Through the first month of NHL action, there has been no shortage of entertainment for the fans. Some teams had terrific starts, and some would just like to forget that October ever even happened.
Already, a few organizations have dug themselves into a hole that may be too deep to overcome in the remaining five months of play. On the other hand, a couple teams could be hard pressed to possibly miss the playoffs after starting so hot.
There have also been plenty of surprising starts for individuals. Of course, many players are off to torrid starts through October, pacing themselves for career years. While other perennial superstars have been unable to find their scoring touch. The Calder Trophy race has also been an intriguing one. A couple Coyotes have led the way, while Connor McDavid has found his groove and is now hot on their tails.
There’s no denying, each team has its share of surprising and disappointing individuals. With that said, we will take a look at every NHL team’s most under performing player through one month of the season.
Wow. It was difficult to pick just one under performing player for the Ducks. They have started off absolutely terrible, and no one could have foreseen this coming. Anaheim came into this season as early favourites to win the Stanley Cup, but are just 1-7-2 through October, scoring just 10 goals! Corey Perry hasn’t helped the cause, notching just three assists through 10 games. But that’s no better than Ryan Getzlaf, who holds just a single assist through eight games. It couldn’t be much worse for the Ducks who will need to right the ship very soon just to get back in the playoff race.
This was a much easier choice. With the Coyotes off to a very surprising 5-5-1 start trough October, many players have been performing above expectations. Vermette is the exception to that note. Through eight games, he has registered only two assists and no goals. After scoring just three assists with the Blackhawks in 19 regular season games, Vermette returned to Arizona as a free agent. However, it’s been the same story this year, as Vermette’s offensive instinct has seemed to vanish, even on teams that have been having success in scoring.
The Bruins went through a treacherous offseason which saw they hand forced into traded away two of their stars, Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic. The notion was that the once “Big Bad Bruins” had taken a step back into mediocracy. And through October, that notion has been correct. Starting in goal with Rask, a consistent top-ten goalie in the NHL over the past six years, has started the year 3-3-1 with a 3.29 goals against average and a poor .889 save percentage. If the Bruins plan to challenge for a playoff spot this year, they will desperately need Rask to step up his game.
The Sabres acquired Evander Kane last season in hopes of speeding up a total rebuild. However, in his first season as a Sabre, it has been quite a struggle. Kane has scored just one goal and three points through eight games. And it won’t get better anytime soon, as he is currently out of the lineup for four to six weeks due to an injury in a collateral ligament in his left knee. The Sabres expected Kane to come in and score 30 or more goals, but they’ll be hard-pressed to get even 20 out of him now.
It would’ve been easy to choose either Jonas Hiller or Karri Ramo for their lack of success in stopping enough pucks through October, but Dougie Hamilton has been just as disappointing, it has just been quieter. Hamilton was expected to give the Flames one of the best top-four defensive corps in the NHL, but through 12 games, he has just two goals and an assist, an embarrassing -9 rating, as well as a 49.1 Corsi For percentage. Combine those and you have a defenceman who sounds like a bottom-six player on paper. It starts in goal, but Hamilton also needs to be much better to turn around the 3-8-1 Flames.
Jordan Staal had heavy expectations placed on him when he was reunited with his brother, Eric, via a trade with the Penguins. Although he may not have put up the totals that the Hurricanes had hoped, he’s still been very solid. Until this season, where he has two assists through the entire month of October. Not only that, but his Corsi For percentage is the fourth lowest on the team, at 51.8%.
After scoring a couple uber important goals in the 2015 postseason for the Blackhawks, Kruger was rewarded with a one-year, $1.5 million contract in September. Although he isn’t expected to put up a great amount of points, having remaining pointless through 11 games isn’t the most promising of starts, especially for a pending unrestricted free agent. It hasn’t just been production, as Kruger’s possession has also been terrible, sitting at 41.2%.
After a bit of a down year in 2014-15 where Duchene dropped to 21 goals and 55 points, he was expected to rebound, along with the Avalanche team, back to stardom. However, that hasn’t been the case thus far. Duchene currently has just one goal and two points through October. Expected to be one of, in not, the leading point producer on the team, it’s been a disappointing start for the former 3rd overall pick. His Corsi For is also just 47.5%.
It’s been an ugly start in Columbus, who got off to an 0-8-0 start. That losing streak started from the bottom up, beginning with goaltending. Former Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t been playing up to snuff so far, to say the least. In ten games, he’s compiled a 2-8-0 record, allowing 3.97 goals each game while stopping just 86.5% of the shots he’s faced. Bobrovsky has earned an elite reputation during his time in Columbus and will need to be better if the Blue Jackets wish to get back into the playoffs.
Nichushkin was the 10th overall pick just two years ago, but after a strong rookie season, expectations grew. After only playing eight games in 2015-16 due to injury, the Stars had hoped Nichushkin would be able to pull off a comeback season. That hasn’t been the case so far however, with Nichushkin scoring just one assist through October. Being slotted alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on the first line absolutely meant that Nichushkin needed to impress early on, but after failing to do so, he has been dropped down to the fourth line, averaging just 13:10 minutes per game.
The former 21st overall pick in 2010 took a few more steps forward in his development last season, and the Wings were hoping to make him into a top-six forward in 2015-16. However, through the first month of the season, Sheahan has failed to take advantage of a possible promotion. The 23-year-old has just one goal and two assists through nine games. He’s also ranked eighth among forwards in Corsi For percentage, with a 52.1% mark. Not that Sheahan has had a horrible start, but the Red Wings had hoped for a little bit more form him.
The Oilers inked Lander to a two-year contract extension after putting up 20 points in 38 games last year, and Lander increased the hype in the preseason by scoring five goals in six games. However, that hasn’t translated to the regular season, as Lander has begun the season with a 12-game pointless streak. Not only has he not produced any goals, but he holds a terrible Corsi For percentage, controlling just 40.3% of shot attempts and holds the fourth lowest shot attempt differential in the NHL, at -57.
The Panthers fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft hasn’t exactly lived up to his potential, although he is an everyday defenceman still. Each season it seems, Florida hopes that Gudbranson will break through and became the top-pairing player they expected. He is playing over 20 minutes a night still, but not very effectively. He has two assists over the Panthers 11 games, but it’s in his possession which makes him disappointing. Through October, Gudbranson sports an embarrassing Corsi For percentage of just 34.8%. You cannot allow two shots attempts for every one you create. That also equals a very bad -55 shot attempt differential already.
The unanimous leader of the Kings, despite Dustin Brown wearing the “C”, hasn’t been at his best so far this season. Through October, Kopitar has three goals and zero assists, starting off slowly just as he did in 2015-16, on the way to his lowest point total since his rookie campaign. As always, the Kings are one of the top possession teams in the league, but Kopitar isn’t leading in that category either. He’s ranked seventh on the team in Corsi For percentage, at 56.8%.
The Wild had hoped that Coyle would have a breakout season in 2015-16, and the preseason definitely offered a reason for optimism, where he scored eight points in four games. Unfortunately, after scoring three points in the first two games, Coyle hit a six-game pointless streak and now sits at four goals and five points through October. His face-off percentage has also concerning, winning just 44.4% of them. Coyle’s time on ice has diminished to 14:45 a night as a result. Not to mention his CF% is a lousy 41.3%, second worst of the team.
Expectations were no longer sky high for Semin after having the worst offensive year of his career last season. The Canadiens took a small gamble on Semin for a little bit of cap space, but it hasn’t been the turn around story they had hoped for. Semin has just one goal and three points through October, on pace for an even worse year than last season. The Habs will be happy that this was only a one-year contract.
Much like Semin, the Predators took a chance on Hodgson in hopes that he would return to his previous form, after a poor 2014-15 year. However, Hodgson’s performance hasn’t become much better at all this season, so far. Through October, Hodgson is still in search of his first point as a Predator. He also holds the lowest face-off percentage of centres on the team, at 46%. Likewise, his CF% is in the middle of the pack, at 50%, leaving very little reason for an NHL contract past this season.
The Devils fourth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft finally seemed to be making his mark in the NHL last season. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated into 2015-16. Through the first month of action, Larsson has just a goal and two points. He also sports the worst CF% among the team, controlling only 39.2% on all shot attempts when he is on the ice. The Devils certainly hoped for a more promising start from Larsson.
The Islanders have gotten off to a good start in this season, so it was definitely tough to choose a disappointing player. Although Leddy isn’t off to a terrible start, he may be the only Islander playing below expectations. Through October, he has just four assist, after putting up over 30 points a year in the last four seasons. His Corsi For percentage is also not as high as it could be, but still decent, at 51.3%. After a fantastic first year in Long Island last year, expectations are up for Leddy.
Despite constant criticism during his time in New York for back-to-back poor postseason performances, Nash finally brought Rangers fans to their feet in 2014-15. Nash scored a career-high 42 goals, his third career 40+ goal season. However, through 11 games in the ’15-16 campaign, he’s found the back of the net just once, on pace for eight goals. Nash will need to pick up his game quickly for the Rangers to have a shot of making a playoff run.
The Senators have continued to be a strong offensive team this year, but their defence has looked like their weakness again. Beyond Erik Karlsson, there is a gigantic drop-off on the blueline. Jared Cowen, a former ninth overall pick, has been expected to increase exponentially, but has yet to make the leap. This year, he has two assists with a -25 SAT rating (shot attempt differential), and a 39.7 CF%. As a 24-year-old, Cowen will need to breakout one of these years, or be considered a draft bust.
Voracek has become nearly a point-per-game player over the past three seasons as a Flyer. He agreed to an eight-year, $66 million contract in the offseason, but has failed to live up to the hype so far this year. Through October, Voracek has just three assists, a far cry from his 59 last year. Despite controlling 54.8% of all shot attempts, it hasn’t translated into goal scoring. Voracek currently has 44 shots through 10 games.
The Penguins certainly haven’t gotten off to the start they had expected to, with the addition of Phil Kessel and plenty of depth forwards over the offseason. Crosby’s numbers are lower than usual, but Kunitz’s have fallen off of a cliff. After being a 60-70 point per season player from 2011-14, Kunitz dropped to 40 points last year. But this season has been a drastic decrease, wit jut two points in 11 games, and it’s costing the Penguins, as their depth is proving to be far weaker than initially suspected.
The Sharks acquisition during the offseason has gone through a tough start in his California. He suffered a minor injury and appeared in seven games during October, putting up two assists. However, it’s been his defensive game that has left fans wanting more. He has a lousy 46.1% of shot attempts, as well as a -20 SAT. The Sharks expected Martin to be stronger in the defensive zone, but perhaps the 34-year-old’s age is taking its toll.
The Blues captain is off to a down year. Backes is a perennial 50-60 point player, who contributes as a leader in the physical department, and in the possession style that St Louis plays. However, he has just two goals and two assists through the first month of the season, while leading the team in hits with 39. However, in possession, where he is usually dominant, Backes is currently operating at just 58.7%, worst on the team and 9.6% below his teammates. As captain, Backes will need to step his game up to make the Blues a serious Cup contender, despite their strong start.
After an absolutely tremendous season in 2014-15, it was going to be nearly impossible to re-create that magic again in 2015-16. But, I don’t think many people expected such a regression from the line as a whole. All together, they have five goals and 13 points in 36 games played. For a line that was expected to produce with the efficiency of a first line, that is extremely disappointing and worrisome for the Lightning. They now face the challenge of making up those goals elsewhere in the lineup.
After having a very promising first season as a Maple Leaf, Bernier’s numbers took a hit last year, playing behind a very thin defensive corpse. Going into 2015-16, the Leafs were expected to be one of the basement teams in the league, but Bernier hasn’t helped their cause very much. Through five games, he is 0-6-1, allowing 3.02 goals a game while stopping 89.9% of the shots he faced. Coach, Mike Babcock, said there was no definite starter when the season began, and Bernier likely hasn’t installed much confidence of himself in Babcock’s mind.
After a successful rookie campaign in 2014-15 which saw Horvat score 13 goals and 25 points, the Canucks had hoped this would be a breakout year for the 20-year-old. Unfortunately, it appears it may be more of a sophomore slump instead. Horvat scored just one goal and two points in 11 games during October, failing to capture a possible spot on the top two lines. Canucks fans shouldn’t worry about Horvat’s future though, as sophomore slumps are common with even the best of future stars.
The Capitals have gotten off to an excellent start to the 2015-16 year, going 8-2-0 in October. Because of that, there have hardly been any disappointing players on the team. If it had to be someone, it would be Brooks Opik. Despite being known as a defensive defenceman, Opik has three points through ten games. However, his shot attempt percentage is what has been the worrying factor. His CF% is third worst on the team, at just 51.5%. The Capitals are among the favourites of the East, and need Orpik at his best.
The Atlanta Thrashers eighth overall pick in 2010 played three years in the NHL before bolted to his home of Russia, for the KHL. This past offseason though, Burmistrov informed the Jets that he was looking for a return to the NHL. As a 24-year-old, he still has great potential, but hasn’t been able to unleash it through his first month back. Burmistrov scored one goal and three points in 11 October games, to go along with the second lowest CF% on the team of 42.6%.
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.