Some NHL players take way too much credit for the on-ice production they offer to their respective teams. Every season, there are players who receive more ice time than they deserve, while some high-prized free agents never deliver the results expected by the general manager who signed them.
Nearly halfway into the 48-game season that was shortened by the lockout, I gathered a panel of 14 writers here at The Hockey Writers to determine who are the top 10 most overrated players in the NHL nowadays. Only the 10 players with the most votes made it to this infamous list.
THW Panel: Mark Ascione (MA), Marcy Di Michele (MDM), Jas Faulkner (JF), Andy Graziano (AG), Mike Gwidzala (MG), Steven Ives (SI), Jeff Little (JL), Bob Mand (BM), Ian Cameron McLaren (ICM), Anatoliy Metter (AM), Jeff Ponder (JP), Fred Poulin (FP), Clayton Theriault (CT), Chris Wassel (CW),
Honorable mentions: Cory Schneider, G, Vancouver Canucks (4 votes), Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings, Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals
10. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pittsburgh Penguins (4 votes)
Salary in 2013: $5,500,000
Best Overall Season: 2011-12 = 67 GP, 42-17-4 with a 2.36 GAA and a .913 Save %
After his best overall season as an NHL goalie, Fleury and the Penguins defense crumbled in the first round of the playoffs last season and the Sorel, Quebec native finished with a playoff-worst 4.63 GAA and .834 Save %. This season, the Penguins are winning because of the great play of Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, not because of Fleury’s strong play in net. The Flower has a mediocre 2.68 GAA and an underwhelming .909 Save % during his NHL career.
Tomas Vokoun was brought in this season for a reason. Although Fleury has decent numbers through the years, his soft goals deflate the Penguins more than the big saves help. There’s a reason I call him “the worst of the best goalies.” – Jeff Ponder
9. Brad Richards, C, New York Rangers (4 votes)
Salary in 2013: $12,000,000
Best Overall Season: 2009-10 = 80 GP, 24 goals and 67 assists for 91 points with a -12 plus/minus rating
Paid like a point-per-game player, Richards has yet to live up to his contract expectations since moving to the Big Apple for the powerful Rangers (on paper). After a less-than-stellar 2011-12 campaign during which he recorded a disappointing 66 points in 82 games for the Blue Shirts, Richards is off to a slow start for the struggling Rangers this season. In 22 games, he only has 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points with a +3 rating. Manning the point on the power play, Richards has a minuscule two points on the man advantage in 2013, which explains in part why New York is battling for a playoff spot. Richards has never scored 30 goals in a single season.
Yes, Brad Richards was a playoff MVP two lockouts ago. But it seems his salary rises as his foot speed falls, and despite playing with snipers like Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash, Richards has been somewhat of a disappointment lately. – Marcy Di Michele
8. Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver Canucks (5 votes)
Salary in 2013: $5,000,000
Best Overall Season: 2010-11 = 82 GP, 41 goals and 32 assists for 73 points with a +24 plus/minus rating
While Kesler won the Frank J. Selke two years ago, he does not possess very good hands, and his shot is below average for NHL offensive forwards. After two terrific campaigns in 2009-10 (75 points) and 2010-11 (73 points), his play steeply dropped in 2012, producing only 49 points. Kesler has only played 7 games for the Canucks this season after suffering multiple injuries in the past year (broken right foot, torn labrun in left shoulder, minor surgery on left wrist). Has Kesler replaced Sami Salo as official Band-Aid boy for the Canucks?
Injury riddled and not enough drive for me. – Clayton Theriault
7. Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Philadelphia Flyers (5 votes)
Salary in 2013: $6,500,000
Best Overall Season: 2009-10 = 69 GP, 42-20-6 with a 2.29 GAA and a .920 Save %
After an average 2011-12 campaign during which he posted a 33-16-7 record along with a 2.48 GAA and a .909 Save %, Bryzgalov ended the playoffs with a sub-.900 save percentage and over 3.50 goals allowed per game on average. This season, the struggling Flyers have been blowing three-goal leads on a weekly basis and Bryzgalov’s mediocre play is one of the main reasons as shown by his 12-11-1 record with a disastrous 2.77 GAA and a mediocre .899 Save %. Known for his interesting quotes off the ice, Bryzgalove should concentrate on his play as a goaltender rather than on the “universe”.
Bryzgalov might be overpaid, but he is also overrated. After leaving the Phoenix Coyotes, Bryzgalov hasn’t had the easiest of transitions with the Philadelphia Flyers as the goalie’s numbers in Philly have been more along the lines of what he was posting as a backup goalie for the Anaheim Ducks. – Anatoliy Metter
6. Ryan Suter, D, Minnesota Wild (5 votes)
Salary in 2013: $12,000,000
Best Overall Season: 2011-12 = 79 GP, 7 goals and 39 assists for 46 points with a +15 plus/minus rating
Suter signed a massive 13-year contract worth $98-million last July to rejoin his friend Zach Parise in Minnesota. Shea Weber’s long-time blue line partner cashed in after a solid career in Nashville, but did Suter really deserve to be paid more than $7.5 million/year on average for producing less-than-spectacular offensive numbers? In 24 games this season, Suter has only 1 goal and 17 assists for 18 points with a -6 plus/minus rating for the goal-starving Wild.
Like his new teammate Parise, Suter got paid this summer. For a guy who spent a lot of time riding the coattails of Shea Weber, it was quite the payday. He’s a solid defenseman, but is he really worth the cash Minnesota gave him? He gets a decent amount of assists, and he is a reliable shut-down guy, but as is the case with many of the players on this list, Suter is getting paid like a superstar, and he’s done nothing in his career to earn that status. – Marcy Di Michele
5. Ryan Miller, G, Buffalo Sabres (5 votes)
Salary in 2013: $6,250,000
Best Overall Season: 2009-10 = 69 GP, 41-18-8 with a 2.22 GAA and a .929 Save %
Miller leads this NHL this season with 12 regulation losses, having a 9-12-3 record in 24 games for the disappointing Sabres in 2013. Without a shutout this season, Miller has posted a an inflated 2.86 GAA and a good .914 Save % for the cellar-dwelling Sabres. With Tomas Vanek and Jason Pominville struggling after a hot start, Miller will have to stand on his head for the remainder of the season to carry Buffalo to the playoffs… which will not happen this season.
Great 2010 season, but hasn’t done much to show he’s an elite goalie apart from that. – Ian Cameron McLaren
4. Dany Heatley, RW, Minnesota Wild (5 votes)
Salary in 2013: $6,000,000
Best Overall Season: 2006-07 = 82 GP, 50 goals and 55 assists for 105 points with a +31 plus/minus rating
After a great first campaign with the Sharks, Heatley’s offensive production has plunged like Nortel’s shares ten years ago. After a 82-point season in San Jose, Heater recorded 64 points in 2010-11 and 53 points in 2011-12. So far this season, he has fared much better, recording 8 goals and 5 assists for 13 points with a dismal -9 differential in 24 contests. Heatley is a ghost on most nights for the Wild.
Much like Ovechkin, Heatley’s production has tapered off as of late. After recording his lowest point totals (2010-2012) since the ’03-’04 season, Heatley has definitely vaulted himself into overrated territory. – Anatoliy Metter
3. Jay Bouwmeester, D, Calgary Flames (5 votes)
Salary in 2013: $6,600,000
Best Overall Season: 2006-07 = 82 GP, 12 goals and 30 assists for 42 points with a +23 plus/minus rating
Bouwmeester is very soft for a player of his size, and he hasn’t produced the offensive numbers that the Flames would have liked from him signing his acquisition. Coming off three season of at least 12 goals/year with the Florida Panthers, J-Bo had only notched 12 goals in 246 games in a Flames’ uniform. In 23 games this season, the smooth skater has 4 goals and 8 assists for 12 points with a -4 rating, and that despite playing 25 minutes per game (1:40 on the PP). Still, Bouwmeester is as durable as it gets, currently holding the longest ironman streak in the NHL at 611 games.
With his incredible combination of size, speed and athletic ability shouldn’t he be… you know, good? – Steve Ives
2. Dion Phaneuf, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (7 votes)
Salary in 2013: $6,500,000
Best Overall Season: 2007-08 = 82 GP, 17 goals and 43 assists for 60 points with a +12 plus/minus rating
When he came to Toronto, he was expected to be one of the NHL’s premier defensemen, but instead, he has become a defensive liability and a turnover machine. Phaneuf was voted the most overrated NHL player by his peers in 2012 and he has yet to live up to the expectations placed in him by the very demanding Leafs media and fans. In 26 games this season, Phaneuf has only recorded 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points to go along with a mediocre -10 rating. Phaneuf, who is averaging three shots per game during his career, has only 47 shots this season. He will need to elevate his overall a few notches if the Leafs were to make the playoffs for the first since the 2004-05 lockout.
Early career promise and current expectations of dominance and leadership overshadow that he’s really a decent 3-4 defender with questionable mobility. – Mark Ascione
1. Rick Nash, LW, New York Rangers (8 votes)
Salary in 2013: $6,500,000
Best Overall Season: 2008-09 = 78 GP, 40 goals and 39 assists for 79 points with a +10 plus/minus rating
Despite having all the talent in the world, Nash has eclipsed the 70-point mark only once in his 10-year NHL career. Sure he has 23 points (9 g and 13 a) in 20 games this season for the Rangers, but prior to this season he wasn’t even close to be a point-per-game player in the NHL (0.81 PPG). The power forward’s production has never equalled the “elite” category that some hockey pundits have placed him in. If Nash can keep this production this season and lead the Blue Shirts to a playoff berth, he will finally have the chance to prove everyone wrong by leading New York deep in the playoffs.
After some very awkward drama that intensified roughly around this time last year when he begged off the Blue Jackets roster only to find there were no takers for what he was offering, Nash found a home at Madison Square Garden. When it comes to intangibles, he’s been a GM’s dream. He took the mixed reception to his debut in stride and seems to handle himself well. When the blades hit the ice, there have been some signs of the talent that made him one of the members of Team Canada to watch, but he’s lacked consistency this season. I look for him to either get brilliant in 13/14 or frustrate because everyone knows what he is capable of accomplishing. – Jas Faulkner
So talented, so fluid, so powerful, yet so inconsistent!
Honorable mentions (3 votes):
Alexander Semin, Vincent Lecavalier, Tyler Myers, Ryan O’Reilly, Roberto Luongo, Erik Johnson, Phil Kessel, Ryan Getzlaf
This wraps up THW’s panel on the top 10 most overrated NHL players this season. Do you agree with the list above or do you think we missed someone?
Come back for our top 10 most underrated NHL players list later this month!
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A long-time Joe Sakic fan, Fred, 35, is a freelance sports writer and translator. Fred earned a Bachelor of Translation in 2002 at Laval University in Quebec City. He also writes on the Montreal Canadiens for HabsAddict.com and he is an associate editor and a baseball columnist on Dobberbaseball.com. He is also fluent in English, French and Spanish.