Ranking the Most Disappointing Players in the NHL

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterDecember 6, 2013

Ranking the Most Disappointing Players in the NHL

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    When tasked with constructing a list of the most disappointing players in the NHL this season, a lazier writer would simply link to the roster of the Buffalo Sabres and call it a day. Alas, that's not an option here, so the least we could do was get as many of their faces on the front this slideshow as possible.

    There are many ways a player can put forth a disappointing season. Sometimes it's about expectations created by outstanding performances in recent seasons. Other times it's about the ones that come with signing a huge contract. And at yet other times, it's about the bar being set high when a player is a top draft pick.

    On this list, there's a little bit of everything in terms of why these players have been disappointing for two-plus months. So take a look at the players that are compiled here from least to most disappointing and feel free to leave your approval or your own disappointment in the comments.

    (All statistics are through Thursday's games via NHL.com)

25. Corey Crawford, G, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Why He’s Here: During the lockout-shortened season, Crawford had his best campaign in the NHL. In the regular season, he went 19-5-5 with career-bests in goals-against average (1.94) and save percentage (.926). In the postseason, he improved on those numbers (1.84/.932) and won the Stanley Cup. He was rewarded with a six-year, $36 million extension that begins next season. But he has stumbled badly in 2013-14, posting a 2.49 GAA and .906 save percentage, both of which rank well behind the leaders.

    How Much Has It Hurt: Crawford's lackluster numbers have done almost nothing to stymie the juggernaut Blackhawks. He is 17-6-3 and the Blackhawks have the best record in the NHL.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: As poor as he's played, his career numbers (2.41/.912) indicate there are better days ahead, especially playing behind a team as dominant as the Blackhawks.

24. David Booth, LW, Vancouver Canucks

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Why He’s Here: There was a time in the 29-year-old's career when he was a consistent 20-goal threat, but concussions while he was with the Florida Panthers derailed his career. When he arrived via trade in Vancouver at the start of the 2011-12 season, Booth looked like he was back, posting 16 goals in 56 games. But an ankle injury cost him almost all of the 2013 season and he hasn't bounced back this season. He has three goals and three assists in 18 games, has been a healthy scratch for three games and was on an extended conditioning stint in the AHL.

    How Much Has It Hurt: Booth was expected to provide secondary scoring behind the Sedin twins, but has failed to do just that. The Canucks are in the middle of the pack offensively and one point out of a playoff spot.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: It's about confidence and earning the trust of coach John Tortorella, who said Booth has a long way to go. If he can stay healthy, he can contribute.

23. Jared Cowen, D, Ottawa Senators

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    Why He’s Here: In his first NHL season in 2011-12 as a 20-year-old, Cowen showed all kinds of promise. He had five goals and 12 assists while playing all 82 games, but hip surgery cost him 41 of 48 games last season and he hasn't looked good this season. He has three goals and five points in 28 games and was a healthy scratch for a game. According to ExtraSkater.com, Cowen's possession numbers aren't great on a team that has struggled in all possession categories this season.

    How Much Has It Hurt: No one is placing all of the Senators defensive woes–they rank 26th in goals allowed and 27th in shots allowed–on Cowen, but him finding his game would be beneficial for a team that's way out of the playoff picture.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Cowen is 22 years old and in his second full season. Young defensemen usually take a while to develop, so his best play might not be on the horizon this season.

22. Chris Stewart, RW, St. Louis Blues

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    Why He’s Here: Stewart posted back-to-back 28-goal seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11 with the Colorado Avalanche and Blues, but dipped to 15 goals in 2011-12. He appeared to figure things out last season, when he had 18 goals and 36 points in 48 games. The Blues rewarded him with a two-year, $8.3 million contract, but Stewart has delivered just five goals in 27 games.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Blues have hardly noticed. They are 19-5-3 and the third-best offensive team in the league.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Stewart's 18-goal campaign in 2013 was the result of an 18.6 shooting percentage. He's scored on 9.3 percent of his shots, which is closer to his career average of 13.2 percent. As long as Stewart continues to shoot, he should find the back of the net with more frequency.

21. Jimmy Howard, G, Detroit Red Wings

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    Why He’s Here: Howard entered this season with consecutive years where he posted at least a .920 save percentage. He was under consideration for the starting job for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics, but he has stumbled badly this season. He is 6-8-6 with a 2.70/.909 split, numbers that are way off his career averages entering this season. 

    How Much Has It Hurt: Thanks to the stellar work of backup Jonas Gustavsson, who is 7-0-1, the Red Wings have flourished despite their starting goaltender's rough start. Detroit is 14-8-7 and four points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the best record in the East.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Howard's career numbers and recent seasons show he's a much better goaltender than he has showed this season. As long as he continues to play regularly, he should rediscover his game.

20. Zach Bogosian, D, Winnipeg Jets

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    Why He’s Here: The 23-year-old has had his great potential discussed since he was the third pick of the 2008 draft. After a 2013 season in which he had five goals, 14 points and below-average possession numbers, the Jets gave Bogosian a seven-year, $36 million contract this past summer. He has responded with another subpar season. He has one goal and four points in 21 games and is currently on injury reserve with a groin ailment.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Jets entered the year with low expectations in the loaded Western Conference, but they have put forth a surprising 13-12-4 start. The Jets are 20th in goals allowed and 24th in shots allowed, so some improved play from their $36 million defenseman could do them some good.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: This is his sixth season in the NHL, so perhaps it's time to accept that Bogosian is nothing more than a second- or third-pairing defenseman.

19. Bryan Bickell, LW, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Why He’s Here: There wasn't anything all that special about the 27-year-old's 2013 season. He had nine goals and 14 assists in 48 regular-season but became a hero in Chicago during the postseason. He had nine goals and 17 points in 23 games as the Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in four years. GM Stan Bowman rewarded Bickell with a four-years, $16 million contract, but the hulking forward has struggled. He has five goals and one assist in 22 games and is currently out with a lower-body injury. Bickell's six points rank him 16th on the Blackhawks.

    How Much Has It Hurt: This may be the first time anyone has noticed Bickell's lack of offense this season, as the Blackhawks have the best record in the NHL and have scored more goals than another team.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: He may not reach his usual regular season totals, but all the Blackhawks care about is his performance in the postseason. He has five months to get himself right.

18. Michael Del Zotto, D, New York Rangers

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    Why He’s Here: The 23-year-old has shown at various times that he can be one of the league's most dangerous offensive defensemen. After a 37-point rookie season, Del Zotto emerged with a 10-goal, 41-point campaign in 2011-12 as the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Del Zotto had three goals and 21 points in 46 games last season, but has been a complete mess this season. He has two goals and five points in 22 games and has been a healthy scratch on multiple occasions.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Rangers have been hovering around .500 for most of the season and struggling to score goals. Del Zotto is the team's best puck-moving defenseman, so his poor play has really hamstrung the offense.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: His possession numbers are decent, but his goals for percentage is shockingly low considering he starts most of his shifts in the offensive zone. His on-ice PDO of 96.8 indicates he will get better, but that's only if coach Alain Vigneault doesn't lose faith in him.

17. Dustin Brown, RW, Los Angeles Kings

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    Why He’s Here: Since 2007-08, Brown has scored an average of 25 goals per season, a number that would be even higher if not for having to settle for 18 goals in 46 games last season. This season, Brown has suddenly been unable to find the back of the net. He has five goals in 29 games, putting him on pace for his lowest total since 2006-07.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Kings are so deep and talented that it hasn't mattered much. They are 18-7-4 and four points back of the league-leading Blackhawks. But with the Kings ranking 21st in goals, some more offense from their captain could make them the best team in the NHL.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Brown's Corsi and Fenwick numbers are outstanding and he's shooting the puck as frequently as he has in the past. He appears to be a strong buy-low candidate if you're short on goals in your fantasy league.

16. David Desharnais, C, Montreal Canadiens

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    Why He’s Here: In 2011-12, Desharnais delivered a 60-point season while playing in 81 games. In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he fell off that pace a bit with 10 goals and 28 points in 48 games. This season, he's fallen even farther with three goals and 10 points in 28 games, putting him on a pace for career-worsts in all categories.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Canadiens are 18-9-3 and two points back of the Penguins for the best record in the Eastern Conference. But the Habs are just a middle-of-the-pack club offensively, which could be the difference between winning the East and just making the postseason.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Desharnais has already started showing signs he could be coming around. After registering one point in his first 19 games, he has three goals and six assists in his past nine games.

15. Tyler Myers, D, Buffalo Sabres

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Why He’s Here: Since winning the Calder Trophy in 2010 and signing a seven-year, $38.5 million contract extension before the 2011-12 season, Myers has looked lost. The Sabres made an attempt to resurrect his game by acquiring Henrik Tallinder, his regular defense partner during his best years. Still, Myers has scuffled against in 2013-14. He has two goals and eight points in 29 games while anchoring one of the worst defenses in the league.

    How Much Has It Hurt: Myers could be playing hockey worthy of the Norris Trophy this season and it wouldn't matter to the Sabres, who have a strong chance to finish with the fewest points of any team since 2005-06.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: It's probably not going to happen this season on a team with this many holes. But considering he faces strong competition on nearly every shift, his numbers are somewhat encouraging for the long haul. At 23, he is far from a lost cause.

14. Evgeni Nabokov, G, New York Islanders

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    Why He’s Here: Nabokov was extremely steady last season–23-11-7, 2.50 GAA, .910 save percentage–and a big reason why the Islanders made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The magic has disappeared for the 38-year-old this season. He is 5-5-3 with a dismal 3.30/.892 split and is currently on the shelf with a groin injury.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Islanders have gone from playoff team to the third-worst club in the East thanks largely to Nabokov's shaky goaltending and absence. The defense in front of him hasn't been great, but it's hardly an excuse for an .892 save percentage.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: It could be the end of the line for Nabokov. The Islanders are just about out of the playoff race and may want to look at young goaltenders Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson over the second half of the season.

13. Dany Heatley, LW, Minnesota Wild

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    Why He’s Here: No one is expecting Heatley to be the player who scored 219 goals over five seasons from 2005-06 to 2009-10, but the Wild aren't getting the secondary scoring they expected this season. Heatley has six goals in 30 games. He's on pace for his worst non-injury-shortened season of his career.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Wild have been sitting in a playoff spot all season, but they have dropped four of six while scoring a total of eight goals in the process. Heatley has two of those eight goals, but if he doesn't pick up the pace, the Wild could continue to slip in the standings.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Time catches up to all of us, and Heatley will turn 33 in January. It's very likely that his skills have simply diminished so much that he's no longer a reliable goal scorer.

12. Jakub Voracek, RW, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Why He’s Here: The 24-year-old had what appeared to be a breakout 2013 season. He had a career-best 22 goals despite playing in only 48 games and averaged .96 points per game, by far the highest he ever posted. But it's looking more and more like a lockout-created mirage. Through 28 games this season, he has three goals and 12 points.

    How Much Has It Hurt: Voracek isn't the only culprit, but the Flyers have scored the fourth-fewest goals this season and are sitting outside of a playoff spot.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Voracek was good for about 50 points a season before last season, but he's even behind that pace right now. He may not be a point-per-game player, but he should return to his pre-lockout-season form at some point.

11. Craig Anderson, G, Ottawa Senators

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    Why He’s Here: Since arriving in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche, Anderson was one of the better goaltenders in the NHL. From 2010-11 through 2013, he went 56-36-9 with a 2.52 GAA and .921 save percentage. Things have turned sour in Ottawa this season, as Anderson is 7-8-2 with a 3.42/.897 split.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Senators were picked by many to fight for the Eastern Conference crown this season, but they are instead five points out of a playoff spot. The Senators are allowing 34.8 shots per game and have been porous defensively, but Anderson has been downright terrible and hurting the team.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: It's more of a group problem with the Senators than an individual one with Anderson, but he will improve if the team in front of him improves.

10. Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins

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    Why He’s Here: The 25-year-old had scored 67 goals over his previous three seasons, but has just four goals in 28 games this season. It's particularly disappointing considering Marchand signed a four-year, $18 million contract during the offseason.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Bruins are once again near the top of the Eastern Conference and rank 13th in offense, so Marchand's dip in production hasn't had much of an effect.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: He could be feeling the pressure of having to live up to his first big-money, long-term contract. It could be a matter of him getting comfortable. Or it could be a matter of Marchand just not being the 16-percent shooter he has been early in his career. 

9. Travis Zajac, C, New Jersey Devils

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    Why He’s Here: Zajac signed a massive contract extension in January–eight years, $46 million–and finished the shortened season with seven goals and 20 points in 48 games. Now fully recovered from an Achilles' injury that cost him most of the 2011-12 season, he is still not performing like a top-line center. He has four goals and 10 points in 27 games this season and is 0-for-4 in shootout attempts.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Devils are among the worst offensive teams in the league and are 0-5 in shootouts. With the team on the fringe of playoff contention, Zajac's poor showing in all facets has really hurt the club.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Zajac is four years removed from his best season in 2009-10 when he had 25 goals and 67 points, so it's getting to the point where we might have to accept this is the player he is.

8. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings

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    Why He’s Here: The presumptive starter for Team USA has battled his own poor play and injuries this season. But after winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012, he has been wildly inconsistent. He struggled in the 2013 regular season with a 2.45/.902 split, but caught fire in the postseason with a 1.86/.934 split. But he struggled again this season before going on injured reserve with a groin strain, going 10-5-0 with a solid 2.35 GAA but a woeful .905 save percentage.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Kings are 18-7-4 with 40 points, as backup Ben Scrivens has been outstanding in Quick's absence. Scrivens is 7-2-4 with a 1.56/.943 split.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Quick seems like a sure bet to bounce back, but he's now had back surgery and a serious groin injury in the past two seasons. Still, he should find his game as long as he can stay healthy upon returning.

7. Jordan Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Why He’s Here: When the Hurricanes acquired Staal from the Penguins at the 2012 draft, he went from third-line center on the loaded Penguins to a second-line center with more offensive responsibilities. He rose to the occasion last year with 10 goals and 31 points in 48 games, but has cooled off in a big way this season. He has just five goals and 10 points in 29 games.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Hurricanes have been flirting with a playoff spot in the Metropolitan and could be a top-eight team right now if not for the fact they are 26th in goals this season. Staal's lack of production has been crippling to the club.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Staal's possession numbers are very good, so he should be in for a positive statistical correction as long he continues to play this way.

6. Jack Johnson, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Why He’s Here: Johnson is a contender to man the blue line for Team USA in Sochi and is coming off an improved 2013 season in which he had five goals and 19 points in 44 games. This season, Johnson has struggled to the tune of just two goals and five points in 28 games. His possession numbers show he's been more unlucky than bad, but he's still not performing like a No. 1 defenseman.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Blue Jackets are 11-14-3 and should consider themselves lucky to be in contention for a playoff spot in the woeful Metropolitan. 

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Defensively, Johnson isn't that far off from playing his best. But he's not contributing offensively. The glaring number is his 38 shots in 28 games, which is far below his usual totals. Unless he gets more pucks on net, he won't be providing the offense that makes him valuable.

5. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Why He’s Here: Bobrovsky's Vezina Trophy victory in 2013 set him up to go one of two ways: He either could be blossoming as an elite goaltender or a fluke that benefited from a shortened schedule. It appears he's the latter. After a 2.00/.932 split in 38 games last season, he's at 2.72/.909 in 23 games this season and is out 4-5 weeks with a groin injury.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Blue Jackets as a whole have had problems, but his subpar play in net is a major reason why the Blue Jackets haven't been able to take advantage of the lousy Metropolitan. 

    Chance He’ll Rebound: The 25-year-old's immediate future is a complete mystery. He could either be a product of anomaly of a season or he could've just been struggling in the early going. His season could go either way once he is healthy.

4. Damien Brunner, RW, New Jersey Devils

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    Why He’s Here: When the Devils signed Brunner just before the season to a two-year, $4.5 million contract, it looked like a smart move to add offense in the wake of Ilya Kovalchuk's departure to Russia. Brunner had 12 goals and 26 points in 44 games as a rookie with the Red Wings last season, his first NHL season after a solid career in Switzerland. This year, Brunner has been ineffective. He has four goals and eight points in 26 games and has been a healthy scratch three times and his minutes have been reduced by coach Peter DeBoer.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Devils are clinging to third place in the Metropolitan despite averaging 2.21 goals per game this season, fourth-worst in the league. Brunner's inability to score, especially in the shootout, has been a detriment to the team.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Even when Brunner finds himself in the lineup, he's been benched for long stretches during crunch time. There's a good chance he will not produce anything this season.

3. Devan Dubnyk, G, Edmonton Oilers

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    Why He’s Here: Sure, it seems to be the case every year, but this was supposed to the year the Oilers were going to make the playoffs. Dubnyk hasn't exactly had much support, but it's no excuse for his numbers this season. The 27-year-old has a 3.31/.892 split in 23 games this season. He's ranked 43rd in  GAA and 42nd in save percentage.

    How Much Has It Hurt: As bad as Dubnyk has been–the Oilers were so desperate for goaltending help they signed Ilya Bryzgalov–he probably wouldn't have done much to mask the team's flaws if he was on his game. The breakdowns in front of Dubnyk have been numerous, making it likely this would not have been a playoff team no matter who was in net.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: It's a young team with a rookie coach that has shown signs of improvement, but this is very likely a lost season no matter what Dubnyk does from here on out. The team in front of him looks so lost that even if he's at his best it will be hard to tell.

2. Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Why He’s Here: The Flyers' captain signed an eight-year, $66.2 million extension this summer that kicks in next season, but he hasn't played like a big-money player for most of this season. A point-per-game player over three seasons from 2010-11 to 2013, Giroux has just five goals and 20 points in 28 games this season. He has never scored fewer than 16 goals over a full NHL season, but he is on pace for just 15 goals this season.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Flyers are 25th in offense this season and on the outside looking in for the playoffs, and their best player's lack of production is a big reason why.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Giroux has been resurgent of late, posting four goals and six assists in his past 10 games. He seems like a good bet over the rest of the season to continually improve.

1. David Clarkson, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Why He’s Here: The 29-year-old was the prize of the 2013 free-agent market, but the prize has turned out to be a pair of wax teeth instead of a gold chalice. It started in the preseason, when he left the bench to fight John Scott of the Buffalo Sabres and received a 10-game suspension to open the season. Since he returned to the lineup, he has done next to nothing. In 19 games, he has two goals and three assists. That's even a step back for a player who had nine goals and 24 points in 48 games with the Devils last season.

    How Much Has It Hurt: The Leafs got off to a hot start and were actually 7-3-0 in Clarkson's absence. But they are 8-8-3 with Clarkson in the lineup and 4-6-3 in their past 13 games. The Leafs are in the middle of the pack offensively and scoring about .40 goals per game less than they did last season.

    Chance He’ll Rebound: Clarkson had 30 goals and 48 points in 80 games with the Devils in 2011-12. He never scored more than 17 goals in any of his other five NHL seasons. It's hard to figure what the Leafs were hoping to get with Clarkson, but this is very likely the player he will be for the duration of his contract.


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