There aren’t really bad players in the NHL. I mean, they could all outskate me any day of the week. But like in all professional fields in the world, your performance gets judged in comparison to the players around you, and there some really good players in the NHL.
This is especially true since the 2004 lockout, when some rules changed and the game got faster. It was noticeably clearer that some players did not have the speed or the skill to keep up with some of the younger and faster players in the league.
This, in turn, changed the game of hockey. Teams started arming their fourth lines with speedy pests instead of hulking beasts. Speed beat size, and that transformed the game. Some players didn’t have to adjust to anything, but were just god awful (cough cough Scott Gomez). And although the NHL has provided some amazing talent, there are some players that make you question the NHL’s recruiting system. Here are the worst players to play for every NHL since the 2004-05 lockout.
30 Anaheim Ducks – Tim Jackman
Tim Jackman was traded to Anaheim from the Calgary Flames in 2013, and played there for the better part of two seasons, and even played two games in the 2015-16 season, before being assigned to their AHL affiliate and being traded to the Blackhawks. He retired before he could lace up his skates with them. In 83 games with Anaheim, Jackman had just eight goals and three assists, and spent most of his time in the box. At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, the fourth liner was an enforcer more than anything else, and never really found a way to contribute to the team offensively. He played for six different NHL teams in total and never really managed to find his groove, teams opting to ship him off then keep him as a starting fourth liner.
Still, his hard work was duly noted, winning the Bob Nystrom award during his time with the Islanders for his leadership and dedication. Interestingly enough, he’s also the fastest player to ever score a goal in the NHL - on his own birthday.
29 Arizona Coyotes – John Scott
Poor John Scott. Getting voted in to the All-Star game last year was a dream come true for a player of his talents. He then had to sit there and watch while the NHL tried every shady way to get him out of the game. But Scott and his fan base prevailed, and he put on a pretty good show. And now Scott has to be included on this list as well. He only played one season and 11 games for the Coyotes, managing one assist. For such a low key player, he sure did cause quite a lot of fuss, and certainly quite a few headaches for the Coyotes.
Eventually, although no source has ever confirmed this, it looks like the NHL forced the Coyotes to trade him to the Habs so that he wasn’t eligible to play in the All-Star game, but that wouldn’t work out as we now know.
28 Boston Bruins – Andrew Raycroft
In all fairness Boston has been one of the better NHL teams since the lockout, even making the Stanley Cup Final twice, winning one of them. They did that by having a pretty solid roster. Although I wanted to make Sean Thornton the worst player Boston has had since the lockout, I thought Andrew Raycroft simply couldn’t be denied.
Raycroft was drafted 135th overall by the Bruins in 1998, and even won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year in 2004. But it was after the lockout where the struggles began. He managed a meager eight wins, with a 3.71 GAA and .879 save percentage. Yikes. He was quickly demoted to third goalie and later traded to the land of losing, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Things obviously didn’t get much better there, not managing to post a save percentage higher than .900 in two seasons.
27 Buffalo Sabres – Craig Rivet
Craig Rivet first made his name as a really boring NHL defenseman when he was with the Montreal Canadiens. He then went to the Sharks, but ended up in Buffalo for three more seasons after that. A young Rivet in his prime wasn’t much to look at. Now imagine him near the end of his career doing his defending in Buffalo. Before even playing a game, he was named team captain, since Jason Pominville was on his way out at the time.
His play got noticeably worse and worse with the Sabres, but then it was revealed that his play had been hampered by a double labrum tear, and would take 4-6 months to recover after surgery. The Sabres would eventually place him on waivers, and now he hosts a radio show about the Sabres out of Buffalo.
26 Calgary Flames – Reto Berra
Reto Berra has made his bread and butter by being a back-up goalie his whole NHL career. There's nothing wrong with that, he’s been more than stellar for Colorado the past few seasons, especially the last one with Semyon Varlamov injured quite often. However, there was one season where Reto Berra’s ability to even be a backup was put in to question, and that was with the Calgary Flames in the 2013-14 season. It was his first time in an NHL jersey after having spent most of his career playing in Switzerland, where he was born.
The results were pretty dreadful. In just 29 games, Berra posted nine wins and 17 losses, including a 0.897 save percentage and a 2.95 GAA. Not the numbers you want for your first NHL season. He was quickly traded to the Colorado Avalanche, where he cemented himself a role as a backup goaltender.
25 Carolina Hurricanes – Tuomo Ruutu
Tuomo Ruutu is a Finnish player that was originally drafted ninth overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. He would get 42 points in his first full season with the Blackhawks, although his point totals did go somewhat downhill from there. At the 2008 trade deadline, he was traded to the Hurricanes in exchange for Andrew Ladd. It didn’t seem like the worst trade at the time, but I think we all know who got the better end of that stick.
Ruutu would never prove to be the forward the Hurricanes were hoping for. He spent six seasons total with the Hurricanes, with his point totals dropping dramatically in his last two seasons. Carolina as a team continued to struggle as well, and eventually Ruutu was traded to the Devils.
24 Chicago Blackhawks – Adam Burish
The “Burmeister” (just invented that) was selected 282nd overall by the Blackhawks in the 2002 NHL draft. He was ready to join the team in 2006, where he played nine games and got absolutely no points, prompting the organization to send him back to the juniors for the remainder of the season. He would play many games for Chicago in the next three seasons, 160 to be exact, getting only 11 goals and 10 assists in the process.
Not exactly what you hope from a right winger, even if he is a fourth liner. Still, he is the proud owner of a Stanley Cup ring, even though he played only 15 regular season games in the championship year. He would be let go from the Chicago organization but continued to play in the NHL and AHL for quite a while, before heading overseas to the Swedish Hockey League.
23 Colorado Avalanche – Patrice Brisebois
One of my favorite memories as a kid was watching the Canadiens play with my uncle Larry. We would sit in my family room, ready to watch the mediocre Habs hit the ice, with defenseman Patrice Brisebois in the line-up at the time. Larry wasn’t the biggest Brisebois fan, giving him the nickname “Brise-bye”, hoping that the Canadiens organization would get rid of him as soon as possible.
Brisebois played almost all of his 1,009 NHL games with the Canadiens, but he played 103 games over two seasons with the Avalanche as well. He had 11 goals and 38 assists with the Avalanche, but don’t these numbers fool you – he was a defensive liability almost every time he was on the ice, and skated almost as bad as Hal Gill. Brisebois was known to occasionally succumb to the pressure players face in Montreal, which could explain why he was statistically good in Colorado, away from the obsessiveness of Montreal fans.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets – Nathan Horton
Nathan Horton isn’t on this list because he’s the worst player to play for Columbus since the lockout; far from it. But he is perhaps the worst investment for the team, and all things considered, he’s their biggest failed move since the lockout. When Horton was first drafted third overall by Florida, he received a lot of praise from around the league, and Mike Keenan even compared him to Mark Messier. His proudest NHL moment was probably winning the Cup with the Bruins in 2011, even though he was injured in game three of the finals.
Then in 2013, Horton signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract with the Jackets, but his debut was stalled because of offseason shoulder surgery. He would come back in 2014 and play 35 games with the Jackets, until he was diagnosed with a degenerative back injury in the lumbar region that threatens to end his career. I’m not a doctor, but that definitely doesn’t sound too good. Although it isn’t confirmed just yet, it seems like his career is over.
21 Dallas Stars – Sean Avery
Sean Avery. The name that makes the gods of hockey cringe. Say what you want about the man, he knew how to get under people’s skin and make them snap, which is exactly what he wanted. Sean Avery was the type of player that bounced around almost every team in the league, but he did sign a four-year, $15.5 million deal with the Stars in 2008. Four years already seems like a mistake for a guy like Avery, but Brett Hull, the Stars’ co-general manager at the time, had shared a room with Avery during their time together in Detroit, and thought that the team could use his fire.
And boy was he wrong. Avery played just 23 games in his four-year contract and why? Because it’s Avery. It started with Avery being handed a six game suspension for controversial remarks made about fellow players. He’d also been caught shouting obscenities at a fan after a game. Before a Dallas practice one morning, Avery walked in and told reporters “I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight.” He was referring to two NHL players dating two of his exes. He was quickly suspended. His time in Dallas was rightly short-lived, the organization opting to part ways with Avery.
20 Detroit Red Wings – Carlo Colaiacovo
Carlo Colaiacovo is one of few NHL players that has a twin also playing hockey professionally. The defenseman was selected 17th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but has played for five different NHL teams since then, one of them being the Wings. Now, the Wings are a storied franchise that have had a lot of success in recent years. But one of their bad moves was signing Carlo Colaiacovo to a two-year contract.
Golaiacovo would only play six games of that contract, mostly due to being riddled by injuries, and managed only one assist. He was eventually bought out the following season, and today he remains an unrestricted free agent. His most recent deals after joining the Red Wings have been small, one-year offers at the most.
19 Edmonton Oilers – Georges Laraque
The Georges Laraques of the league are finally dying down as the NHL grows faster, and fourth lines are used for speed rather than intimidation. Laraque was one of the best fighters in the last class of fighters in the NHL, and became quite a personality off the ice as well, starring in movie roles such as Goon. However, his skills on the ice were no match to his grit, and watching him skate felt as unnatural as watching him act.
Selected 31st overall in 1996 (something that would never happen in a modern day draft) by the Edmonton Oilers, Laraque went on to play for them until the 2005-06 season – the first season after the lockout. In 72 games played that year, the big man managed just 12 points and only 73 PIMs, leading to a trade that sent him to the Coyotes for a season.
18 Florida Panthers – George Parros
If there was one NHL player who was there simply to intimidate, that was George Parros. The tall, 225-pound monster was a terror on the ice, a Greek War God that left it all on the ice. Of course he could barely skate, had atrocious stick-handling, and almost never got points, with just 18 goals and 28 assists in 474 games. But he had heart, and sometimes that’s what a team needs.
He won the Cup with Anaheim in 2007, where he spent most of his career, but he left and signed a contract with the Panthers in 2012. In only 39 games, the Panthers had seen enough. It was obvious that Parros just couldn’t keep up with the speed of the game and wasn’t doing much at all while out there. After getting just two points, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens the following season. He did have a killer mustache though.
17 Los Angeles Kings – Dan Cloutier
Dan Cloutier made his way to the Kings after he was ran out of Vancouver by none other than Mr. Twitter himself, Roberto Luongo. He later said that “he loved playing in Vancouver the most” in his career, having been there for six seasons before heading to L.A. Although his numbers were quite above average when with Vancouver, his game deteriorated as a King. Maybe leaving a city he clearly loved got the better of him; or maybe the Canucks were just putting a better team in front of him.
Cloutier’s numbers dropped significantly, recording just six wins and 14 losses in his first season, with a .860 save percentage and 3.98 GAA. Riddled with bad luck and a few injuries to boot, Cloutier’s game fell to an all-time low. The Kings would buy out his contract the following year, and Cloutier would end up working as an assistant coach in the Central Hockey League. Some may call that a downgrade; that’s because it is one.
16 Minnesota Wild – Marc Chouinard
Chouinard was a centre who showed a bit of promise when he was in the Juniors. He was drafted 32nd overall by none other than the Winnipeg Jets (the original Jets), although he never actually played with the team. He eventually got his chance with the Ducks, and then ended his career with the Minnesota Wild for two seasons, the seasons before and after the lockout.
Although he was a point producing top forward in the minors, he found no success in the NHL. He had scoring potential that was slowed down by his skating abilities. He was used mostly as a checking line centre and the guy you park in front of the net because he’s impossible to move. He signed as unrestricted free agent for a final NHL team the following season, the Vancouver Canucks.
Although he’s not officially retired from hockey, Chouinard hasn’t played in over two and a half seasons.
15 Montreal Canadiens – Scott Gomez
There really isn’t a way to put it into words. The amount of disappointment, heartbreak, and utter frustration that Scott Gomez caused the Montreal Canadiens was extreme. First of all, when he first came to Montreal in 2009 in a seven-player trade, he costed the Canadiens an annual cap hit of $7.4 million through the 2013-14 season. Not to mention it required the Habs sending current New York Ranger captain Ryan McDonagh over there as well.
Gomez’s production in Montreal was dismal. In his last season, a year before his contract was up, he played only 38 games and managed a meager 11 points. He was benched for the rest of the season and eventually bought out. To this day, Scott Gomez is one of the most hated names in Montreal, and that trade ranks in top five worst trades in an over century long team history.
14 Nashville Predators – Andrei Kostitsyn
Kostitsyn’s time in Nashville wasn’t as productive as his years playing for the Habs. He was traded there in 2012 by Montreal, and played a total of 19 games, netting four goals and eight assists in the process. Then one night before Game 2 of their Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Coyotes, Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov were spotted at a Scottsdale bar at five in the morning, thus breaking curfew.
They would both be suspended for Game 3, and here’s what the GM David Poile had to say: “What they did was unacceptable and the coaches and myself had to come to the plate and do the right thing for the team. It happened. It's really unfortunate. It's selfish behavior and we'll just have to leave it at that.” The Predators made it pretty clear they would not re-sign him in the offseason, and Kostitsyn returned to play in Russia, never to be seen in the NHL again.
13 New Jersey Devils – Cam Janssen
There really isn’t much to say about Cam Janssen’s time in New Jersey. The American played 76 games for the Devils between 2011-2014, earning himself three goals and one assist in that spam. He also managed to stir up some controversy despite his low level status. In a game against the Leafs in 2007, Janssen knocked Tomas Kaberle unconscious with a very late hit to the head, prompting the league to serve him a three-game suspension. Here’s what Kaberle had to say: "I don't care [to hear from him]. He doesn't respect me and I don't respect him."
The winger was a fourth line filler to say the least. Even more concerning than his obvious lack of skill was an interview he gave in 2012 on The Thorn and Jeff Show. He made several controversial remarks, including derogatory statements about gay hockey players, not to mention he swore the entire time. Janssen retired earlier this year in August from the Nottingham Panthers.
12 New York Islanders – Rick DiPietro
Let’s start by putting a big fat asterisk next to Ricky’s name. Selected first overall in 2000 by the Islanders, he was their franchise goalie. He started playing regularly in the 2003-04 season, posting pretty strong numbers and becoming a good goalie in the league. Then in 2006, the Islanders went and signed the American to a 15-year, $67.5 million contract. Did he deserve it? Maybe not for that long, and the NHL certainly discouraged it.
After that, it was all downhill for “Rickety” DiPietro, which was his nickname after the series of unfortunate injuries that ruined the latter part of his career. From multiple knee surgeries to a torn meniscus, to constant knee-swelling, DiPietro suffered it all, and the Islanders ultimately made the difficult choice to buy him out, which means they have to pay the goalie until 2029. And that is why he is definitely their worst player after the lockout.
11 New York Rangers - Ryan Hollweg
Ryan Hollweg was drafted by the Rangers 238th overall. Like ex-Rangers coach Tom Renney said after he drafted him, "You want to give him a try. You just don't discount the heart and the character of a guy like that. Because these kinds of people will themselves into those opportunities." Despite the evident qualities of a warrior, and 311 PIMS in 200 games to show for it, the left winger never really impressed, and a dismal 12 points in 200 games is evidence enough.
Hollweg made himself a reputation as a gritty forechecker and occasional fighter since before he came into the NHL, and received the occasional suspension from the league for his action. However, what's more interesting is that he was the one who received the slash on the face from Chris Simon after checking him head first into the boards, leading to a 25-game suspension, one of the longest in NHL history.
10 Ottawa Senators – Guillaume Latendresse
Guillaume Latendresse went through his NHL career disappointing a lot of people, myself and every other Canadiens fan included. Drafted 45th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2005, the pressure for this kid to produce was almost immediate. He was a point-producing monster in the juniors and the Canadiens hoped this hometown boy could become the hero of the organization. It turned out he couldn’t, and after three disappointing seasons he was traded to the Wild for his NHL twin, Benoit Pouliot.
After three seasons with the Wild, Latendresse signed a one-year contract with the Senators. In the previous season, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher had accused him of not taking his preseason training regimen seriously. After watching his first few games with the Senators, you would probably say so as well. He played only 23 games with the Senators, being mostly scratched throughout the season, and would later be released by the team. That was the last NHL team he played for, which tells you a lot about his performance there.
9 Philadelphia Flyers – Zac Rinaldo
I may be biased here, just because I know enough about hockey to know I never liked Zac Rinaldo, and I probably never will. I’m not pretending to know the guy, but his behavior on the ice is reason enough. That’s why I think he’s by far the worst player Philadelphia has had since the lockout. In 223 games with the Flyers, he amassed an incredible 572 PIMs, 232 of those coming in first season back in 2011. The worst part is that he only had eight goals and 16 assists to show for it.
I’m not saying Rinaldo was completely useless or that his role was to score points; he was there to get under people’s skin, simple as that. But it goes to show how a player like that can waste a hole in your roster, where you could’ve put someone more talented. Considering Philly’s record in the past few years, they need all the talent they can get their hands on.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins – Shane Endicott
I’d be surprised if you ever heard of Shane Endicott, but the centre was actually selected 52nd overall in the 2000 NHL draft. Not bad for a player that currently plays his hockey in Italy’s Serie A with SG Pontebba. For a second I thought he had given up hockey and given soccer a shot (I didn’t even know there was a hockey rink in Italy, let alone a league). Endicott played four games in 2001, earning one assist before being sent down. It turned out being quite a while before he got another chance, but in the 2005-06 season he finally got his shot and dressed for 41 games. After only managing one goal and one assist, he was let go and continued to sign for NHL teams but only play for their AHL affiliates. So what does one do when he can no longer make it in the NHL? He goes to Italy of course.
7 San Jose Sharks – Frazer McLaren
Currently an unrestricted free agent, McLaren is having a really hard time finding himself needed in the NHL. At 6-foot-5, he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with – if he was able to skate fast enough to hit anyone. He was selected 203rd overall in the 2007 draft. He would only make his debut for the Sharks in 2009, and actually got an assist in his first ever game.
That’s pretty much where the glory ends. He would get six points with the Sharks in his first year, and zero points in the following 10 games over two years. He had a stint in between with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who quickly placed him on waivers before his contract was up. He would get five points for the Leafs in 62 games, making his NHL total 11 points.
6 St. Louis Blues – Maxim Lapierre
Maxim Lapierre defines the term “sh**” disturber. He disturbs me and all I do is watch him play. I’ve never been a huge Lapierre fan, even during his time with the Canadiens, where I endured him. His success with the Habs earned him a few contracts around the league afterwards, one of those being with the St. Louis Blues. He signed a two-year, $2.2 million contract with them, but never really found much success as a fourth liner.
Lapierre is also one of the most hated NHL players in the league. A history of cheap shots, head shots, and an undying energy make him quite the pest. After that, he would play 35 games with the Penguins and score no goals, prompting a move to the Swedish Hockey League the following season.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning – Matt Smaby
For the who aren’t familiar with the name, Smaby was an NHL defenseman selected 41st overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He played all of his 106 games in the NHL with the Bolts, earning juts six assists, no goals, and 106 PIMS. The defenseman really struggled to succeed in the NHL, and the Lightning did not offer him a contract after the 2010-11 season. He’s tried out for a few teams since then, but no NHL team has signed him as of yet.
And what do you do when you’re officially not good enough for the NHL? You go play in Europe, which is exactly what Smaby did. He’s been playing for EHC München for the past three seasons and doesn’t look primed for an NHL return any time soon.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs – David Clarkson
I know David Clarkson must still leave the bitterest of tastes in the mouths of poor Toronto fans, but this is a deal that actually happened. I know it seems way in the past now, but I know the scars are still there. David Clarkson was a decent point producer in the league. He was not spectacular. He was definitely not franchise player. His best point tally was 46 points with the New Jersey Devils, 30 of those being goals, in the 2011-12 season. So when the Maple Leafs signed Clarkson to a seven-year deal for $5.25 million a season, it came somewhat as a shock. Still we waited, thinking that the people at the top who made this decision must know something, must see something that us regular folk just don’t see.
But that wasn’t the case either. Clarkson may even be one of the worst busts since the lockout. He had 11 points in 60 games during his first season, and 15 points in 58 games in his second season. This was worse than the Scott Gomez ordeal in Montreal. He was so horrid that the Leafs traded him to the Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton, who hasn’t played since 2014, and who will likely never play in the league again.
3 Vancouver Canucks – Jeff Cowan
Jeff Cowan played a total of 88 games for the Vancouver Canucks over two seasons, earning just seven goals and 11 points in the process. What’s uniquely funny is that he scored six of his seven goals towards the end of the first season, earning him unexpected popularity and even helped him secure a two-year, $1.45 million contract extension.
That money proved to be badly spent as Cowan would only manage just one assist in the following season, unable to find the form that we had a glimpse of last time around. His season was also riddled with a few injuries, and he was limited to just 46 games. Still one assist in 46 games is brutal to say the least. On a much chiller note, he was nicknamed “Cowan the Bra-barian” after someone threw their bra on the ice after one of his goals.
2 Washington Capitals – Milan Jurcina
Jurcina is a Slovakian defenseman who was drafted in 2001. He was the 231st pick, so we know he wasn’t really destined to do great things in the league. Still, his 6-foot-4, 253-pound frame was scary to say the least, and imagine that on skates. He definitely wasn’t the quickest, but he used his body fairly well. Drafted by the Bruins, he played 91 games there over three seasons, before being traded to the Capitals.
His time in Washington was spent between the farm team and the Caps. He played four seasons in Washington, with six goals and 26 assists to show for it. In terms of offensive contribution, the defenseman was weak, although he found ways to please management since they kept him there for so long.
1 Winnipeg Jets – Ondrej Pavelec
Ondrej Pavelec isn’t necessarily a horrible goalie; he’s just as inconsistent as they get. And in the NHL, you’ll get nowhere fast if you can’t find consistency as a netminder. Why do I say that he’s the worst Jets player since the lockout? Because the Jets organization must not know what to do with him. One minute he’s playing like a top NHL goalie, the other he simply isn’t.
He signed with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007 (now the Winnipeg Jets) and has been with the organization ever since. His numbers have been just good enough to give him the number one spot, occasionally fighting for it with the other goalie when his game gets particularly bad. However, Pavelec is known to make routine shots look quite dangerous, and let in a quick successions of goals when things were going just fine.
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