NHL rosters carry 21-23 players on average, meaning that there will always be a few players that do not deserve the roster spot they receive. Even championship teams carry players that should not be given the opportunity to play, whether it be to get a player a championship in their last effort, or to fill a niche. For example, Kimmo Timonen owned a roster spot on the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks team, but played very few minutes, leaving the remainder of the defense to pick up his leftover minutes. Timonen was given a roster spot out of the team wanting him to finally win his first Stanley Cup, a kind gesture that did harm the Blackhawks' own chances.
To earn a roster spot in the NHL, most players must build a reputation, then roll with it. Front offices rarely change their minds on the value of players, so if a player can build a good enough reputation, he can then find himself able to find jobs even if his play drops. This is how NHL rosters are littered with players performing below expectations, not deserving the spots they are given, and/or being unfit for the roles they are expected to play. Every team has at least one player that does not belong in the mix, driving their teams' fans crazy as they continue to play each and every night. The only way to silence the haters is to win the Stanley Cup, but only one team can lift it. With that, let's take a look at 15 players that do not deserve the roster spots they currently own.
15 Dan Girardi
Dan Girardi may just be the worst defenseman in the NHL. Each and every season his advanced statistics are worse than the year before, and his ability to serve as a stopper in front of one of the greatest goalies in the world in Henrik Lundqvist has completely evaporated. Girardi regularly is caught out of position, cannot keep up with the speed of today's NHL, and harms his defensive partner Ryan McDonagh with his poor play. McDonagh and Lundqvist, two bonafide stars in the NHL, both are left overcompensating for Girardi on a nightly basis. Even worse is the fact that Girardi makes over $5 Million per season, taking away valuable money the Rangers can spread elsewhere.
14 Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Bernier was persona non grata in Toronto after having a horrific season with the Maple Leafs last year. Bernier was regularly caught out of position, gave up goals from center ice, and suffered through the worst campaign of his career. Bernier hoped to restart his career when he was traded to his former coaches team, the Anaheim Ducks. Instead, Bernier owns a .904 save percentage, struggling to perform to even the simplest of expectations. At the age of 28 there is still room for growth, but the Ducks are a team hoping to make a playoff run. They need a steady backup behind the young John Gibson, not a disaster waiting to erupt.
13 Jordin Tootoo
Honestly, we are just amazed that Jordin Tootoo is still in the NHL. Who knew? What's even more fascinating is that Tootoo owns a roster spot on one of the best teams in hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks. The Chicago Blackhawks have one of the best coaches in the history of hockey in Joel Quenneville, yet Tootoo has played in over 35 games. Tootoo is a glorified boxer on the ice, watching players skate circles around him as he attempts to stay relevant on the fourth line. The only stat you need to see regarding Tootoo is that he has zero points this season in over 35 games playing for one of the top offenses in hockey. He brings nothing to the table, but gets regular playing time. What a world.
12 Semyon Varlamov
Varlamov was once the next great goalie in Washington Capitals history, even taking them to the second round of the playoffs. He was supposed to be Ovechkin's Russian partner in crime, but instead lost his starting job and was shipped to the Colorado Avalanche. We covered the Avalanche before, but they have more than one struggling veteran on their roster. Varlamov owns a .898 save percentage in 24 games this season, while making a hefty sum of $6 Million. Again, the Avalanche are awful, so at this point it would be wiser for them to find cheaper, younger alternatives than to continue to give their declining veterans tons of money to perform below expectations. Varlamov also has a highly capable backup behind him in Calvin Pickard.
11 Dustin Brown
Returning to overpaid, big name players, we find ourselves looking at the former captain of the Los Angeles Kings. You have to be pretty bad to be stripped of your captaincy, and Dustin Brown managed just that. After captain'ing two Los Angeles Kings teams to Stanley Cup Final victories, Brown's play fell off completely. He is a possession void, he has not been quiet about losing his captaincy, and his ability to be a two way player is gone. At this point he may be one of the few immovable forwards left in the NHL, but if David Clarkson could be traded, perhaps anyone could find their way to a different team. Brown was once an amazing player for the Kings and will go down as one of the Kings greats, but his value to the team is completely gone and the Kings must consider that as they fight for postseason positioning.
10 Luke Schenn
One of Brown's teammates last season in Los Angeles was Luke Schenn. For a brief stint, Schenn served as a Los Angeles Kings defenseman, serving as part of the reason the Kings were outsted in the first round by the eventual Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks. Schenn, who was once traded for James van Riemsdyk in one of the most lopsided trades in recent NHL history, will always play second fiddle to his brother Brayden. Besides that, Schenn is a defenseman who does not play strong defense, rarely is able to catch up to players to even use his noticeable size anymore, and cannot score for the life of him. The Arizona Coyotes are one of the youngest teams in hockey, and can much better use the roster spot for defensemen that need seasoning at the NHL level. Think youth, not veterans.
9 Kari Lehtonen
Continuing with the trend of overpaid goalies, Kari Lehtonen may take the cake. Lehtonen earns $5.9 Million to goaltend for the Dallas Stars, a team with serious Stanley Cup Final aspirations. The Stars boast one of the top offensive units in the NHL, an OK defense, and a goaltending tandem that is....just yikes. Lehtonen has been far worse than his partner Antti Niemi this season, often dropping below the .900 save percentage mark. The Stars were ousted in last year's playoffs because they couldn't stop pucks for the life of them, and this year they are struggling to reach the playoffs for the same reason. Lehtonen has had far too long of a leash thus far, and the Stars need to cut him off before it's too late.
8 Jarome Iginla
A few years ago suggesting that Jarome Iginla did not deserve his roster spot would have been blasphemous. Today, it's reality. Iginla is on the worst team in hockey, a Colorado Avalanche team that may finish with the least amount of points in over a decade. Iginla is hardly contributing, tallying merely 5 goals and 6 assists on the season in 41 games. Considering Iginla makes more than $5 Million himself and is 39 years old, at this point the Avalanche would be better off letting one of their youngsters take over the roster spot. It's sad to say, but Iginla's days as a valuable NHL player are over.
7 J.F. Berube
The New York Islanders went into the season with three goalies they believed to be capable of playing as starters in today's NHL. J.F. Berube, Thomas Greiss, and Jaroslav Halak all started the season with the team. Halak was the first to lose his job in December, being placed on waivers and going unclaimed. Halak is a far superior goalie to the unproven J.S. Berube however, and the Islanders need to undo their wrong if they want any chance of making the playoffs. Berube is not only unproven, but his limited time has shown the story of a shaky goaltender that may be the product of hype rather than actual talent. The Islanders desperately need to convince John Tavares to stay in New York, and that will only happen if they play the best goalies possible. J.S. Berube is not one of the best goalies possible.
6 Michael Hutchinson
The final goalie on the list is a Winnipeg Jets' goalie. Much like the Islanders, the Jets went into the season with three goalies they felt good about. Rather than stretching the three into the regular season all on the NHL roster, the Jets demoted Ondrej Pavelec and handed Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson NHL jobs. While Hellebuyck has struggled, he is considered a top NHL prospect, and has plenty of potential. Hutchinson, on the other hand, does not hold either of those attributes in his reputation. Hutchinson is not expected to be anything special in the NHL, has not yet shown any ability to be a capable NHL goalie, and is on a team that already has 2 NHL goalies on the roster. It's a no-brainer for the Jets to part ways with Hutchinson and roll with Hellebuyck and Pavelec. The spot can go to a youngster instead.
5 Andrew MacDonald
Continuing on with the theme of former teammates, one of Schenn's teammates in Philadelphia was Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald remains in Philadelphia to this day, going from the doghouse of Dave Hakstol to the top defensive pair. It makes no sense, but very few things about the way the Philadelphia Flyers play defense makes any sense anyway. MacDonald was a fine defenseman for the New York Islanders for the majority of his career, but when he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers his abilities completely dropped off. He is unable to push the possession play or aid the offense in any way at all, his defensive skills are gone, and he makes a boatload of money. All things considered, he is Philadelphia's own Dan Girardi. It's concerning that there were real NHL games this year in which he played and Shayne Gostisbehere did not.
4 Roman Polak
Roman Polak was not teammates with Schenn or MacDonald, but he is a black hole on the exciting Toronto Maple Leafs' roster. The Maple Leafs represent everything we want to see in a hockey team. They are young, fast paced, eager to make the little plays that help themselves to victory, and able to make moves with the puck that will leave your head spinning. The majority of the Maple Leafs defense is able to aid the offense in playing with the puck for the majority of the time, but then there is Roman Polak. Polak is better served as a wrestler or boxer than hockey player, as the only thing he provides is his size. Considering the Maple Leafs prioritize a speed and puck movement game, Polak is so out of place it's often tough to watch. The Maple Leafs have Frank Corrado ready to play in NHL games, so Polak's regular playing time is odd.
3 Deryk Engelland
See Polak, Roman. Engelland is on another canadian team that prioritizes speed and skill for the most part, the Calgary Flames. Imagine seeing Johnny Hockey, Johnny Gaudreau skating down the wing with his blinding speed, passing it over to young playmaker Sean Monahan, and then over to....Deryk Engelland? Oh no. Engelland's spot on the Flames defense sparks more question marks than anyone else on the roster, or even in recent Calgary Flames history. When he was a free agent, many questioned whether or not Engelland would even receive an NHL offer, better yet a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. The Flames decided they wanted a big body and got what they wanted, but he is a useless player on a team fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
2 Luca Sbisa
Sbisa is funny because we wanted to include him as another Canadian team's defenseman that is included for his size, but Sbisa is not overly large. He is also not overly good with the puck, overly good at stopping opposing players who have the puck, overly good at using his speed, overly good at pushing possession play, or overly good at puck movement. If you haven't gotten where we're going with this yet, Luca Sbisa is not overly good at anything. In fact, he's not even league average in most categories. When Sbisa scored his lone goal of the season, his own team's announcers announced the goal with great confusion. That's never a good sign, but the Canucks are one of the worst teams in the NHL at judging talent, so we aren't exactly surprised either.
1 Shawn Thornton
Even more fascinating than Tootoo may be a player of the similar ilk in Shawn Thornton of the Florida Panthers. Thornton is all but ready to be kicked out of the NHL for not being good enough at hockey, speaking openly about his future in the front office eventually. Yet the Florida Panthers, a team ran mainly on analytics, continues to send Thornton onto the ice in NHL games. Truthfully, it makes zero sense. Thornton has one goal on the season playing on the Panthers' fourth line, but the Panthers are in desperate need for production and revamped offense as they attempt to climb out of the hole they dug themselves early in the season. Getting a competent fourth liner rather than a player that belongs in a suit in the press box would go a long way in doing that.