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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins – Shane Endicott
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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