Learning a lesson in futility can be a humbling and frustrating thing. That’s especially true for NHL players who struggle to score goals. After all, when you’re paid to light the lamp – and expected to do so on a consistent basis – and you can’t even manage more than a measly shot or two on goal, you start to draw a lot of attention, and not the good kind.
Sure, slumps are one thing. And no one is immune to the occasional streak of bad luck. But when your stat line has nothing but a bunch of goose eggs and you can’t even remember what a goal horn sounds like, it starts to affect the organization as a whole – not to mention the morale inside the dressing room.
Whether a guy’s not clicking with his linemates, he’s out of shape or he lost his lucky penny, desperation will start to set in as the goal drought builds and weighs heavy on his mind. Trade rumors start flying around, hopes of contract extensions fade faster than Sabres’ shot at the playoffs, and even your most ardent fans begin to resent your presence (Just ask Scott Gomez about that).
Once you’re in a goal hole, it’s a tough row to hoe. All you can do is bear down, focus on your game and hope you don’t end up sent down to some no-name minor-league squad in some gloomy Midwest town. Or worse: on the waiver wire.
Short of causing any further consternation for these poor saps, here’s a list of 15 current NHL players who just can’t seem to score a goal to save their lives.
15 Filip Forsberg
For a player who led his team in scoring with a franchise record-tying 33 goals last season and who just signed a massive $36 million contract in June, the Nashville Predators’ Filip Forsberg (no relation to Peter the Great) sure does leave a lot to be desired. Through the first 16 games of the 2016-17 season, Forsberg had just one solitary goal. Although admittedly, it was a thing of beauty. Nonetheless, it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Predators management and the fans who fill the Bridgestone Arena seats, both of whom expect more out the promising young Swede. As a top-line skater with among the most ice time of any forward on the team, you’ve got to know he’s starting to feel the pressure.
14 Dustin Byfuglien
Dustin Byfuglien is an offensive defenseman for the Winnipeg Jets who, in his 12-year career, averages a goal ever four to five games. This season, despite leading the team in average ice time and blasting 51 shots on net through the first 19 games, he only found the back of the net once. Look at it from every angle and analyze the team until you’re blue in the face, but the fact that Byfuglien is way off his normal pace this season will leave you scratching your head. He leads the team in average ice time by more than three minutes, and the Jets are well inside the top-10 for goals scored in the league, but somehow Byfuglien has been stymied so far in 2016-17.
13 Luke Glendening
You can’t fault the guy for not trying. Detroit Red Wings forward Luke Glendening always gives it his all when he’s on the ice, never wavering in his enthusiasm to grind it out and contribute in a physical way. I almost hate to break it to him that if his life depended on him scoring a goal, the odds would not be in his favor. Glendening is a third- or fourth-line forward who is serviceable on top lines once in a while when the Wings need an extra body. Other than that, he’s not exactly a goal-scorer. He only managed eight goals last season despite appearing in all but one game, and through the first 17 games of the 2016-17 season, he collected a single goal and five assists. Good kid, not so good scorer.
12 Max Domi
Like father, like son. Second year forward Max Domi does a lot more fighting than he does scoring, even though he went 12th overall in the 2013 NHL draft. The 21-year-old Canadian winger was tabbed as a gifted goal-scorer with high expectations to help lift the struggling Arizona Coyotes out of the Western Conference cellar. So far, he’s delivered in the playmaking department, leading the team in assists, but after just a single goal through 16 games in 2016-17, he’s not exactly electrifying arenas around the league with his supposed sniper credentials. He’s not lacking in shots, either. He gets at least a few quality chances every game, but a shot percentage around 3 percent so far suggests he might be experiencing the dreaded sophomore curse.
11 The Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche are absolutely stacked this season with young, talented, offensive-minded forwards who have the ability to score on opposing teams at will. The only problem is that they aren’t scoring on opposing teams at will. Not even close. In fact, they’re lucky if they avoid being blanked on the scoreboard with the way the 2016-17 season has gone so far. Through 16 games, the Avs had lit the lamp a paltry 34 times, second fewest in the entire league only to the woeful Buffalo Sabres. Plus, they were shut out four times in their first 14 games. Under the tutelage of brand new head coach Jared Bednar, the team struggles to control the puck in the offensive zone for any length of time, which ultimately leads to a significant deficit in their shots-on-goal numbers. While there’s plenty of blame to go around, without any shots, it’s pretty hard to score many goals. (Isn’t there a Gretzky quote in there somewhere?) Surely, they’ll rediscover their scoring touch soon, right?
10 Matt Niskanen
Yeah, he’s a defenseman and all, but for a guy who averages the most ice time of any Washington Capitals player, gets top billing on the power-play and logs at least a couple of quality shots every game, you’d think Matt Niskanen would score a few more goals. Unfortunately for him and the rest of Washington, he doesn’t. Last season, he had 150 shots on goal, but another 115 were blocked and 70 others missed the net completely. His career high was all of 10 goals in 2013-14, and despite leading all Washington defenseman with eight points – all assists – through the first 16 games in 2016-17, his gaping goose egg in the goals column leads one to believe he has a better chance buying a goal than actually scoring one.
9 Anton Lander
If he would just shoot the puck more, Edmonton Oiler Anton Lander might actually score a goal once in a while. It’s like going to the ATM without your debit card and expecting to walk away with a stack of cash. Last year, Lander, a centerman, played in 61 games for the Oilers but only manufactured 54 shots. The result? One lousy goal. This season, he scored a goal on just his fourth shot on net. But through 16 games, he only had seven shots while averaging a little over 10 minutes of ice time. On the bright side, though, his shooting percentage is pretty high, what with so few attempts. Maybe he just needs to let ‘er rip a little more often when he’s on the ice. Then again, his meager 10 goals in six seasons in the league don’t make that conjecture very plausible.
8 Tomas Plekanec
No, Tomas Plekanec hasn’t retired, at least not in the physical sense. Maybe he just can’t get his mind right or something, because the normally offensively gifted forward for the Montreal Canadiens has yet to show up in any real capacity so far in 2016-17. One goal. One solitary goal is all that the 34-year-old out of Czechoslovakia had mustered on 37 shots through his first 17 games this year. The Habs’ coaching staff has shuffled him up and down the lineup, trying to make something, anything work, but to no avail. Should the Canadiens worry? I probably would, especially considering the $6 million salary he’s earning this year. Maybe he’ll finally get back in rhythm soon, but a dismal start to the season doesn’t bode well for him later on.
7 Matt Stajan
How do you solve a problem like Matt Stajan? The veteran centerman has had his ups and downs over his 14 seasons in the NHL, but the downs far overshadow the ups. He had a career-high 19 goals in 2009-10 and was slated to be one of the Calgary Flames’ top forwards when he arrived there late that season. Instead, things took a turn for the worse. He became inconsistent, battled injury after injury and was eventually relegated to a fourth-line checking role. Over the past two seasons, his 13 total goals in 139 games left him with a miniscule 0.09 goals per game average, and despite playing around 14 minutes per contest through 18 games in 2016-17, he’s been absent mostly from the scoring sheet aside from a few meaningless assists.
6 Radek Faksa
Dear Radek Faksa,
For a highly touted prospect with impressive numbers in junior and a respectable stop in the minors, five goals your rookie season and just one through 18 games this year ain’t gonna cut it. C’mon, man, you’re a first-round draft pick. Act like it! Granted, we’ve been bitten by the injury bug something fierce this year, and you’ve been juggled around with several different linemates, but because you tend to be a fairly defensive forward, our opponents’ goalies aren’t exactly shaking in their pads whenever you step onto the ice. You’ve had plenty of opportunities, and it’s not like you’re not getting ice time. So, let’s go. It’s time for you to step up, score some goals, and realize your true potential.
- Every Dallas Stars Fan
5 Patrik Berglund
Ever since he topped out with a career-high 22 goals for the St. Louis Blues in 2010-11, Patrik Berglund’s goal totals have declined each and every year since, to the point where it’s down to a slow trickle at best. Last season, Berglund only managed 10 lamp-lighters, and through 18 games in 2016-17 he only had a single tally. For any St. Louis Blues fan who is still waiting for Berglund to break out of his shell, I think we’re far enough into his career to accept the fact that, despite being taken in the first round all the way back in 2006, he’s always going to be a third-line guy who hustles every shift but just isn’t going to pump in goals on an anywhere near regular basis.
4 Elias Lindholm
Much like Max Domi in Arizona, Elias Lindholm was brought to Carolina to assume the role of a top-line forward and help the Hurricanes return to a championship-caliber team in the East. He was a first-round pick in 2013 out of the Swedish Hockey League despite his less-than-fantastic offensive numbers, and he had a decent sophomore season with 17 goals in 2013-14. Last year, though, his goal output dipped to a total of just 11 even though he appeared in all 82 games. And through 15 games in 2016-17, Lindholm had a big, ugly donut in the goal column. He plays hard, wins faceoffs and is a superior two-way skater who is in top physical shape, but the 21-year-old fourth-year skater struggles to put the biscuit in the basket.
3 Connor Murphy
Connor Murphy just doesn’t have a knack for offense, but he’s actually probably not all that worried about it. The fourth-year defenseman for the Arizona Coyotes is earning almost $2.5 million a year and is signed through the 2021-22 season. He plays well over 20 minutes a game and has better than a shot-per-game average, but his comfort zone is defending the front of the net, and scoring seems to be an afterthought. Since entering the league in the 2013-14 season, he has 11 goals and was goalless through 14 games this year. He does try to score once in a while, though. I mean, he did have more than 100 shots on goal last year. He just isn’t that great in the offensive zone.
2 Shane Doan
This might be it for wiley old veteran Shane Doan. Even though he’s in his 21st season with the Phoenix Coyotes franchise and at the ripe old age of 40, he’s still more than capable of scoring at a high rate. He led the entire team with 28 goals last season, for goodness sake. But this year, he just can’t seem to find the back of the net. He potted one goal through his first 16 games. Certainly, a moderate offensive decline was expected with younger guys coming into the fold and with his average ice time dropping off by a couple minutes compared to last year. But a shooting percentage under 4 percent, even for an old guy, is a bit of a shock.
1 Jaromir Jagr
Wait, are we finally witnessing the beginning of the end of NHL legend Jaromir Jagr’s long and illustrious career? What a time to be alive. He’s staved off retirement longer than anyone – himself included – ever expected and then some. But his once prolific goal-scoring capabilities seem to have ground to an inevitable – if not tragic – halt. He once scored as many as 62 goals in a single season, but his 44 years on this earth and 23 seasons in the world’s most demanding hockey league seem to finally be catching up to him. He only had one goal on 38 shots for the Florida Panthers his first 17 games this season, and his quest to eclipse Gordie Howe’s lofty 801-goal mark seems less and less likely with each passing goalless game.