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The biggest disappointments of 2011-12

From Cup contenders to playoff bubble team, Alex Ovechkin's Capitals have been a colossal bust. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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From Cup contenders to playoff bubble team, Alex Ovechkin's Capitals have been a colossal bust. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Many teams and players have achieved more than was expected of them in the 2011-12 campaign. But as the regular season winds down, there are also individuals and groups that have been huge disappointments. Who are they? That’s the focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10.

10. Nikolai Kulemin.

Like the other nine players on this list, Kulemin isn’t the sole player responsible for his team’s struggles – and indeed, you could make the case the struggles of Toronto’s goaltenders have been more influential in the Leafs’ second-half downward spiral – but the Russian winger has dropped from 30 goals and 57 points in 2010-11 to just seven goals and 28 points this year. The Buds definitely missed all that offense.

9. Andrei Markov.

It isn’t Markov’s fault his body has continued to betray him. But given how important he was to the Canadiens’ season – especially their woeful power play – the fact he missed 68 games with that wonky right knee must be considered one of, if not the biggest reason Montreal is in the Eastern Conference basement.

8. Dwayne Roloson.

Roloson didn’t have anywhere close to the best defense corps playing in front of him. However, his outstanding play in the 2011 post-season makes his awful year (3.66 goals-against average and .886) stick out like a sore thumb.

7. Steve Mason.

Again, you can look at a number of players on a horrendous team such as the Blue Jackets and call them disappointments, but Mason’s consistent inconsistency (as evidenced by his 3.43 GAA and .892 save percentage) has Columbus fans counting the days until the former Calder Trophy winner’s contract expires at the end of next season.

6. Michael Grabner.

The Islanders winger earned Calder consideration last season thanks to a 34-goal, 52-point, plus-13 campaign on Long Island. This year, he’s got 17 goals, 28 points and is a minus-16. If you’re looking for one reason the Isles fell short of the playoffs this year, the 24-year-old qualifies.

5. Ryane Clowe.

In 2010-11, Clowe had 24 goals, 62 points and was a plus-13 for a dangerous Sharks squad. He has only 14 goals, 40 points and is a minus-6 this year. There are others in San Jose who have been sub-standard (I’m looking at you, Joe Thornton), but Clowe’s lack of secondary scoring contributions is a factor in the franchise being life-and-death for the playoffs.

4. Dany Heatley.

His fall from superstar to journeyman has been astonishing, though Heatley really doesn’t have anyone to blame but himself. His goal totals have plummeted from 41 with Ottawa in 2007-08 to 26 last season in San Jose to just 21 with the Wild this year. Granted, he doesn’t have a lot of superior offense-minded talents around him, but nobody mentions Heatley as a top threat any longer. For someone who is only 31, that’s saying something – and something that isn’t good at all.

3. Ryan Getzlaf.

The Ducks made an admirable turnaround after coach Bruce Boudreau replaced Randy Carlyle, but look at Getzlaf’s numbers (nine goals and 54 points after he posted 19 goals and 76 points last year) and you’ll see a player who isn’t justifying being Anaheim’s top-salaried forward.

2. Mike Richards.

The Kings themselves have been a huge letdown, starting the season as many people’s favorites to make the leap from solid, young team to bona fide Stanley Cup threat. And while sub-par years from Drew Doughty and others have contributed, Richards – the team’s marquee off-season acquisition and former Flyers captain – has amassed just 16 goals and 39 points after posting 31 goals and 62 points for Philly two years ago. Whether or not L.A. squeaks into the playoffs, that’s not nearly enough for someone earning Richards’ $5.8-million annual salary.

1. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and pretty much all the Washington Capitals.

I tried to narrow down a single person who represents the Caps’ serious struggles this year, but when your team has been selected by many observers (THN included) prior to the season as a favorite to win it all and stumbles consistently through the year to the point they’re now in serious jeopardy of missing playoffs altogether, the entire Washington franchise is a massive disappointment.

The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.

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