The term “worst” is very subjective, different sports use varying metrics to measure the performance of a player. Is “best” always the player that only puts up the most points or is it the one that has the highest plus/minus?
In hockey, the plus/minus statistic is often used to evaluate what a player brings to a team, this statistic rates players based on how many goals that their team scores while they're on the ice, minus how many they are on for when scored against.
At first glance, it seems logical that this statistic would be an accurate measurement of a player's value, but many experts consider it misleading for various reasons. The top D-pairing on a team usually play against the top lines of their opponents, so obviously, that is going to be a greater challenge than playing against 3rd and 4th line grinders and checkers. What about a checking centre who’s job is to shadow the other team’s superstar all night in an attempt to shut him down? Imagine your job being to stop Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, no easy task even for a player like Patrice Bergeron.
Is the best a great player that made the biggest difference to his team? Is the worst a star player that drastically underperformed, had every opportunity and didn't deliver? We will look back at the last 15 season and give you our picks and reasons for the worst player each year!
15 2001-02: Tomas Holmstrom - Detroit Red Wings
Holmstrom played his entire 1,026 game career with the Wings, known for his “Net Front Presence” before we had even heard that term. The 2001-2002 Wings racked up an astounding 116 points that year on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
On the surface one wonders how Holmstrom would be viewed so poorly this year but here’s a look at the numbers. Holmstrom had the teams worst plus/minus this year at -12 and was 780 out of 874 players that put the skates on in the NHL that year. On a team that was +64 for the year, the gritty Swede was anything but impressive.
Detroit was a powerhouse team in 2001-02 with stars like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom and Dominik Hasek, Holmstrom was the only player on the team to end the season in double-digit negatives.
14 2002-03: Jay Bouwmeester - Florida Panthers
2002-03 would be Bouwmeester's rookie campaign after being drafted by the Florida Panthers with the 3rd pick overall of the 2002 draft. Stepping into the league at 19 years old is no easy task, especially at defence. Bouwmeester would play a full 82 games in his rookie season and was the first rookie in the Panthers history to play a full schedule.
Bouwmeester may have been better served to stay one more season in junior where he played for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. His rookie season would see him achieve the dubious title of the league's worst plus/minus at -29.
The Panthers would realize Bouwmeester wasn't quite ready yet for the NHL, as after playing 61 games in his sophomore season, they would send him to the AHL where he would stay until the 2005-06 season.
Those two years in the AHL would prove invaluable for the young blue liner as once he got back to the NHL, he would never look back. Bouwmeester would go on to play 737 consecutive games setting an NHL record for NHL defensemen.
13 2003-04: Brooks Orpik - Pittsburgh Penguins
The 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins were horrible, registering just 58 points that season and an abysmal .354 winning percentage. 6 Pittsburgh players would end up finishing in the bottom 10 of the league's plus/minus stat that year.
Brooks Orpik would finish 3rd last at -36 followed by teammates Dick Tarnstrom at -37 and Rico Fata -46, proving again just how difficult it is for young defensemen to step into the NHL.
Orpik is known for his punishing defensive play, which he developed while playing for Boston College from 1998-2001. It translated into him being drafted 18th overall in 2000. Once acclimated to the NHL game Orpik would become a major part of the Penguins d-core that would develop into one of the top groups in the league capturing the Stanley Cup championship in 2008-09. Orpik is now consistently one of the league leaders for plus/minus currently sitting tied for 4th spot this year at +31.
12 2005-06: Mark Recchi - Pittsburgh Penguins
The year off due to the 2004-05 lockout didn't seem to help things as the 2005-06 season would be another terrible year for the Penguins, matching the 2003-04 point total of 58 and finishing 29th of 30 teams.
Mark Recchi would be held partially responsible for the Penguins demise in 2005-06 as apparently the year off from the lockout would not benefit the talented right winger from Kamloops, BC. A consistent point producer during his career tallying 1,533 points in his 1,652 career games, he would achieve the league’s worst plus/minus of -36, finishing 870 out of 870 players.
Despite his poor performance this year with the Penguins, he must have done something to impress the Carolina Hurricanes as they would acquire Recchi at the trade deadline where he would go on to help the Hurricanes become the 2005-06 Stanley Cup Champions.
11 2006-07: Petr Nedved - Philadelphia Flyers
Born in the former Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), Nedved would defect in 1989 from the communist country while playing in a midget hockey tournament in Calgary, AB at the age of 17.
The following season Nedved would join the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL where he would become an instant star putting up 65 goals and 80 assists for a whopping 145 points in 71 games. That outstanding rookie season for the Thunderbirds would lead to Nedved being drafted 2nd overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1990.
Expected to be a star right out of the gates, Nedved would struggle his first two seasons and a lengthy contract dispute at the start of his third season would result in the Canucks trading him to the St. Louis Blues.
Nedved would play for eight different teams over his 15-year career where he would have a reputation for being a soft player. After another disappointing start to the 2006-07 season, it led to Nedved bouncing between the NHL and AHL. It would also be the last year he would play in the league.
10 2007-08: Radek Bonk - Nashville Predators
After winning the IHL Rookie of the Year award as a 17-year-old Bonk would get drafted with the 3rd pick overall by Ottawa in 1994. It would take Bonk 5 seasons under the coaching of Jacques Martin before he would blossom into one of the league's most complete forwards, playing a total of 10 years for the Senators.
Big and skilled many wished Bonk would become a more aggressive player taking advantage of his 6’3” 215lb frame. Despite Bonk becoming a solid 200ft player he never actualized his full offensive potential with his best year coming in 2001-02 where he compiled a total of 70 points.
After leaving Ottawa following the 20003-2004 season, Bonk would stop in Montreal for two seasons before being signed as a free agent in 2007 by Nashville. Slowing with age Bonk would be -31 in his first year with the Predators, the leagues worst and with point production dropping, Bonk would make 2008-09 his final year in the NHL.
9 2008-09: Scott Hannan - Colorado Avalanche
Every team has that shutdown defensemen, the guy tasked with playing tough minutes against the opposing team's top snipers. Scott Hanna was that guy his whole career, his gritty, hard-nosed play making him one of the most affective defenders of his era.
This strong defensive play would get Hannan selected to the 2003-04 NHL All-Star game and ultimately land him a four-year $18 million contract with Colorado in 2007.
2008-09 was an anomaly in his career, playing for the basement dwelling Avalanche Hannan would have the league’s 3rd worst plus/minus that year at -21. That would also be a career low for him.
Hannan would get his game back on track the following year and go on to play 1,055 games over his 16-year career, finally retiring in 2014-15 back in San Jose with the team that originally drafted him.
8 2009-10: Rod Brind'Amour - Carolina Hurricanes
Brind’Amour was rarely associated with the term “worst” player, but that’s exactly what Brind'Amour was in 2009-2010, over 80 games he only managed a paltry 19 points and was the league's worst -29. He would subsequently retire after the season.
Drafted 9th overall in 1988 he would go on to play 1,484 games and record 1,184 points over his career. Brind’Amour made his NHL debut in game 5 of the 1989 division semifinals for St. Louis scoring on his very first shot against the Minnesota North Stars.
Brind’Amour was a consistent top performer throughout his time in the NHL earning a reputation as one of the league’s best shutdown centres, those talents translated into his first and only Stanley Cup Championship in 2005-06 with the Hurricanes. Brind’Amour remains with the Hurricane organisation as an assistant coach to this day.
7 2010-11: Chris Phillips - Ottawa Senators
Drafted 1st overall in 1996 Phillips would go on to spend his entire 17-year career with the Senators. Stay-at-home defensemen Phillips would build a lengthy career around being very reliable in his end of the ice.
2010-11, however, would not be good to Phillips because he would seem to forget what it was that made him so successful in the first place. Finishing dead last in the league, with a plus/minus of -35 while only scoring one goal and a total of 9 points, this would be a season Phillips would like to forget.
Bouncing back is what great players do and is what Phillips did in 2011-12 finishing a +12 with 19 points. Phillips would retire in 2014-15 after 1,179 career games with a +68 rating for his entire time in the NHL.
6 2011-12: Nino Niederreiter - New York Islanders
Making the jump to the NHL is difficult for most players, but in 2011-12 none struggled more than Nino Niederreiter. Playing in 55 games registering only one goal and zero assists, Niederreiter finished 893rd out of 894 with a -29 rating.
Clearly, Niederreiter wasn't ready for NHL just yet, and with the lockout year in 2012-13, he would take advantage of the time by honing his game with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.
Drafted 5th overall by the Islanders, Niederreiter would become the highest drafted player from Switzerland to date. Not sure they had made the right call on Niederreiter the Islanders traded him to the Minnesota Wild on June 30, 2013.
Niederreiter has established himself as a consistent contributor with the Wild where he is currently enjoying his best season, with a career-high 48 points and + 20 rating so far.
5 2012-13: George Parros - Florida Panthers
2012-13 saw an abbreviated 48 game NHL schedule due to the lockout imposed by owners until a new collective bargaining agreement was reached with the NHLPA.
Parros suited up for 39 of the 48 contests that season with Florida, but maybe for the team's sake, he shouldn't have. Finishing the year at -15 and 2 points his season was anything but a success. Not known for point production Parros’s role an enforcer was diminishing racking up only 57 penalty minutes in 2012-13 a far cry from his career-high 183 PIM in 2007-2008.
Following his retirement from the game in 2014 Parros ironically joined the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in Sept 2016. The once highly feared tough guy now uses his brain not his fists to protect players since he Graduated from Princeton University with a degree in economics it’s a role he is more than capable of doing well. In 2010 Parros was selected by the Sporting News as the 4th smartest athlete.
4 2013-14: Nail Yakupov - Edmonton Oilers
Every hockey fan is familiar with the 2012 1st overall pick by the Oilers but its not for his achievements but lack there of. Many where surprised by the choice Edmonton made, badly needing defensemen to bolster the talented of young forwards the Oilers had amassed, they still opted for the speedy Russian.
8 of the top 10 draft picks in 2012 were defensemen, the Oilers passed on names like Ryan Murray, Hampus Lindholm and Jacob Trouba all of who would mighty nice on the Oilers D-core right about now.
Only suiting up for 63 games in his sophomore season Yakupov would end the year with 25 points and -33, perhaps going down as the worst 1st pick in NHL history. The Oilers finally lost their patience with Yakupov and trade him to the St. Louis Blues in October 2016.
Since being acquired by the Blues Yakupov has been watching from the press box as healthy scratch most nights, only dressing for 34 games this season. Judging by the trajectory of Yakupov’s career if something doesn't change he will be in the KHL soon.
3 2014-15: Cody Hodgson - Buffalo Sabres
It’s a fine line between making the big league or not for many athlete’s, you only have to look at former 10th overall pick Cody Hodgson to see this. Coming out out junior the Vancouver Canucks had high aspirations for the skilled centre, but things would not work out the way all had hoped for.
While training for 2009-10 season Hodgson suffered a back injury while working out, this injury would lead to a series of events that would end Hodgson’s time with the Canucks prematurely. Cleared for play in Sept, 2009 Hodgson would struggle through 6 preseason games with the Canucks ultimately leading to him being sent back to junior.
Speculation that Hodgson was unhappy about being sent back to Junior the Canucks and Hodgson’s relationship would sour, the end result was Hodgson being traded to Buffalo at the trade deadline in February 2012.
Registering only 13 points in 78 games and a -28 rating in 2014-15 with the Sabres Hodgson would quickly wear out his welcome with the Sabres. Opting to buy-out his recently signed 6 year $25.5 million contract extension Hodgson was placed on unconditional waivers on June 29, 2015, eventually getting signed to a one-year deal by the Nashville Predators.
On January 13, 2016 the Predators placed Hodgson on waivers going unclaimed by another NHL club, he would finish the year in the AHL. On October 3 of the same year Hodgson would announce his retirement from the game.
2 2015-16: Radim Vrbata - Vancouver Canucks
Being the NHL’s all time leader in shootout goals wasn't enough for Vrbata to stay long with the Canucks, the 2015-16 season would be his career worst tallying only 27 points and a -30 rating over 63 games. Finishing 2nd worst in the league for plus/minus 2015-16 is a season Vrbata and the Canucks would like to forget.
The Canucks signed Vrbata as UFA in the summer of 2014 to a two-year $10 million dollar contract expecting him to produce on the right wing. His first year of the deal Vrbata held up his end of the bargain ending with a career high 63 points. The following year was a different story 2015-16 would be his worst since 2009-10.
Vrbata’s best years came from 2007-2014 all with the Coyote’s where he was a consistent 40-50 point man. A free agent again in 2016, Vrbata would sign a one-year deal worth $1 million back with Arizona. It seems he is back on where he left off with the Coyote’s netting 49 points in 67 games so far this season.
1 2016-17: Matt Duchene - Colorado Avalanche
Things are spiralling out of control this year for the Avalanche, with no clear direction for the team many wonder what the future will hold. Dead last in the league 15 points back of the 29th place Coyote’s one must look at Colorado’s star player’s for an explanation.
Appointed an alternate captain this year seems to have put a damper on Duchene’s play so far, tied for last place in the league at -28 he and teammate Tyson Barrie need to get their game’s back in order. Duchene is well off his career high of 70 points that he set in 2013-14 only recording 36 points to date.
Drafted 3rd overall in 2009 the Av’s have expected their young stars of Duchene, Mackinnon and Landeskog to produce at both ends of the ice and carry the team up the ladder of success, so far this hasn't been the case. Maybe Iggy shouldn't have been the only big name moved at this years trade deadline by the Avalanche.