We’re far enough into the season now that overachievers who aren’t falling back to Earth can be considered for real, while underachievers staying on those paces can be considered in trouble.
Here’s a look at 10 players who have fallen well short of their expectations, to the point where it’s harming their teams. Those who are starting to turn it around (e.g. Claude Giroux) were left off this list.
1. Craig Anderson, Ottawa
At the start of the season, Anderson was considered to be the only goalie who might be able to unseat Jonathan Quick as the starter on the USA’s Olympic entry (since Cory Schneider was still behind Martin Brodeur in New Jersey). But Anderson’s hold on the starting job in Ottawa has been slightly loosened. His GAA is up to 3.42 and his SP down to .897. This poor performance has been part of the reason why Ottawa has taken a rather large step back this season. In the end, a former backup of his, Ben Bishop, may overtake him on the American depth chart.
2. Michael Grabner, New York Islanders
The speedy Islanders forward started the season with seven points in his first four games, which was a huge confidence boost to the Islanders and their fans, since secondary scoring was a major question mark for the team heading into 2013-14. However, since then, Grabner has one (one!) point. He hasn’t scored a goal since the very first game of the season. It’s not solely Grabner’s fault the Islanders are in a tailspin, of course, but he has certainly been part of the problem. In the past three years, Grabner has scored 34, 20 and 16 (in 48 games) goals, but at this year’s pace, he’d be lucky to hit 10.
3. Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia
Personally, I didn’t think Voracek would keep up his career high points pace from last season (46 points in 48 games), but I also didn’t expect him to be on track for a career-low in points. As a rookie with Columbus in 2008-09, Voracek put up 38 points in 80 games and this season he’s slightly below that pace. Most of the Flyers were struggling at the start, including Giroux, but the Canadian Olympic hopeful has been picking it up lately with 14 points in his past 15 games. Voracek, meanwhile, has continued to confound Flyers fans with eight points in his past 17, and none in his past six.
4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus
The warning signs of a drop-off were there, but Bobrovsky’s surprise Vezina season nonetheless influenced Columbus’ aggressive off-season. So far, his GAA has gone up by .72 and his SP has dropped 23 points, which makes below average totals. The thing is, he performed solidly for Philadelphia in 2010-11, then played like a subpar backup the following season, so Bobrovsky’s consistency should have already been in question. He’s now injured, which will hurt Columbus even more, but even with him the Blue Jackets were struggling in the NHL’s worst division.
5. Evander Kane, Winnipeg
In Kane’s first three years as an NHLer, his offensive totals grew each season and his development towards one day becoming an all-world difference-maker with the Jets was on track. But there’s a crack in the foundation today. He scored 30 goals and 57 points in 2011-12, but Kane’s points-per-game average has been dropping in the two years since. And now there seem to be major differences between coach Claude Noel and Kane, which came to the fore over a recent healthy vs. unhealthy scratch spat. It seems kind of silly the Jets would entertain trading the player with the most potential on their roster – wouldn’t firing the underwhelming Noel and giving Kane new life under a new coach be a better option?
6. Jordan Staal, Carolina
I have such high hopes and expectations for Staal, but his numbers have been in decline since arriving in Carolina, despite the fact he’s being used in a more prominent role than he was in Pittsburgh. With the Pens, whenever Staal had to step up for an injured Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, he met the challenge. Now that his role is more integral to the team, though, Staal has been unable to live up to those expectations. He has five goals and 10 points in 29 games, which is only a slightly better pace than his worst season (2007-08: 28 points in 82 games).
7. Stephen Weiss, Detroit
When Weiss signed a four-year deal worth $4.9 million against the cap with the Detroit Red Wings last summer, it wasn’t to be their leading scorer, but it was to bring them more than four points in 23 games. Weiss has been a disaster in Detroit and hasn’t scored a goal since Oct. 14.
8. David Clarkson, Toronto
When Clarkson signed in Toronto as a free agent, expectations were immediately way too high for a player who two years ago came out of nowhere to score 30 goals, on the strength of an unsustainably high shooting percentage. He put up another 15 last season and came to Toronto hungry. But Clarkson isn’t a natural goal scorer – that attribute isn’t even his best. He only has two goals through 19 games, but his disappointment goes a little deeper than that. His bone-headed play in the pre-season cost him the first 10 games of this season, which meant he came out of the gate slow and hasn’t really been able to catch up yet. For a $5.25 million player, Clarkson has been a disappointment.
9. Shawn Matthias, Florida
What would a list of underwhelming players be without a current Florida Panther on it? Matthias was surprisingly solid for the Panthers last season, scoring 14 goals in 48 games and was expected to build on that. At the very least, Florida hoped to parlay his performance into a decent trade return, but now he’s back to the usual, scoring three goals and five points in 29 games. It’s not a huge disappointment…unless you’re a fan of the Panthers.
10. Damien Brunner, New Jersey
The Swiss national arrived in the NHL last season and scored 12 goals. Now, this isn’t to say he was expected to launch to 30 this year or anything, but the Devils were banking on some growth when they signed him for two years at $2.5 million against the cap. But Brunner hasn’t been a good enough goal scorer – his primary role – nor has he improved other areas of his game to make up for it. This has resulted in him being made a healthy scratch by coach Pete DeBoer three times, including tonight, when the Devils play Brunner’s former Red Wings team. That says a ton.