The Most Disappointing Players on the San Jose Sharks so Far in 2014-15

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IDecember 4, 2014

The Most Disappointing Players on the San Jose Sharks so Far in 2014-15

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    The Sharks have struggled at times this year.
    The Sharks have struggled at times this year.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    It's been a disappointing start to the 2014-15 NHL season for the San Jose Sharks. Through 26 games, Team Teal is just 12-10-4 on the season which places them in fifth place in the Pacific Division. Here is a look at the five most disappointing players on the Sharks so far this season.

    The players are ranked based on a combination of what was expected of them before the season and how much they have produced so far in 2014-15. Obviously, a top scorer who has five goals in 26 games is judged differently than a checking winger or stay-at-home defenseman who also has five goals.

    For honorable mentions, we have Tye McGinn, who has just two assists in 16 games so far for San Jose, and Logan Couture, who has played fairly well, but he hasn't taken his game to the next level as the coaching staff had hoped.

    Feel free to comment on any player listed here or to discuss one you feel belongs on this list. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.

5. Matt Irwin

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    The Sharks have not seen the improvement they hoped for from Matt Irwin.
    The Sharks have not seen the improvement they hoped for from Matt Irwin.Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    Matt Irwin has yet to establish himself as a full-time, NHL defenseman.

    In 13 games, Irwin has scored twice and added an assist. Both goals came in one game, a 6-5 win over the Washington Capitals back on October 14.

    Any offense you get from Irwin is considered a bonus. The biggest disappointment has been Irwin's defensive play. At 6'2", 210 pounds, Irwin has the size to be effective in his own zone, but he hasn't used his size consistently on the ice.

    He is also a disappointing minus-eight in just 13 games, a mark that would put Irwin on pace for a minus-50 over a full, 82-game season. Those numbers wouldn't even be acceptable on a last-place team.

    Irwin has often been a healthy scratch, and his inconsistent play has prevented him from being in the lineup every game. At 27, he may not have too many more chances to establish himself as a legitimate NHL player.

4. Matt Nieto

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    Matt Nieto went more than 20 games without a goal.
    Matt Nieto went more than 20 games without a goal.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Winger Matt Nieto is still only 22, so there's still time for the Long Beach, California, native to step up and take his game to the next level. Those who hoped he would do it this season have been disappointed thus far.

    Nieto scored opening night and then went more than 20 games without another goal. He has three goals and nine points in 25 games and is a very average minus-one on the season thus far.

    Sharks head coach Todd McLellan expressed his frustration with Nieto's sophomore slump to David Pollak of The San Jose Mercury News: "For us to have success as a team, he's going to have to find the scoreboard, especially the minutes that he's played with the top lines and on the power play. He's created a number of chances and sometimes he's snake-bit, but it's gone on for a fairly long time."

    He has scored in back-to-back games and netted the game-winner in the final seconds against the Philadelphia Flyers so maybe Nieto is starting to bust out of his long drought.

    He needs to step up his game to meet the expectations the coaching staff has for him.

3. Tomas Hertl

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    Tomas Hertl's scoring has fallen off since last year.
    Tomas Hertl's scoring has fallen off since last year.George Nikitin/Associated Press

    Tomas Hertl was the talk of the NHL last season, at least until he was injured and missed most of the second half of the season. Still, the 21-year-old Prague native finished last season with 15 goals and 25 points in just 37 games.

    This season, Hertl was expected to at least match his rookie numbers over the course of a full season. He has fallen well short of that production through the early part of the 2014-15 campaign. In 26 games, Hertl has just five goals and 11 points. That puts him on pace for 16 goals and 35 points over 82 games.

    Hertl was given every chance to succeed. He opened the season on the top line, playing alongside Joe Thornton. His lack of production quickly had him demoted to the fourth line for a while before settling for a third-line spot for most of the past few weeks.

    Hertl has incredible skills. His insane goal against the New York Rangers early last season was part of a four-goal game and had fans and scouts alike amazed. But he has yet to produce up to his talent level.

    The Sharks were hoping for 25-30 goals this season from Hertl. His inconsistent play has been a disappointment.

2. Antti Niemi

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    Antti Niemi has not been consistent enough for the Sharks.
    Antti Niemi has not been consistent enough for the Sharks.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Antti Niemi has already won a Stanley Cup during his NHL career as he helped the Chicago Blackhawks win back in 2010.

    Niemi is a cool customer who doesn't let bad goals get him down, but he continues to struggle with consistency. When he's good, he's very good, but his struggles can frustrate a coaching staff that expects more from the 31-year-old Finnish netminder.

    Niemi's goals-against average has gone up in each of the past three seasons from 2.16 in 2012-13 to 2.39 last year and 2.49 so far in the current campaign. His record is a very average 9-7-3 while his save percentage is .917.

    He has allowed three or more goals in nine of his 19 games, showing how he is indeed hot and cold.

    The Sharks need great goaltending if they are to turn this season around and get back to the playoffs. Niemi needs to pick up his game and be more consistent in order to make that happen.

1. Brent Burns

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    Like the Sharks, Brent Burns has cooled off after a hot start this season.
    Like the Sharks, Brent Burns has cooled off after a hot start this season.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    During the summer, the Sharks announced that Brent Burns was being shifted back to defense after playing forward for the past few seasons.

    Burns put up outstanding offensive numbers in October. He had four goals and 13 points as of November 1 which was tops among NHL defensemen.

    But the big Barrie, Ontario, native has just six points since then, and his plus/minus has dropped from even on November 1 to minus-eight on December 3.

    While few people expected Burns to maintain a point-per-game pace, his biggest problem has been poor play in his own zone.

    Here lies Todd McLellan's coaching tenure in San Jose: He insisted on playing Brent Burns on defense.

    — Dave Lozo (@DaveLozo) November 23, 2014

    McLellan indicated Burns has not been consistent on defense to CSNBayArea.com's Kevin Kurz: "There’s nights that have been really positive, and there have been other nights that have not been so good."

    With Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart gone from last year's team, the Sharks need Burns to play well on defense. So far, the results have been less than expected.