The seven NHL Canadian teams have a significant impact on the beautiful country’s culture. Seven of the biggest cities in North America have their own NHL team, where an entire city sits around the living room television to cheer on their team. It’s a significant part of culture in the Great White North.
Hockey is Canada’s game, and even though we haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1993, it hasn’t stopped us from supporting our team and tuning into Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday – even if we’re secretly cheering for our teams to lose in hopes of getting a higher draft choice.
Every NHL team has its own stars…and its own not-so-good players. Each Canadian team has a number of players that really are doing more harm than good, however. Here is a look at the three worst players from each of the seven Canadian NHL teams, through the first two months of 2016-17.
21. Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Miller
To sum up the Vancouver Canucks questionable decisions over the years when it comes to the crease, they traded a pair of established number ones in Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo in an eight-month span. Their idea was to then sign fading veteran Ryan Miller to a three-year deal worth $18 million.
Miller’s first year with the Canucks was a huge success, as he posted a 29-15-1 record with a 2.53 goals against average and .911 save percentage with six shutouts. The Canucks would reach the playoffs after a horrendous 2013-14 season. Then Miller showed his age in 2015-16, going 17-24-9 with a 2.70 goals against average and .916 save percentage.
The Canucks were the NHL’s third-worst team that year. Miller has been incredibly frustrating in 2016-17. As of this writing, he’s 6-9 with a 2.89 goals against average (the worst of his career as a starter), and .909 save percentage. It’s amazing how Jacob Markstrom hasn’t been named the sole number one starter yet.
20. Calgary Flames: T.J. Brodie
It doesn’t feel right putting T.J. Brodie on here. He’s only two seasons removed from a career-year in which he scored 11 goals and 41 points while posting a plus-15 rating as the Flames reached the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Brodie then posted a career-best 45 points last season. But right now, he’s one of the worst players on the Flames. I do trust him to turn it around eventually, but it’s very difficult to ignore his woeful stats so far: Two goals and nine points in just 32 games with an awful minus-18 rating. Brodie should feel lucky if he gets halfway to the 45 points he posted last season at this rate.
To be fair to Brodie, new head coach Glen Gulutzan’s running a much more puck possession-heavy system, and the Flames started out slow in October and November. But again, he’s doing more harm than good right now.
19. Edmonton Oilers: Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian had a lot of promise being the 13th-overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He played for Team Canada at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship, but he’s failed to live up to the hype so far. After showing flashes as a decent power forward in Vancouver, Kassian failed to do much in Montreal and now finds himself in Edmonton.
The Oilers’ big turnaround thus far has led to us overlooking Kassian’s struggles. He only has one goal and one assist through his first 29 games with a plus-one rating. He’s averaging just 11:54 of ice time and isn’t going to crack top-six minutes with Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Benoit Pouliot and Patrick Maroon taking up most of it.
18. Winnipeg Jets: Michael Hutchinson
Michael Hutchinson showed plenty of promise as the Winnipeg Jets potential number one goalie in 2014-15. He went 21-10-5 with a 2.38 goals against average and .914 save percentage as the Jets made the playoffs. Sadly for Hutchinson, a cloud named “One year wonder,” looms over his head.
He was porous last season with a 9-15-3 record, 2.84 goals against average and .907 save percentage. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Hutchinson has struggled to even look like a decent backup in 2016-17. Though starter Connor Hellebuyck hasn’t been much better, Hutchinson’s 3-6-2 record with a horrible 3.14 goals against average and .896 save percentage has left a lot to be desired in Winnipeg.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs: Ben Smith
To be honest, it was a bit tricky to find three struggling players on the Maple Leafs. No one outside of Auston Matthews had high expectations coming into the season, and of course he’s soaring through the hype. Toronto isn’t going to be a playoff team in 2017, but they’re getting plenty of production all over the lineup.
However, Ben Smith is simply one person who isn’t getting it done for Toronto. This is a man who scored 14 goals for the Chicago Blackhawks (as a bottom-six forward) in 2013-14. It does appear as though Smith won’t be more than a fourth-liner at this point. He has just two goals and an assist so far with the Leafs. Like Zack Kassian, don’t expect a turnaround for Smith unless he gets to be put on a top line with their young star centre.
16. Ottawa Senators: Chris Neil
It’s really hard to have to do this. Chris Neil just played his 1,000th NHL game, got a great celebration from the Senators and is a fan favorite because of his willingness to drop the gloves when the time is necessary. But for Neil, he’s simply lacking production to be an NHL regular at this point.
He’s played 29 games for the Senators, but only has one goal and one assist. He has a porous minus-six rating. Neil has taken 40 penalty minutes and has posted 2,499 (and counting) in his career. Believe us – that’s not a great stat to have. There’s nothing good about putting your team shorthanded so frequently.
Neil isn’t much of a skater at this point and has a tendency to hook or trip a guy if he can’t catch up to him. The Senators won’t move on from him because of the sentimental factor. So Senators fans have to accept him taking away ice time from a better player.
15. Montreal Canadiens: Mark Barberio
The Canadiens actually have one of their best rosters in recent memory. Nobody is getting scored on a lot, they have five guys who could easily score 20-plus goals and of course Carey Price and the defence are among the best in the league. That being said, Mark Barberio is surely a weak link on this team.
The thing is, bottom-pairing defencemen aren’t really asked to do much of anything other than just take up minutes and give the top-four blueliners a rest. But that doesn’t give Barberio a free pass. The Montreal native who plays for Montreal has suited up in just six games and has a plus-one rating with one assist so far this season.
14. Vancouver Canucks: Erik Gudbranson
The Vancouver Canucks are known for often making terrible trades. Here’s a great example.
Jim Benning traded away promising young centre Jared McCann and a pair of draft picks for Gudbranson, the third pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The expectation would be that the six-foot-five, 220-pound blueliner would give the Canucks a solid stay-at-home defenceman and help the team compete against their physical rivals from California.
So far…so bad! The Canucks lack speed and talent which McCann possesses. Erik Gudbranson isn’t even producing like a bottom-pairing defenceman. He has one goal, five assists and is a woeful minus-14. That’s very bad for a guy who averages 20:20 of ice time per game. The Canucks have made awful trades in the past, but so far, this could be worse than the Gretzky Trade.
13. Edmonton Oilers: Matt Hendricks
It wasn’t easy finding a not-so-great player on the Oilers. Their defencemen are producing very well, their top-nine forwards are championship-caliber and the depth is amazing. But unfortunately for Matt Hendricks, he’s not exactly the team’s best player, to but it nicely.
Hendricks bounced around between Colorado, Washington and Nashville. He joined the Oilers in 2013-14, but hasn’t really established himself…as a bottom-six forward. Hendricks put up 25 points in 2010-11, but hasn’t put up more than 16 since. Hendricks is off to a bad start in 2016-17. In eight games, he’s posted just one assist and has a terrible minus-five rating.
12. Calgary Flames: Lance Bouma
Lance Bouma has the size (six-foot-one, 210 pounds) to be an impact forward for Calgary, but his sixth NHL season is leaving aplenty to be desired. 2014-15 appeared to be a breakout season after he scored 16 goals and 34 points. However, he played in just 44 games last season and scored two goals and seven points with a minus-six rating.
He hasn’t gotten off to a disappointing start in 2016-17. Bouma only has one goal and three assists in 16 games this season with a plus/minus of zero. The Flames don’t have much depth outside of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, so the chances are there for Bouma to move up to the second line.
11. Winnipeg Jets: Brandon Tanev
Brandon Tanev was signed by the Winnipeg Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Providence of the NCAA. I actually talked to their head coach last Spring and he had high praise for Tanev but refused to comment about his potential future in the NHL. Well, it hasn’t been a great start for the speedy winger, who has struggled to adjust to the NHL level.
He played three games last season without scoring a point, and has just two goals an an assist in 32 games played in 2016-17. Tanev also has a porous minus-five rating. With the Jets porous goaltending and the fact they still have so many promising forwards up front, it’s hard to see Tanev really turning it around right now. But hey, it is early to judge…
10. Toronto Maple Leafs: Nikita Soshnikov
So far, there haven’t been too many disappointments on the Leafs roster. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, and Morgan Rielly have been key in turning this team from awful to much better in 2016-17. But 23-year-old Russian winger Nikita Soshnikov isn’t giving this team a whole lot to be excited about right now.
After scoring just five points in 11 games with a minus-four rating a year ago, Soshnikov’s production suggests he could soon be back in the minors. Soshnikov has just one goal and three assists in 19 games played with a plus/minus rating of zero. He hasn’t adjusted well to Mike Babcock’s system and appears to be lost a lot of the time. Right now, he’s not doing much to help the Leafs.
9. Ottawa Senators: Curtis Lazar
The Senators drafted the speedy forward 17th-overall in 2013 with the hopes that he would blossom into a solid top-line player. Well, it’s been a slow process for Curtis Lazar, who has managed just 12 goals and 35 points in 153 NHL games. He has played in 10 games this season and really hasn’t shown any signs of getting it going.
Guy Boucher’s new system was meant to bring more structure to the Sens’ defence, and Lazar hasn’t adjusted well to it. It’s also hard for a struggling 21-year-old with speed to adapt to that style of play. Ottawa hasn’t shown a willingness over the years to stay patient with guys, and it’s starting to become now or never for Lazar.
8. Montreal Canadiens: Sven Andrighetto
Like I said earlier, it’s hard to complain about the Canadiens roster. They’re top-five in scoring and in goals-against per game. Having Carey Price and Shea Weber on your roster will cover up a lot of weaknesses. Just take a look at the man, the myth and the legend in Mr. Sven Andrighetto.
They took him 86th-overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but the Swiss sensation hasn’t found his footing…yet. Andrighetto had just three points in 12 games during the 2014-15 regular season. He followed it up with seven goals and 17 points in 44 games. But he’s played just seven games so far this season and has two assists, though he does hold a plus-two rating.
7. Vancouver Canucks: Luca Sbisa
Luca Sbisa’s made history as one of the first-born Italian NHL players. He was part of the Ryan Kesler trade and came over to Vancouver from Anaheim. That rightfully set high expectations for Sbisa in Vancouver, but he’s one of the many players this team has signed to a questionable contract.
He really failed to show much of anything in his first year with the Canucks, scoring three goals and eight points with a minus-eight rating. That was enough for GM Jim Benning to sign Sbia to a three-year extension worth $10.8 million.
Last year, he scored two goals and eight points in 44 games. 2016-17 has been rough for Sbisa, who has seven assists and a plus-three rating. Don’t let the plus/minus fool you: Sbisa’s a liability in his own zone and is carrying another immovable toxic contract on the Canucks. At least he’s a nice guy.
6. Edmonton Oilers: Matthew Benning
A sixth-round draft choice in 2012, Matthew Benning has already surpassed expectations by becoming an NHL regular. While he is a nice underdog story to cheer for, his first season with the Edmonton Oilers has been a disappointment. The six-foot-one, 195-pound blueliner still has plenty of time to establish himself in the NHL, but it’ll take a while until the 22-year-old is truly ready.
Benning has just four assists in 23 games as he awaits his first NHL goal. He has a plus-three rating but can thank the Oilers’ top forwards and Cam Talbot for that. Benning is averaging just 16:46 time on ice per game, and has a long way to go if he wants to be a top-four blueliner. We’re rooting for ya kid, but until then…
5. Calgary Flames: Brian Elliot
The Flames haven’t had a quality netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff when he was in his prime (which was probably in 2010). Calgary traded for St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliot at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, only having to surrender a second-round pick. It appeared to have been a bargain of a deal for the Flames. Unfortunately for the Flames, Elliot has been among the worst goaltenders so far in a number of stats.
He has an awful 3-9-1 record with a 3.31 goals against and .886 save percentage. Elliot’s struggles have led the Flames to go with career backup Chad Johnson, who has outplayed Elliot by miles.
It appears to be the end of the line for Elliot as a starter. It’s important to remember this man was a career backup before landing with the Blues. Calgary was his chance to remain a starter, but that ship may have sailed.
4. Winnipeg Jets: Mathieu Perreault
Mathieu Perreault was once a quality forward for both the Anaheim Ducks and the Winnipeg Jets – his current team. He scored 18 goals in each 2013-14 (with the Ducks) and 2014-15 (when he joined Winnipeg). For his efforts, the Jets signed him to a four-year extension worth $16.5 million.
There’s no doubt the Jets would like to take that deal back. Perreault had just nine goals and 41 points last season with a minus-11 rating. He’s struggled for much of 2016-17, with two goals and five points. Perreault also has a porous minus-eight rating. The Jets have plenty of talented forwards – ranging from Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler to rookie sensation Patrik Laine.
So the odds are stacked against Perreault to get a top-six role on the team. Chances are, the Jets remain stuck with this toxic contract. Maybe Vegas will do them a favor and take him off their hands.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs: Nikita Zaitsev
The Maple Leafs recruited the big Russian (six-foot-two, 196 pounds) from the KHL to join their team. There’s a lot of talent for Zaitsev, but it hasn’t transitioned well onto the NHL level. This really isn’t a surprise and I’m not going to doubt Mike Babcock’s ability as a head coach to turn him into something else. But for now, Zaitsev just made the list!
He’s searching for his first NHL goal. Zaitsev has 10 assists in his first 29 games, but he’s been a major liability on defence. Zaitsev has a porous minus-10 rating and is playing big minutes (22:02 time on ice per game). The Leafs are going to need much better if Zaitsev’s going to have a future in the NHL.
2. Ottawa Senators: Chris Kelly
The long-time Ottawa Senator rejoined the team this season after spending the last six seasons with the Boston Bruins. Though it’s been a nice ride for Chris Kelly (a third-round draft choice by the Sens in 1999) his playing days are nearing the end.
Kelly scored 20 goals and 39 in 2011-12 – a career best. He hasn’t come close to those numbers since. At age 36, the Senators should prepare to move on from him after 2016-17. He hasn’t been able to do much in 2016-17, scoring just two goals and four points in 30 games thus far. Kelly has posted a woeful minus-six rating on a team that’s played great defence through the first two months.
1. Montreal Canadiens: Al Montoya
Spoiler alert: Having Carey Price’s backup play as well as Carey Price is like asking Donald Trump to stop tweeting at 3:00 a.m. every morning. It’s just not happening.
Al Montoya has joined a long list of Canadiens backup goalies that have struggled to look somewhat decent. Dustin Tokarski, Peter Budaj and Mike Condon learned that the hard way. Montoya filled in nicely while Price was injured for the first bit of the season, but he’s struggled ever since.
He was in goal for that 10-0 loss to Columbus a month ago and has posted a mere 3-32 record with a 3.09 goals against average and .903 save percentage. Montoya’s not a terrible player by any means. When a team starts the backup, they don’t usually expect a shutout performance. But the reality is with the Habs being such a good team, Montoya just happens to be the weak link on their team.
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