.
Bryzgalov said he was at the lowest point of his career following a 9-8 Flyers loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
His inconsistent and lackluster play has been outmatched only by backup Sergei Bobrovsky.
Kyle Turris was a restricted free agent this past summer. Since he was initially unable to get a lucrative enough contract from the Phoenix Coyotes, the young forward requested a trade before finally signing a deal.
Turris, the third-overall pick from the 2007 draft, was demanding $4-million per year. Turris has a career high of 25 points.
Since ending his holdout, Turris has played six games and is proving his worth—with 0 total points.
The young winger is barely worth the $1.4-million average salary his new two-year contract is paying him.
The greedy Turris needs to play better to simply save face and credibility; after a two-month holdout, Turris is simply proving the Coyotes right with his unproductive play.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are playing great this season; their 38 points is the second most in the eastern conference.
Though no Pittsburgh player is playing particularly terrible, Paul Martin could show improvement.
Martin's minus-six plus/minus is among the worst on the roster. Additionally, he plays the second-most time of any Penguins defenseman on the team's 14th-ranked power play.
This is one area Pittsburgh could improve.
San Jose Sharks
When the San Jose Sharks traded Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat this past offseason, the team probably expected more from Havlat than he's given thus far.
Havlat is seventh on the team in total points with 12 in 20 games.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, Heatley's 20 points is the second-most.
St. Louis Blues
Jaroslav Halak is not exactly maintaining his position as the No. 1 goalie in St. Louis.
Halak is splitting time with Brian Elliott. Unfortunately for Halak, Elliott has played much better.
Elliott has won 12 of 15 games with four shutouts. He leads the NHL in both save percentage (.947) and goals-against average (1.45).
Halak has won just five of his 15 games played and carries a .903 save percentage with a 2.37 goals-against average.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Neither of the Tampa Bay Lightning's goalies are anything to be impressed by; both 34-year-old Mathieu Garon and 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson would be backups on most teams in the NHL.
Still, last season Roloson was able to help the Tampa Bay Lightning make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins.
This year, Roloson has played less than Garon. Garon has a total of 36 minutes of playoff playing time.
The Lightning need Roloson to find his game in time for the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
James Reimer has not been sharp in his return from a concussion.
Reimer has lost all three games, recording an .890 save percentage. If he is unable to return to form, Jonas Gustavsson would likely take over as starting goalie.
Roberto Luongo had an upper-body injury in November that may have affected his ability to play effectively.
However, Luongo has been inconsistent all season long, following good games with poor performances. Last season's backup, Cory Schneider, has been playing more often this season, of a higher and more consistent quality.
Schneider has had just three bad games all season.
Alex Ovechkin once scored 65 goals in one season. He followed that season by scoring 56 goals, winning his second-consecutive Maurice Richard Trophy.
Entering this season, Ovechkin is the owner of four 50+ goal seasons and three Ted Lindsay Trophies (the NHL's best player as chosen by the players).
Formerly compared with Sidney Crosby in debates of who the NHL's best player is, Ovechkin is now an afterthought in the discussion.
His 21 points in 28 games is nothing to be impressed by, and they're 18 points behind the NHL points leader, Claude Giroux.
The Winnipeg Jets have a poor defense.
The Jets have the ninth-highest goals-against per game in the NHL and the 11th-worst penalty kill.
Dustin Byfuglien has a minus-nine plus/minus rating, the worst of any defenseman. Four Jets defensemen have more blocked shots than his 22.
If Byfuglien steps up his play, the Jets' defensive numbers will improve.