Every NHL Team's Most Disappointing Player in the 2014-15 Season
With less than a month remaining in the NHL's regular-season schedule, several players are running out of time to overcome disappointing performances.
Most of them are veterans whose play declined noticeably this season. Some are promising young players struggling to establish themselves. Factors such as age, injuries, inexperience or roster depth have contributed to their respective difficulties. For some, their struggles could even cast doubt upon their futures in the NHL.
Here's a look at the most disappointing player for every NHL team, examining the factors behind their predicaments and an outlook beyond this season.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Anaheim Ducks
Why he's disappointing: In eight games with the Anaheim Ducks this season, Ilya Bryzgalov had a record of 1-4-1, with a goals-against average of 4.19 and a save percentage of .847. That fell well short of his 7-1-3 record with the Minnesota Wild late last season (with a 2.12 GAA and .911 save percentage).
Analysis: As injuries mounted earlier this season among their goaltenders, the Ducks inked the 34-year-old free agent to a one-year contract. Unfortunately, the stellar form Bryzgalov displayed with the Wild last year failed to carry over into 2014-15.
Outlook: The Ducks gave Bryzgalov his outright release after he cleared unconditional waivers in February. Given the decline in his performance, it's doubtful another NHL club will take a chance on him after this season, meaning Bryzgalov's NHL playing days are likely over.
Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes
Why he's disappointing: Through 52 games this season, Arizona Coyotes starting goalie Mike Smith has won only 11 of them. His goals-against average is 3.20 and his save percentage was .900. That's well off his career-best performance (38 wins, 2.21 goals-against average, .930 save percentage) in 2011-12.
Analysis: Since carrying the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, Smith's performance has steadily declined. Compounding the problem is that he's under contract for four more years at an average of more than $5.66 million per season on a rebuilding team.
Outlook: On Dec. 23, NBC Sports' Mike Halford reported Coyotes general manager Don Maloney as saying that the club was “married” to Smith. If that remains the case, don't expect a buyout or trade this summer.
Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins
Why he's disappointing: Through 69 games, Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic has only 15 goals and 39 points. He's on pace for his lowest numbers over a full season since his sophomore campaign in 2008-09.
Analysis: Lucic's performance this season isn't worthy of a player earning $6 million per season. Considered among the league's best power forwards, the 26-year-old has at times been a shell of his once-dominating self. Opponents no longer seem intimidated by him.
Outlook: As the Bruins try to hang onto the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference, Lucic's performance has improved of late. Still, his struggles this season could cast doubt over his future with the team. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2016 and could prove costly to re-sign.
Cody Hodgson, Buffalo Sabres
Why he's disappointing: Buffalo Sabres center Cody Hodgson has only five goals and 12 points through 66 games this season. He's on pace for the worst numbers over a full season in his NHL career.
Analysis: Hodgson's performance sharply declined from his career-high of 20 goals and 44 points last season. On Feb. 8, The Buffalo News' Amy Moritz reported that Sabres coach Ted Nolan wasn't giving up on the 25-year-old but was running out of ideas to improve his play.
Outlook: Hodgson has four years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $4.25 million. Buying him out would be at one third the remaining value over twice the remaining tenure. They could try to trade him, but his contract could be difficult to move. Given those options, the Sabres could retain Hodgson and hope he'll return to form next season.
Mason Raymond, Calgary Flames
Why he's disappointing: Through 45 games this season, Calgary Flames winger Mason Raymond has 12 goals and 19 points. He's well off his 45-point performance with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season.
Analysis: The Flames signed Raymond hoping his experience and skills could bolster their scoring lines. After missing 18 games earlier in the season to an upper-body injury, the 29-year-old winger has struggled to regain his form.
Outlook: The rise of young wingers Johnny Gaudreau and Lance Bouma also means it has been difficult for Raymond to crack the top-two forward lines. Signed for two more seasons at an annual cap hit of $3.125 million, the Flames could keep Raymond in anticipation of a bounce-back performance next season.
Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes
Why he's disappointing: Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin has only four goals and 16 points through 45 games this season. The former 40-goal scorer is on pace for the worst numbers of his career over a full NHL season.
Analysis: A 44-point performance in 44 games with the Hurricanes during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season earned Semin a five-year, $35 million contract. His production has steadily declined since, and he's been a healthy scratch several times this season. At just 31, Semin's best years are well behind him.
Outlook: On Jan. 28, the News & Observer (cited by NBC Sports' Mike Halford) reported that Hurricanes GM Ron Francis had no intention of buying out Semin's contract this summer. If they try to trade him, they'll likely have to pick up part of his salary or take back a toxic contract. They could place him on waivers and demote him to the minors.
Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks
Why he's disappointing: Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell has 12 goals and 25 points through 68 games this season. That's well below expectations for a supposed power forward earning $4 million per season.
Analysis: Bickell's outstanding performance during the Blackhawks' 2013 Stanley Cup run earned him a four-year, $16 million contract. He gave another strong effort during the 2014 playoffs but struggles to elevate his game during the regular season.
Outlook: The Blackhawks have limited cap space next season and must shed some salary. Bickell could become trade bait.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Why he's disappointing: Prior to his season-ending foot injury, Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon tallied 14 goals and 38 points in 64 games—well off last season's 24-goal, 63-point performance.
Analysis: After winning the 2014 Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, 19-year-old MacKinnon struggled in his sophomore season. Heightened expectations and the departure of former linemate Paul Stastny via free agency contributed to the decline.
Outlook: It's easy to forget MacKinnon has yet to turn 20. He's still very talented with plenty of time to improve. Expect a strong bounce-back effort next season.
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Why he's disappointing: After a 21-goal, 40-point performance in 2013-14, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson is on pace for 18 goals and 35 points this season.
Analysis: It's difficult to find many players on the injury-ravaged Blue Jackets whose game didn't suffer this season. Atkinson was among the few not sidelined for a lengthy period. He struggled to improve upon last season's promising performance, though playing on a banged-up roster certainly hasn't helped.
Outlook: Blue Jackets management didn't lose faith in 25-year-old Atkinson, recently re-signing him to a three-year contract extension. With more experience and playing for what will hopefully be a healthier roster next season, Atkinson could see an improvement in his numbers.
Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars
Why he's disappointing: Signed as a free agent last summer to bolster the Dallas Stars' offense, right wing Ales Hemsky has managed just nine goals and 28 points through 64 games.
Analysis: The good news is the oft-injured Hemsky could reach 75 games this season. The bad news is he's on pace for a 35-point season. It was assumed that he and Jason Spezza could rekindle their offensive chemistry from late last season with the Ottawa Senators. Instead, Hemsky is looking like an expensive mistake for the Stars.
Outlook: Hemsky has two more seasons left on his contract at a annual cap hit of $4 million. While trading the 31-year-old winger could be an option, his salary could be tough to move. His numbers could improve next season, but his best years appear well behind him.
Stephen Weiss, Detroit Red Wings
Why he's disappointing: Having missed most of last season through injury, Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss only has seven goals and 19 points in 42 games this season.
Analysis: Weiss was hoping to rebound from his injury-shortened first year with the Red Wings. Unfortunately, the 31-year-old looks nothing like the skilled center who ran up six straight 42-plus point seasons with the Florida Panthers. Years of wear and tear could be catching up with him.
Outlook: Weiss has three more seasons at $4.9 million annually remaining on his contract. Detroit might be having buyer's remorse. The combination of his declining production and expensive salary could make him difficult to move in the offseason.
Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers
Why he's disappointing: In his third NHL season, Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov has scored 11 goals and 26 points in in 69 games. That's not the type of production expected from a one-time first-overall draft pick.
Analysis: After a promising debut during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Yakupov struggled to adjust under former Oilers coach Dallas Eakins. Since Eakins' firing in December and the midseason addition of veteran center Derek Roy, Yakupov has shown signs of improvement. Still, he's got a long way to go before he becomes a reliable scoring winger.
Outlook: Yakupov, 21, will be a restricted free agent this summer. While there could be concerns he might return to Russia, he seems determined to carve out a successful NHL career. Expect the Oilers to re-sign Yakupov, who still has plenty of time to develop into a star.
Dave Bolland, Florida Panthers
Why he's disappointing: Since joining the Florida Panthers as a free agent last summer, center Dave Bolland has only notched 18 points through 41 games.
Analysis: To be fair, injuries have hampered the 28-year-old this season. Still, his performance when healthy is undoubtedly not what general manager Dale Tallon had in mind when he made Bolland the second-highest-paid player on the Panthers.
Outlook: Bolland has four seasons remaining on his contract, so expect him to return with the Panthers next season. If he can avoid injury in 2015-16, his overall play could improve.
Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings
Why he's disappointing: After netting just 15 points in 47 games, the Los Angeles Kings demoted veteran center Mike Richards to their AHL affiliate in Manchester.
Analysis: Though Richards helped the Kings win two Stanley Cup titles in three years, his production has steadily declined since his days with the Philadelphia Flyers. The demotion raises questions over his future with the Kings.
Outlook: The Kings could attempt to trade Richards, but the fact he has five years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million makes him a tough sell. Their other option is a contract buyout, which could count against the Kings' cap as over $1.4 million annually for the next 10 years.
Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild
Why he's disappointing: Since signing a two-year contract extension with the Minnesota Wild, Darcy Kuemper had a record of 13-12-2 through 29 games with a 2.62 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. Not a solid effort from an aspiring starting goaltender.
Analysis: The 24-year-old had a promising start to this season but struggled as the season went on. A lower-body injury in early January forced the Wild to acquire Devan Dubnyk from Arizona. Dubnyk's taken over the starter's role, and the now-healthy Kuemper hasn't played since Jan.20.
Outlook: Being under contract next season means Kuemper should return with the Wild. However, if they re-sign Dubnyk, Kuemper will be relegated to the backup role.
Lars Eller, Montreal Canadiens
Why he's disappointing: In 66 games this season, Montreal Canadiens center Lars Eller has 11 goals and 22 points. Between Dec. 20 and March 18, he scored just three goals.
Analysis: Eller, 25, struggled to regain the offensive promise he showed during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 performance, when he registered 30 points in 46 games. Part of the problem could be how he's being used by head coach Michel Therrien, who's kept him largely in a checking-line role.
Outlook: Prior to the recent NHL trade deadline, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was exploring trade options for Eller and defenseman Alexei Emelin. Depending upon Eller's play over the rest of this season, Bergevin could revisit his trade options this summer.
Olli Jokinen, Nashville Predators
Why he's disappointing: After inking a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Nashville Predators, veteran forward Olli Jokinen managed just three goals and six points in 48 games with the Predators. On Feb.15, Jokinen was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Analysis: With Jokinen coming off a 43-point performance last season with Winnipeg, the Predators hoped to benefit from his skills and experience. However, the 36-year-old struggled to adjust, a trait that carried over through his short tenure with Toronto and currently with the St. Louis Blues.
Outlook: This NHL season is likely the last for Jokinen. His skills are clearly in decline, and he doesn't seem suited for fourth-line duty.
Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils
Why he's disappointing: New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac has 10 goals and 22 points through 61 games. He's on pace for 27 points, which will be a career worst over a full NHL season.
Analysis: Zajac is supposed to be the Devils' first-line center, but his stats are well below expectations of a player earning $5.75 million per season. To be fair, part of the problem is the Devils' lack of offensive depth this season. Still, the 29-year-old Zajac is capable of better numbers.
Outlook: With four years remaining on his contract and the Devils about to undergo a rebuild, don't expect Zajac to be going anywhere. New Jersey will need his experience and playmaking skills and be hoping he rebounds in 2015-16.
Chad Johnson, New York Islanders
Why he's disappointing: A free-agent addition by the New York Islanders last summer, goaltender Chad Johnson had a record of 8-8-1, with a 3.08 goals-against average and a save percentage of .889.
Analysis: The Islanders signed Johnson expecting him to provide the same level of backup goaltending he displayed last season with the Boston Bruins. Johnson struggled to adjust, management lost confidence in him and shipped the 28-year-old to Buffalo at the trade deadline for Michal Neuvirth.
Outlook: The Buffalo News' John Vogl reports that Johnson suffered a possible season-ending injury soon after joining the Sabres. He has a year left on his contract and will have an opportunity to get his career back on track with the rebuilding Sabres next season.
Dan Boyle, New York Rangers.
Why he's disappointing: In his first season with the New York Rangers since joining them last summer via free agency, defenseman Dan Boyle has eight goals and 16 points in 52 games.
Analysis: The Rangers signed Boyle expecting him to fill the role of veteran puck-moving defenseman on their top-two blue-line pairings. It's very apparent age is catching up with the 38-year-old rearguard. He's on pace for his worst performance points-wise in a full season since his 22-point campaign with the Florida Panthers in 2000-01.
Outlook: Boyle has a year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $4.5 million. The Rangers won't get cap relief if they buy him out because he falls under the over-35 rule. They could try moving him via trade this summer.
David Legwand, Ottawa Senators
Why he's disappointing: In his first season with the Ottawa Senators, veteran center David Legwand has eight goals and 24 points in 67 games. That's a significant decline from last season's 51-point performance, which was split between Nashville and Detroit.
Analysis: The Senators signed Legwand to add scoring depth at center as well as provide experienced leadership to a young roster. He's currently relegated to fourth-line duty and has netted just one goal and five points since Jan. 31.
Outlook: Legwand only has one season remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $3 million. However, the Senators are a budget-conscious club with several promising young players to re-sign. They could attempt to trade or buy out Legwand this summer.
R.J. Umberger, Philadelphia Flyers
Why he's disappointing: In his first season since being reacquired by the Philadelphia Flyers, winger R.J. Umberger has tallied only 15 points in 67 games. He on pace for his worst production over a full NHL season.
Analysis: The Flyers hoped Umberger might regain his form when they acquired him from Columbus for left winger Scott Hartnell last summer. The gamble failed. Some observers might suggest Vincent Lecavalier has been the bigger disappointment, but at least the Flyers didn't give up a good player to get him.
Outlook: Umberger has two seasons left on his contract worth $4.6 million annually. At 32, his best years seem to be in the past. Unless the Flyers are willing to swap toxic contracts with another team, their best option could be a contract buyout totaling $6 million spread over four seasons.
Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins
Why he's disappointing: Through 62 games this season, Pittsburgh Penguins veteran left wing Chris Kunitz has 16 goals and 39 points. That's a significant drop from last season's 35-goal, 68-point performance.
Analysis: Kunitz missed eight games with a fractured foot. Prior to the injury, he had 20 points in 23 games and has since struggled to regain his scoring form. Age could also be catching up with the 35-year-old winger.
Outlook: Kunitz has two years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $3.85 million. With over $54 million invested in 13 players next season, Penguins management could consider moving the aging winger as a cost-cutting measure.
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
Why he's disappointing: San Jose Sharks winger Tomas Hertl has 11 goals and 27 points through 70 games. That's down considerably from the 25 points in 37 games he tallied during last season's injury-shortened rookie campaign.
Analysis: Hertl returned from a serious knee injury to pot five points in seven games during the 2014 playoffs. However, he could still be feeling the after-effects of that injury. It's also the first time Hertl's played a full NHL season, so it could be testing his stamina to its limits.
Outlook: Only 21, Hertl still has plenty of time to build up his strength and performance in the coming years. Given his tremendous offensive gifts, we should expect significant improvement from Hertl next season.
Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues
Why he's disappointing: Through 30 games this season, St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen has a record of 18-6-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. They're not the kind of numbers expected from a potential starting goalie.
Analysis: The 24-year-old began this season expected to challenge veteran Brian Elliott for the starter's job. He's shown considerable potential but has had some difficulty adjusting to the NHL.
Outlook: Allen is a restricted free agent this summer and will likely be re-signed by the Blues. Despite the young goalie's inconsistency, he has the potential to develop into a capable starter. Expect significant improvement in 2015-16.
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
Why he's disappointing: Through 60 games this season, Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin has collected two goals and 27 points. That isn't the type of production expected from a player selected third overall in the 2013 NHL draft.
Analysis: Expectations were high for Drouin entering this season. The former Halifax Mooseheads star was considered a possible Calder Trophy candidate this season, but the 19-year-old winger has struggled to adapt to the NHL game.
Outlook: Some top prospects take a little longer to develop than others. Drouin has yet to turn 20 and still possesses considerable offensive upside. With the experience gained from his first NHL season, Drouin should improve next season.
Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs
Why he's disappointing: Through 50 games this season, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier has a 20-23-6 record with a 2.87 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage—abysmal numbers for a starting goaltender.
Analysis: Plenty of players have been disappointing for the Leafs this season, but Bernier's performance declined as he struggled in the starter's role. Granted, he has had a lousy defense in front of him, but he had the same issue last season and posted better numbers.
Outlook: Bernier is a restricted free agent this summer, and his future is uncertain. The Leafs are expected to undergo a significant roster rebuild. Management must decide if the 26-year-old Bernier is truly starter material or if there's a better option elsewhere.
Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks
Why he's disappointing: A four-time 20-plus goal scorer, Vancouver Canucks winger Alex Burrows has 14 goals and 27 points through 57 games this season.
Analysis: Burrows' numbers are better than last season's injury-mauled total of 15 points through 49 games. Still, it was expected the 33-year-old winger might rebound with a healthier season under first-year coach Willie Desjardins. The improvement in his production has been marginal so far.
Outlook: Burrows turns 34 in April, and it appears that his best years are in the past. With two seasons remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $4.25 million, Canucks management could give serious thought to trading Burrows or buying him out.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
Why he's disappointing: Washington Capitals rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov has eight goals and 29 points in 69 games this season.
Analysis: After spending several seasons in Russia, Kuznetsov made his long-awaited debut with the Capitals late last season. After showing offensive promise by tallying nine points in 17 games, there was some expectation the 22-year-old might be a rookie-of-the-year candidate this season. Kuznetsov has shown improvement in recent weeks, but he won't be a finalist for the Calder Trophy.
Outlook: It can take time for some Russian players, no matter how promising, to adjust to the NHL pace and life in North America. Kuznetsov still has plenty of potential and room to grow, especially playing for a top NHL coach in Washington's Barry Trotz. He can only get better.
Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets
Why he's disappointing: Through 40 games, Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has a 15-14-7 record with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. He lost the starter's role for a time to backup Michael Hutchinson.
Analysis: Inconsistency continues to plague the 27-year-old. He can be outstanding in some games and terrible in others. Jets management gambled on him as their starter when they inked him to a five-year, $19.5 million contract in 2012. With two seasons left on his deal, it seems the gamble failed to pan out.
Outlook: If the Jets decide to upgrade in goal this summer, they could try to trade Pavelec. However, his shaky play and $3.9 million cap hit could prove difficult to move. A contract buyout could be another option.