In a hockey world marred by the overpriced contract and misguided signings, we find a haven of overrated NHLers.
Overrated might be understood a number of ways, a player might be overrated by his franchise's management, a coach who plays him far too many minutes or a fan base that lives and dies by the player, blinded by an immovable bias that gives the player a shine seen only by those wearing the same jersey in the stands and in front of their TVs.
Because of the aforementioned overpriced contracts, these overrated players can be found on just about every NHL roster - some may boast multiple, although boast might not be the right word in this context.
While many of the players on the list are somewhat obvious, others might come as a touch of a surprise. Perhaps a team is devoid of a true overrated player, while others may be judged on unconventional factors.
As much as teams would love (for the most part) to unload themselves of these players - with some sort of return, if possible - the reality is that NHL teams will have to work around the practically unsolvable cap problem. A bad contract or an overvalued player might not always bury a team, but a lot of the times it does a lot more damage to a team's championship hopes than it does good.
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30 Anaheim Ducks - Ryan Kesler
During his Vancouver years, Ryan Kesler was widely considered one of the best players in the NHL. While his value goes beyond the statistics he puts in the goals and assist columns, one cannot dispute that Kesler's reputation has been based on a very small sample size considering the length of his career. Kesler had three excellent seasons in Vancouver between 2008-2011, however since 2011 Kesler's offensive numbers have been mediocre and his defensive numbers and possession metrics have taken a hit. The Ducks might have gotten Kesler at a palatable $5 million, but he remains one of the league's most overrated players.
29 Arizona Coyotes - Antoine Vermette
For years, Antoine Vermette was given a long leash by fans and pundits alike due to his misfortune of playing on a horrendous Phoenix/Arizona roster during what were arguably the prime years of his career.
Vermette was finally released from his perceived hell last season, as he was shipped to Chicago at the trade deadline en route to a Stanley Cup run and victory. Vermette, who was expected to slide right into the Hawks second-line void, disappointed severely in ChiTown and while he had a few big moments during the playoffs, his overall play left much to be desired.
A small sample size, you might say? Not enough time to mesh with the high-flying Hawks? Hogwash! Vermette's possession numbers have been below average since his days in Columbus. In the right situation, Vermette can be a useful player, but he's far from "The Missing Piece" type of forward that everyone made him out to be last season.
28 Boston Bruins - Matt Beleskey
When Matt Beleskey is considered one of the top free agent options during any particular summer, you know it's a weak class.
Beleskey went on a bit of a hot streak at the right time and teams around the league - as usual - allowed the whole picture to be clouded by one very nice part of it. Beleskey was pursued by numerous teams, but landed in Boston, essentially replacing Milan Lucic for nearly the same price.
Why Bruins management thought this was a good idea, no one will ever truly understand. Beleskey is a classic grinder with some offensive touch. He got hot playing alongside two of the league's elite - Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry - and fooled everyone into believing he can be a top-six scoring power forward.
Besides last season's breakout performance, Beleskey's highest goal output was 11 in 2009-2010. Injuries may have slowed him down over the years, but it's hard to believe he's all of a sudden become a legitimate scoring threat.
27 Buffalo Sabres - Evander Kane
It may still happen, but we're still waiting for the Evander Kane breakout year that will justify all the years of propping up the player to elite scorer status. Kane scored 30 goals and finished with 57 points in 2011-2012 - other than that, he's been a JAG (Just a Guy). He's run into injury problems the last few years, but it's not like he was tearing it up when he was able to step on the ice. Throughout the first part of his career, he's been nothing more than a big, high volume shooter and he has, for the most part, been below average in his own end of the ice - which wouldn't matter if he would produce the way everyone expects him to.
26 Calgary Flames - Dougie Hamilton
This may seem unfair to some, as Hamilton is seemingly in a rut more than anything else as he adjusts to life in Calgary. That being said, Hamilton was supposed to establish himself as a top-end defenseman this year and he's doing the exact opposite. He's looked lost in his own zone and hasn't been able to make up for it with offensive production. Granted, the Flames are a mess overall, but Hamilton was supposed to come in and strengthen a unit that was considered one of the deepest in the league last season. Many still consider him a top-two pairing talent (myself included), but if his performance continues along this trajectory, we may be forced to lower our expectations.
25 Carolina Hurricanes - Jordan Staal
Are we done believing the "Jordan Staal is a top-end offensive talent" crowd?
Good. Some of us tuned that drivel out a long time ago. Many believe Staal was buried on a Pittsburgh roster boasting Crosby and Malkin up the middle, so a trade seemingly made sense for both sides. Pittsburgh hasn't been able to regain the intimidation factor it possessed when teams had to deal with Staal as opposed to Brandon Sutter or Nick Bonino, while Staal has been a bust in Carolina. Even though the team is bad overall, he's gotten to play with his brother Eric and Jeff Skinner, among others, so the talent is there around him, but he hasn't been able to capitalize on the opportunity.
24 Chicago Blackhawks - Corey Crawford
It's painful to have to slot a guy like Corey Crawford into a list like this, but the Blackhawks loaded roster didn't leave many options. Crawford "wins out" because there have been too many instances where he's had to pick up the slack and hasn't been able to do so. Crawford was phenomenal during most of last year's Cup run and fairly good in 2013, but his playoff numbers take a significant dip in the years the Hawks were eliminated while he was the team's starter.
Look at it this way, if you must: there's absolutely no reason that Scott Darling, a minor league journeyman and improbable success story, garners as much support for him to be the starter over a 30-year old. two-time Cup champion like Crawford.
23 Colorado Avalanche - Semyon Varlamov
Remember when Varly was a Vezina finalist and a top candidate for MVP a few years ago?
Yeah, those memories are fading faster than the Avalanche's playoff hopes.
He's stuck behind a horrendous possession team, but Varlamov's play has taken a serious nosedive since his career year in 2013-2014. He's currently lugging around a 3.26 GAA an .890 save percentage.
This isn't a sudden occurrence either, as his number took a large dip last season too, the season following his Vezina finalist year. Something happened over the past two years and if Varlamov and the Avs don't figure it out soon, Varlamov won't even warrant consideration for a list like this.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets - David Savard
I hate to rail on someone who seems like a decent guy and a really hard worker, but someone had to slow down the David Savard hype train. Yes, Savard is a relatively solid player and for the most part is reliable - however, he's not the second coming of Duncan Keith (the solid, not that flashy number one defenseman who puts up a ton of points without anyone really noticing until the end of the year). Savard's possession numbers are not good and. even in a breakout offensive season last year, he still finished even in the plus/minus department. Savard's a good No. 4, maybe a No. 3 - but the Jackets and Savard fans to relax with the notion that he's going to be a No. 1 anytime soon.
21 Dallas Stars - Ales Hemsky
One of the league's most enigmatic players over the past decade, Alex Hemsky continues to fool people into thinking he's still good offensive player.
Hemsky had some fantastic years as an Oiler - no one will ever question that. But no one should be talking about Hemsky when they start rattling off some of the firepower at Lindy Ruff's disposal. Hemsky is down the list, even behind some of the defensemen on the team. Hemsky hasn't been a relevant offensive player since 2010-2011, and even then there was a lot left to be desired.
20 Detroit Red Wings - Mike Green
Mike Green was overrated in Washington and he's not going to escape that label just because he's on a different team - especially one that has a history of squeezing ever last bit of production (points or otherwise) that comes through its ranks. Green spent the majority of his time in Washington riding Alex Ovechkin's coattails (save for the years he was popping 20-30 goals a year - no one can take that away from him), and it appears the Red Wings thought they could add some offense from the back end with the addition of Green. Like Hemsky, Green hasn't been much of an offensive threat (we can maybe exclude last season - except he still lost minutes to John Carlson despite his 46-point year) since 2010 and it's hard to expect him to just turn back the clock and start breaking defenseman goal-scoring records again.
19 Edmonton Oilers - Benoit Pouliot
This might only apply to the people who actually signed Pouliot, but he fits right into this slot before some of the plumbers on the Oilers and the top-end talent that doesn't deserve to be on this list.
Pouliot has been a bust in every sense of the word, but he's still managed to be a decent NHL player. That being said, he's barely worth $4 million a year and he definitely didn't warrant a five-year commitment. He's yet to crack 20 goals or 40 points in an NHL season. What more do you need to know?
Then again...Oilers gonna Oilers.
18 Florida Panthers - Dave Bolland
It's absolutely mind-blowing to think that a guy like Dave Bolland was able to get $5.5 million dollars from a pretty well-respected general manager like Dave Tallon (might be time to give your agent a raise, Dave). Bolland has never cracked twenty goals or fifty points, but he's continuously valued and paid like a top-six forward. The cap hit doesn't hurt as much for a team like Florida, who have a ton of young guys on cheap deals, but they better hope their massive overvaluation of Bolland doesn't come back to bite them down the road, because no one is taking that player for that price.
17 Los Angeles Kings - Marian Gaborik
It really is too bad that a guy with as much talent as Marian Gaborik has to end up on a list like this, but it's easy to argue that this is a case where the brand is doing more for the money than the actual product. Gaborik was once considered among the NHL elite, and while many still do, they are basing it on his past performances and not on what is happening right in front of their faces.
Six million dollars should get you more than 47 points, which was the case last season. He's gotten off to a very slow start this year as well, with a goal and an assist in 15 games. Don't be surprised to hear Gaborik's name floating around the rumor mill if his lack of production continues.
16 Minnesota Wild - Nino Niederreiter
Once considered the player who would single-handedly pull Switzerland out of hockey obscurity and into the world of hockey powers, Niederreiter has become nothing more than a luxury for the Wild - luxury in the sense that he's not a need, he's a want, due tothe fact that many still think he can be a top-end offensive talent.
Sure, Nino can score goals, but he's not the pure offensive talent we all thought he would become. He's an opportunistic scorer, not an elite sniper - barely a sniper, as a matter of fact. That could change one day, but for now we're fine with this judgement.
15 Montreal Canadiens - Dale Weise
Everyone in Montreal is loving what Dale Weise has been doing since he was acquired, but people need to take it easy with the comparisons to Guy Lafleur, no matter how tongue-in-cheek they may be.
Weise got off to a scorching hot start, following up on a solid performance in the playoffs, but everyone needs to understand that it's very unlikely that Weise will be able to sustain his torrid pace. Besides the fact that this is likely nothing more than a hot streak is the issue of ice-time and shooting percentage. Weise is averaging about 14 minutes a game and up to this point has scored on 20.5% of his shots. That's going to balance out pretty quickly - hopefully before Marc Bergevin decides to call Weise's agent about a contract extension.
14 Nashville Predators - Ryan Ellis
This one was really hard, to the point where it should have an asterisk next to it. The only reason Ryan Ellis "gets the nod" is because he had incredibly high expectations coming out of junior and while he's been good, he still hasn't reached the level we all thought he would have reached by now. It might still happen and if it does the Predators are going to be an absolute force, but for now Ellis is still down on the Predators defensive totem pole.
13 New Jersey Devils - Travis Zajac
Take away the talent Travis Zajac used to play with and this is what you get - the real Travis Zajac, a 40-50 point player devoid of the game-breaking ability he was seemingly flashing alongside the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Zajac is still a nice player to have on your roster, but he's not a guy you want eating up a chunk of your salary cap or being relied upon as the team's top-line center, let alone a top offensive threat. Adam Henrique is slowly but surely nudging Zajac down the depth chart, but Zajac has a ton of security thanks to his big contract and lack of suitors, so he'll likely continue to get looks whether he struggles to put up points or not.
12 New York Islanders - Mikhail Grabovski
Depending on who you ask, you might get a response along the likes of "I've never considered Grabovski as overrated, he's never deserved that kind of recognition" - which would be quite telling. Grabovski, though, was given a fat contract and didn't think twice after seeing the number. He's fine, but he's not the offensive talent he was supposed to when he broke into the NHL with the Habs. He's a polarizing player - when people are actually paying attention to him - and has "enigma" written all over him (helps to learn from Alex Kovalev).
11 New York Rangers - Rick Nash
Yeah, we went there.
That sound you hear is Rangers fans losing their minds, perhaps mixed in with a few Jackets supporters who still have a soft spot for Nash.
Sure, Nash is a 40-goal scorer. Sure, Nash is an intimidating power-forward. However, many talk about him as an elite player - in the discussion alongside the likes of Stamkos, Perry and Ovechkin.
Is he really? Let's find out.
For a guy who's scored nearly 400 goals in the NHL, his goal totals have fluctuated drastically several times. He's also only topped 70 points once in his career.
"But he won the Rocket Richard Trophy!", they'll cry. Nash won the trophy with 41 goals, the lowest total in the trophy's history (excluding the lockout year) - and he was tied with two other guys.
"But he's scored 30 eight times!" they'll roar. Sure, but how many times have you heard the phrase "Nash can do more" or "Nash has more in him?" Rick Nash is expected to finish over 40 goals every season, and rightfully so, because he has as much talent as anyone in the league and he's making close to eight million - and yet he's only done it three times.
I like Rick Nash and I'd take him on my team in a heartbeat - but don't put him on the same level as the players mentioned above.
10 Ottawa Senators - Bobby Ryan
This one, unlike the last one, was relatively easy.
Bobby Ryan hasn't been the player the Ottawa Senators thought they were getting a few years back and Senators fans have every right to be a little aggravated by the streaky Ryan. He would fill the net with ease while he was in Anaheim, but he hasn't been able to find his touch in Ottawa. Despite this, he's still viewed as a top-end scorer who's just going through a tough stretch.
Maybe - or maybe he's still adjusting to live without Anaheim's dynamic duo.
9 Philadelphia Flyers - Sam Gagner
Sam Gagner become a YouTube sensation when YouTube was becoming an Internet sensation while the Internet was becoming a world sensation...you still following? Point is, we know how things get overblown these days, so imagine when social media and "virtual sharing" was new to us all. How excited were you to show your friends this London Knights phenom who could deke any goalie out of his equipment and back into the suit he left in the locker room?
The Oilers scouting staff might have used those videos to scout Gagner because he never truly lived up to his high draft selection. Despite this, teams continue to give Gagner a prominent offensive role with the notion in their heads that they're the ones who are going to crack the Gagner code.
Give it up, guys. Sam Gagner: 10-15 goals, 40 points, rocky in his own zone. Nothing more, nothing less (but mostly nothing more).
8 Pittsburgh Penguins - David Perron
David Perron showed a lot of potential as a member of the St. Louis Blues, but ever since he left Missouri, he's been a shell of himself. Once projected to become a top-end sniper, Perron has struggled to at the very least remain consistent. He got plenty of chances in Pittsburgh last season, but he never grabbed his chance and it forced the Pens to go out and pick up Phil Kessel to fill the surprising offensive void on a team that boasts two of the best offensive players of this generation.
7 San Jose Sharks - Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau is going to hit 1,000 points any day now, and while it's quite the accomplishment, it doesn't do anything to change the fact that he's been one of the most overrated NHLers of the past decade.
For starters, Marleau only started putting up huge numbers when Joe Thornton rolled into California in 2005-2006. He sprinkled in some less than stellar seasons during the Sharks "glory years," but was helped out by a strong supporting cast, led by Jumbo Joe.
The fact that we'll always wonder what Marleau would have ended up doing on his own is just about everything you need to know regarding his spot on this list.
6 St. Louis Blues - Paul Stastny
Not sure where people got the idea that Paul Stastny is a top-line, elite center, but he's proven to be far from it - of late, at least.
Stastny had some stellar seasons at the beginning of his career in Colorado, but he's come back down to Earth and settled into 50-60 point range, where he'll likely ride out his career. The Blues thought they were getting a No. 1 center when they acquired him - now they have a player who'll be fighting with Scott Gomez, of all people, for third-line minutes when he returns from injury.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning - Ryan Callahan
Ryan Callahan is probably a hell of a leader - he's led teams deep into the playoffs more than once over the course of his career - but one has a right to question whether or not leadership is worth close to $6 million a season. Callahan has been a complimentary scorer his entire career, topping out at 29 nearly five years ago. It's not like he's expected to go off for 30 a season, but Steve Yzerman and the Bolts might be regretting overvaluing Callahan once their young guys are up for new deals - and that's without mentioning Steven Stamkos' upcoming contract negotiations.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs - Dion Phaneuf
Let's be honest, you all knew this was coming. There's hardly a need to even get into the stats. Phaneuf came out of the starting blocks like Usain Bolt and looked like he was going to be a pillar on the Flames blueline for the next twenty years. He didn't float back down to Earth - he basically pulled a Humpty Dumpty and no one has been able to put him back together again. Still, the Leafs insist on using him like a No. 1 defenseman - although it's not like they have many alternatives. What's more impressive is that Phaneuf has actually garnered serious attention from other teams around the league over the past few seasons, despite his less than stellar play.
3 Vancouver Canucks - Ryan Miller
You could do a lot worse than Ryan Miller between the pipes, but don't go spouting off things like "Ryan Miller is a top-10 goaltender" without expecting to get some incredulous looks, at the very least.
Miller's career .915 GAA and 2.58 GAA leave a lot to be desired, considering he's been on really good teams and has played during an era of NHL hockey where goals have been much harder to come by. He's won a bunch of games, but the W stat is slowly but surely losing its luster - as it has in baseball - with the amount of data we have to work with in this era of sport.
Let's not even get into the playoff struggles, or the Golden Goal, or we'll just end up ruining everyone's day.
2 Washington Capitals - Brooks Orpik
Brooks Orpik is a nice player to have on your team, except he's now 35 years old and is being paid about the same as his teammate, Matt Niskanen, to do a lot less than what Niskanen does. We're starting to see the player's decline, yet the Capitals continue to deploy Orpik like an above-average, top-four shutdown defenseman. Eventually Orpik is going to be a salary cap burden that the Caps will be unable to continue to handle and it won't be easy to get out from underneath that dead weight.
1 Winnipeg Jets - Dustin Byfuglien
Easily one of the most overrated players in the NHL, Dustin Byfuglien has been able to slip under the label for years thanks to his size and his ability to play two positions. No one should be confusing the big Jet for Sergei Federov, though - Byfuglien, on more than one occassion, has been moved around between positions because he was struggling more than anything else. He's never topped 20 goals and while he's a good possession player, he's still managed to find himself on the ice for too many goals against over the course of his career.
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