The 2016-17 NHL season has been a lot more exciting for Canada so far. We saw all seven teams miss the playoffs last year and they all secured early draft picks. Playoff ratings were way down and rightfully so — who in Canada wants to watch hockey when your team isn’t in it?! Or when your country isn’t in it?
Any who, we have the Montreal Canadiens leading the ultra-difficult Atlantic Division, with the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs also vying for the second and third seeds. The Edmonton Oilers are on the edge of ending an 11-year playoff drought, while the Calgary Flames are in solid position to make it for the second time in three years.
The Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets look prepared to pick in the top-five once again. So while we’ve had some great, good, mediocre and terrible Canadian teams this season, one thing remains common among them: They each have a number of disappointing players so far in 2016-17.
21. Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Miller
The Vancouver Canucks opted to try to compete for a playoff spot in 2016-17 instead of doing the common sense thing called rebuilding. By that, they chose to keep veteran goalie Ryan Miller on the final year of his contract. So far, it’s been a not-so-great decision.
Miller has a 15-16-3 record, and his 2.65 goals against average and .916 save percentage are mediocre at best. He’s two years removed from a 29-15-1 season with a 2.53 GAA and .911 save percentage with six shutouts. Vancouver is barely alive in the playoff race, but they’re more realistically going to look at a top-five pick.
Considering how the younger Jacob Markstrom looks ready and promising prospect Thatcher Demko needs his chance soon, Vancouver made a huge mistake in hoping Miller could post another strong season. His efforts haven’t helped them stay as competitive as they wanted at the start of the season.
20. Edmonton Oilers: Jesse Puljujarvi
The Oilers were the NHL’s second-worst team last year, but fell to the third-overall selection. They opted to take 6-foot-5, 221-pound Finish right winger Jesse Puljujarvi. Considering Edmonton is bound to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, you would expect the rookie to be a big part of them.
Puljujarvi hasn’t been able to log consistent minutes and has just one goal and seven assists in 28 games, averaging just 11:15 minutes per game. He wasn’t expected to be one of the Oilers top players, but they certainly expected him to be able to lock down a full-time roster spot. It’s not as though he’s destined to be a draft bust at this point, but the Oilers will really need more out of him and other forwards in the long haul. Connor McDavid can’t do it alone.
19. Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
Mark Giordano was in the midst of a potential Norris Trophy season in 2014-15, scoring 11 goals, 48 points and registering a plus-13 rating in 61 games until his campaign was cut short. He came back in 2015-16 with 21 goals and 56 points, but the Calgary Flames were among the NHL’s worst teams and ended up with the sixth-overall pick instead of a second-straight playoff spot.
So far, despite the Flames being in the postseason race, Giordano hasn’t been playing up to his usual standards. As of this writing, he has just six goals and 22 points this season — though he does hold an excellent plus-nine rating.
But Giordano and the Flames shouldn’t be fighting for their playoff lives this much. A miserable October and start to November put them way behind. Giordano also had just five points through his first 16 games. They definitely could have used a more productive start from him.
18. Winnipeg Jets: Toby Enstrom
Toby Enstrom was among the NHL’s most underrated and skilled blueliners early in his career. He had registered a pair of 50-point seasons from 2009-10 to 2010-11. But he’s been on a noticeably steep decline since then. Enstrom missed 20 games in 2011-12 and was limited to 33 points.
In 2013-14, he scored just 30 points then followed it up with 23 in 60 games during the 2014-15 season. Last year? 16 points, which was his worst in an 82-game season. He hasn’t been all that much better in 2016-17. Enstrom has just one goal and 14 points on the season with a terrible minus-three rating.
With Jacob Trouba missing the start of the season due to a contract dispute, the talented Jets defence underperformed significantly. It hasn’t gotten much better, and it starts with Enstrom’s struggles.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs: All Backup Goalies
Frederik Andersen has stood on his head in the Leafs crease, perhaps giving this team their first legitimate starter since Ed Belfour over a decade ago. Andersen has gone 23-12-10 with a 2.75 goals against average, 9.15 save percentage and three shutouts. Too bad the Leafs seem to give up on the ice any time he’s not between the pipes.
That’s because Toronto’s backup goalies have been amazingly awful, and head coach Mike Babcock hasn’t been able to find a solution. They moved on from veteran Jhonas Enroth after going 0-3-1 with a woeful 3.94 GAA and .872 save percentage. They then tried Antoine Bibeau, but he’s only made two starts.
They then gave veteran Curtis McElhinney a chance, but he has gone 2-3 with 12 goals allowed in those games. It’s simply difficult to pinpoint one specific backup who has disappointed for the Leafs. They all have!
16. Ottawa Senators: Derick Brassard
Derick Brassard hasn’t been a superstar in his career, but he has been a serviceable number two centre in recent years…until 2016-17. He scored a career-best 27 goals and totaled 58 points with the New York Rangers last season. Brassard also scored 19 goals and 60 points the season before.
The Senators were frustrated with the development of speedy Swede and former 2011 first-rounder, Mika Zibanejad. They traded the former 20-goal scorer to the Blueshirts and got Brassard to fill in their second-line centre role. Brassard is also six years older, so this trade was a massive risk for the Sens.
Though he hasn’t been terrible, Brassard has just nine goals and 27 points on the season, and is going to fall well short of the production totals he posted in the last two seasons. Considering Ottawa gave up a potential rising star who is cheaper, younger and more productive, Brassard’s decline in 2016-17 has been noticeable and worrisome to the team.
15. Montreal Canadiens: Brendan Gallagher
Though Brendan Gallagher has only played 40 games this season, he hasn’t been the effective player he usually is on the ice. Gallagher is coming off a trio of consecutive 40-point seasons while scoring 62 goals over those campaigns. Gallagher has been a nice top-six forward on the Habs, despite his smaller stature of 5-9, 284 pounds. But 2016-17 hasn’t been kind to Gallagher, even though the Habs are much better in 2016-17 than they were last season.
Gallagher has just six goals and 18 points on the season, and is playing just 15:07 per game after playing 16:35 per contest a year ago. Gallagher should be scoring more with Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk often playing on his line. But the Habs aren’t getting what they usually get out of their usually solid forward, but perhaps Gallagher will turn it around before long.
14. Vancouver Canucks: The Sedin Twins
To be fair to Daniel and Henrik Sedin, it’s not possible to emphasize enough how ridiculous, ignorant, putrid, repugnant, disgusting, awful, sad, gross, silly, wrong, unfair and preposterous it’s been for the Canucks to force these past-their-prime 36-year-olds to play top-line minutes every night.
The two highest-scoring Canucks ever are sadly seeing their great journeys come to an end. Henrik is on pace for 16 goals and 49 points, while Daniel is on pace for 17 goals and 45 points. These are not the usual totals for a pair that was putting up 70 points every year from 2005-06 to 2011-12.
Furthermore, the Canucks front office hasn’t been able to supply these twins with some forward help. Top scorer Bo Horvat is a second or third liner on most playoff teams. But the fact is, Daniel and Henrik are on their last legs. It’s a disappointing time to be a Canucks fan.
13. Edmonton Oilers: Milan Lucic
The Edmonton Oilers signed the towering power forward to a seven-year contract worth $42 million last offseason. Having the 2011 Stanley Cup champion line up with Connor McDavid was a match made in Heaven. However, it’s actually the surprising Patrick Maroon who is scoring with Edmonton.
Milan Lucic, who’s been a reliable 20-goal and 50-60 point man throughout his career, has just 11 goals and 31 points this season with a minus-five rating. This would make it the second time in three years where Lucic doesn’t score 20 goals.
His physical style, coupled with a series of lengthy playoff runs has seemingly worn down the 28-year-old quicker than expected. He hasn’t found his scoring ability on a star-studded Edmonton team, and it’s possible the Oilers are going to regret that hefty contract in the long run.
12. Calgary Flames: T.J. Brodie
T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano formed one of the best defensive pairings during the 2014-15 season. Brodie set a career high in goals (11), points (41), and plus-minus with plus-15. He logged 25:12 a came and helped the Flames reach the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. But things have gone downhill from there rather quickly.
Brodie did set a career-high in points last season with 45, but he and Giordano haven’t been the same pairing as we saw two years ago. Brodie has just three goals and 22 points on the season with a horrendous minus-25 rating. His defence has been a weak link in Calgary, even though it was once a commodity.
11. Winnipeg Jets: Drew Stafford
Drew Stafford has been a solid top-six forward throughout his career. He’s usually a threat to score 20 goals and 40 points in a season. The Jets traded for him two seasons ago and Stafford rewarded them with nine goals and 19 points in just 26 games. Stafford scored 21 goals and 38 points in 2015-16, suggesting he was going to be a long-term part of the Jets future.
But 2016-17 has been a frustrating season for many Jets, including Stafford. He has just four goals and 12 points and is on pace to have the worst season of his career (excluding the 48-game 2012-13 season).
He’s also a pending UFA, so Stafford’s timing to have an offseason isn’t exactly ideal. The Jets have a group of top-end scorers, but it hasn’t been enough to help Stafford play up to his usual potential.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs: Morgan Rielly
Morgan Rielly has been hyped as the long-term leader of the Maple Leafs defence for years to come. Rielly has gotten gradually better each season (now in his fourth year), but 2016-17 hasn’t shown as much progress as Mike Babcock and co. would have liked.
Rielly sits at 21 points on the season after scoring 36 a year ago, so there’s a strong possibility he could set a career high. But his overall defensive game hasn’t been that great, and perhaps it was too soon to rely on him as a top-two defenceman. He has a porous minus-eight rating and is averaging 1:14 less time on ice compared to last season.
9. Ottawa Senators: Cody Ceci
Cody Ceci was among the Ottawa Senators top prospects and became a mainstay over the last two seasons. He showed a lot of promise last season with 10 goals and 26 points with a plus-nine rating. The Senators appeared to have a franchise cornerstone ready to take the next level.
But 2016-17 has been a disastrous season for Ceci, who has just one goal and nine points with a terrible minus-nine rating. New head coach Guy Boucher has him playing 23:15 per game, which easily tops the 19:18 he played last year. But the Senators were among the league’s worst teams last season. This year, they’re in prime position to win the Atlantic Division.
8. Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price
The Canadiens’ franchise goalie won both the Hart and Vezina Trophy in 2015, and rightfully so. That 44-16-5 record with a 1.96 GAA, .933 save percentage and nine shutouts will go down as one of the best seasons in league history. Carey Price also went 10-2 in 2015-16 with a .934 save percentage, but a sprained MCL cut his season short. Everyone remembers that Montreal then unraveled and missed the playoffs altogether.
Price went on a roll to begin the 2016-17 season, winning his first 10 starts. But the Habs’ recent firing of Michel Therien can be somewhat attributed to the struggles of their star goaltender. Price had a frustrating December, going 5-3-3 with a mere .899 save percentage.
January was even worse for Price, going 5-6-1 with 33 goals allowed and a .906 save percentage. Sure, Price’s hot start to 2016-17 wasn’t sustainable, but there’s no excuse for him to suddenly perform as one of the league’s bottom-10 goalies over the last couple of months. Will he ever get it going again, or is it far too late?
7. Vancouver Canucks: Loui Eriksson
After finishing with the third-worst record in the NHL a season ago, the Canucks brought on Swedish sensation Loui Eriksson by signing him to a six-year contract worth $36 million. Eriksson was coming off a 30-goal, 63-point season with the Boston Bruins and appeared to be an ideal fit for fellow Swedes, Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the Canucks’ top line.
Eriksson hasn’t been anything close to the two-way force he was with the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars earlier in his career. He has just 11 goals and 22 points on the season with a minus-10 rating. This whole contract has blown up in the Canucks’ faces, given their desperate need to start a full-on rebuild.
6. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
The Oilers owe a big thanks to Connor McDavid, because there are a number of big-named Edmonton players who aren’t playing up to their usual standards. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is one of them, and you wonder if the first-overall pick from 2011 will ever develop into the mega star that was expected of him.
After posting 56 points in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, injuries limited Nugent-Hopkins to 55 games. He would score 12 goals and 34 points, but more was expected of him any way and it didn’t come around. 2016-17 was a fresh start for RNH, who has once again failed to meet expectations. He has just 11 goals and 26 points on the season and has a terrible minus-11 rating. Not what Edmonton was hoping for six years after drafting him.
5. Calgary Flames: Brian Elliott
When the Flames traded a second-round pick to the St. Louis Blues at last year’s draft in exchange for veteran goalie Brian Elliott, many thought that Calgary got him at a bargain of a price. It was hard to argue with that considering Elliott was coming off of a 23-8-6 season with a 2.07 goals against average and .930 save percentage with four shutouts.
Well, Elliott hasn’t panned out as much as the Flames had hoped. He’s gone just 12-13-2 with a 2.79 goals against average and .898 save percentage. Elliott had periodically lost his starting job to career backup Chad Johnson, but a recent resurgence by the former has made him the number one again.
However, the Flames were hoping Elliott would provide a valuable option in goal. He’s been inconsistent at best and may not even be their number one by the end of the season. Considering that they were close to landing star goalie Ben Bishop last year, Calgary could regret going in the other direction.
4. Winnipeg Jets: Connor Hellebuyck
Connor Hellebuyck has long been viewed as the future of the Winnipeg Jets crease. He showed plenty of promise in 2015-16 with a 13-11-1 record, 2.34 goals against average and .918 save percentage with two shutouts. Hellebuyck did this on a woeful Jets team that was one of the worst in the league last year.
Some wondered if the Jets could have made the playoffs for a second-straight year if he was their starter from the season opener. But Hellebuyck’s struggles in 2016-17 make that theory easy to dismiss. He is 18-15-1 in 2016-17 with an awful 2.77 goals against average and .910 save percentage.
Winnipeg was expected to be a top-three team in the Central Division by many prognosticators this season, but they’re looking like a team that could pick in the top-five again. Hellebuyck hasn’t shown any signs of being ready as a full-time number one starter so far.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs: Leo Komarov
The Maple Leafs were the NHL’s worst team in 2015-16, but Leo Komarov gave them a lot to be excited about. He scored 19 goals and 36 points in just 67 games. It appeared as though the veteran was on the verge of having a breakout season. But despite the talents of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner providing plenty of starpower, Komarov hasn’t been able to take advantage of that.
Komarov has just eight goals and 17 points on the season after being one of the Leafs’ top forwards last season. He has at least been better defensively, posting a plus-seven rating after being minus-12 last season. Komarov looks more like a one-year wonder right now than a hidden gem on the rise. At least they’ve got the young guys doing the scoring.
2. Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan
Per CapFriendly.com, Bobby Ryan’s cap hit is $7.25 million and that figure will remain the same over the next five seasons. But what are the Senators getting out of that? Third-line caliber production from the four-time 30-goal scorer.
In his first three seasons with Ottawa, Ryan scored at least 20 goals and 50 points twice each, and was expected to once again bring more offence to the table. However, Ryan hasn’t been a fit in Guy Boucher’s system. He has just 12 goals and 23 points on the season with a minus-two rating. Ryan is also playing nearly two less minutes per game than a year ago — showing that Boucher clearly doesn’t value him as much as previous coaches.
1. Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec has been a fan favorite with the Habs since joining them in 2003-04. He has seven 20-goal seasons under his belt and has scored 50-plus points in six different campaigns. He scored 14 goals and 54 points last season, even though it was one of the more forgettable campaigns in recent memory for the Canadiens.
Montreal is holding onto the top spot in the Atlantic Division right now, and there has been a ton of scoring all-around. However, very little of it is coming from Plekanec — seven goals and 23 points on the season. Plekanec is on pace for his worst season since 2005-06, when he was a 23-year-old in his second NHL season.
It appears as though age has caught up to the 34-year-old. But it doesn’t mean he’s protected from being exempt on this list; it hasn’t been a typical Plekanec season.
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