For one reason or another some established NHL players struggle in certain seasons even though a lot is expected of them. The expectations on these players are typically high due to the position they were drafted in, their past performances, their age, and their salaries. Several players have lost their "it" factor this season though and unless they can rediscover it soon they could all experience the worst year of their careers. The 15 players on this list have all lost their way this campaign due to mental and/or physical letdowns. Some of them may have missed the odd game or two due to injury, but they’ve all played in the majority of their team’s games.
Most of these players should be entering the prime of their careers since they’re typically in their 20s or early 30s, but things haven’t been going their way so far this season. These players are by no means finished or anywhere near it other than Alexander Semin, who was just let go by the Montreal Canadiens. All of these players should rebound sooner or later and start playing up to their potential, but for some of them it might not happen until next season. In the meantime, they just have to fight through it and regain their touch and confidence.
Since professional hockey is a results-oriented business it means players are paid to produce. Goaltenders and defencemen take home handsome paycheques to stop goals while forwards are paid to score them. The following 15 players have lost their "it" factor at least temporarily since their current statistics are well below expectations for them. While these players may be contributing to their teams in other ways, such as leadership, hits and blocked shots etc., their numbers are letting them down so far in 2015-16.
15 Sidney Crosby
Penguins captain and candidate for the title of best hockey player in the world Sidney Crosby has fallen on hard times for some reason early in the 2015-16 campaign. Crosby’s team is slumping and his lack of points in one of the main reasons why. The 28-year-old centre from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia has done it all since being drafted first overall by Pittsburgh in 2005, but looks like he’s out of gas at the moment both physically and mentally. Through his first 27 games this year Crosby was ranked 114th in the league with six goals and 69th in points with just 19. Crosby’s too good to be on the downside of his career at his age, but he might not turn things around until next season.
14 Phil Kessel
Most fans figured American-born right-winger Phil Kessel would light things up in Pittsburgh after being dealt from the Maple Leafs during the summer. They assumed the natural goal scorer would easily reach 40 or 50 goals playing on a team with future hall of famers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but they assumed wrong. The 28-year-old Kessel, who was drafted fifth overall by Boston in 2005, scored 36 goals with the Bruins in his final year in Beantown and then scored 151 goals and 394 points with the Leafs. Kessel is another Penguin who’s struggling this year though with nine goals and eight assists in his first 27 games. He’ll reach 20 goals this year, but will likely rack up just over 50 points.
13 Jonathan Bernier
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier came to Toronto as a savior in net in 2013-14 with a record of 26-19-7, a save percentage of 92.3 and a 2.68 goals-against average. But he’s now been sent down to the minors with the Toronto Marlies to get his confidence back. The 27-year-old native of Laval, Quebec hasn’t won a game all year with the Leafs as he’s gone 0-8-1 with a an 88.8 save percentage and 3.28 goals-against average. Bernier’s last NHL win came late last season. He has since posted back-to-back shutouts in his first two games with the Marlies. The former first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings signed a two-year deal worth $4.15 million per season in the summer and the Leafs are hoping he soon starts earning it at the Air Canada Centre rather than at Ricoh Coliseum.
12 Ryan Kesler
Thirty-one-year-old centre Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks was taken with the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks and has more or less lived up to expectations. It took him a couple of years to get rolling, but once he did, Kesler posted six 20-goal seasons in his next seven campaigns and peaked with 41 goals and 32 assists in 2010-11. Kesler joined the Ducks in 2014 and posted 20 goals and 27 assists last year as he helped the team top their division. However, like many of his teammates so far in 2015-16, Kesler is struggling with just three goals and eight assists in his first 28 games. Something’s definitely missing from his game, but the odds are he’ll bounce back.
11 Alexander Semin
It looks like former scoring star Alexander Semin of Russia has played his way out of the NHL with his recent performances. The Habs put the 31-year-old enigma on waivers in early December and he then signed with a KHL club. Semin scored more than 30 goals and 70 points three times in a four-year stretch during his NHL career with the Washington Capitals and added 22 goals and 20 assists in 60 games in 2013-14. At that point, Semin had scored at least 20 goals in seven out of the previous eight years with the shortened lockout season in 2012-13 being the only exception. Things have gone downhill drastically for the former first-round pick since then as the alleged coach killer posted just one goal and four points this year in 15 games. However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise since the low-budget Carolina Hurricanes bought him out for $14 million last year after scoring six goals and 19 points in 57 outings.
10 Dougie Hamilton
The Calgary Flames traded for defencemen Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins during the offseason due to his offensive potential. The 22-year-old was selected ninth overall by the Bruins in 2011 and seemed to be developing nicely with them. Hamilton posted 83 points in 178 games with 42 of them coming last season. The Flames gave up a first-round and two second-round picks for the young defenceman in June even though he was scheduled to become a free agent just a few days later. Hamilton’s been a disappointment so far in Calgary.
9 Eric Staal
Centre Eric Staal is the captain and face of the Carolina Hurricanes franchise, but he’s not having much success leading his team anywhere this season. The Hurricanes are among the worst squads in the league once again and Staal is on pace for his worst season productively. Carolina drafted him second overall in 2003 and Staal has done everything he possibly can for the team. He posted 14 goals and 100 pints in his second year and his hit the 30-goal mark five times and the 40-goal plateau twice. The captain is on pace for just 15 goals this season with five in his first 28 contests to go along with a dozen assists.
8 Jonathan Toews
Blackhawks 27-year-old captain Jonathan Toews is one of the best leaders in the game, but even he’s disappointed with his point production this year. The Hawks haven’t suffered though since Patrick Kane has more or less been carrying the team offensively. Toews entered this season with 506 points in his first 565 career games but with just eight goals and the same number of assists in his first 28 contests this year, Toews is on pace for a 23-goal and 23-assist season for just 46 points. He’s still carrying out the rest of his roles with the team in fine fashion, but is having problems around the net and could have his worst season ever offensively. Of course, Toews is bound to bounce back eventually.
7 Nick Foligno
Former 2006 first-round draft pick Nick Foligno has never really been known as a big scorer during his career, but he proved last year he could put the biscuit in the basket. The 28-year-old left-winger found the back of the net 31 times last season and assisted on 42 of his teammates goals to finish the campaign with an impressive 72 points in 79 games. The Blue Jackets got off to a brutal start this season and Foligno’s hot streak has come to a sudden halt. He had four goals and 11 assists in his first 29 contests and is on pace for 11 goals and 42 points, which is a drop of 20 goals and 37 points compared to last season.
6 Nail Yakupov
Big things were expected of Russian right-winger Nail Yakupov when he was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2012. The 22-year-old’s been a major disappointment though with 88 points in 192 games heading into this season. He’s recently been injured and will be out for about a month, but Yakupov has skated in 22 games this season and chipped in with just two goals and 10 assists. To make matters worse, most of Yakupov’s 12 points came when he was skating on a line with rookie Connor McDavid. It appears Yakupov is struggling mightily when he isn’t lining up with this year’s top draft pick.
5 Dave Bolland
Injury-prone Dave Bolland has the reputation of being a good third-line centre and penalty killer who usually chips in with about 40 points a year when he’s healthy. Well, he’s been healthy enough this season to play in 23 games and he’s only contributed a goal and four assists. To make matters worse, Bolland is being paid $5.5 million this season. If he keeps up the same pace and stays out of the infirmary, the 29-year-old former second-round draft pick will finish the season with three goals, 13 assists for his worst-ever performance in a full season.
4 Jason Pominville
Jason Pominville entered this season with 579 points in 752 career games and was known as a consistent 20 to 30 goal scorer. He’s reached the 20-goal mark seven times and hit 30 goals on three occasions. He’s dropped below the radar this year though with just three goals in 26 games which puts the 33-year-old right-winger on pace for just nine goals this season. Thankfully, Pominville should reach about 35 assists though to help the Wild in their push for the playoffs.
3 Nazem Kadri
Let’s face it, the Maple Leafs drafted centre Nazem Kadri seventh overall back in 2009 to score goal. He entered this season with 152 points in 250 games and at the age of 25 was expected to start hitting his prime, especially since he’s on a one-year contract. Kadri has been snakebitten around the net though with just five goals and six assists in 28 games although he ranked seventh in the league in shots on goal. And even though new coach Mike Babcock keeps telling the press how impressed he is with Kadri’s play, you can bet he’ll use the forward’s low production totals against him when they try to negotiate a new contract next season. Kadri’s on pace for just 31 points this year and those numbers will work against him when he signs his next deal.
2 Tyler Johnson
Young centre Tyler Johnson was one of the league’s top stories last year as the 5-foot-8, 25-year-old scored 29 goals and 43 assists to help Tampa Bay reach the playoffs. Once in the postseason, Johnson’s 23 points in 26 playoff games helped the Lightning go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. It looked like Johnson was reaching his prime and would have another stellar season in 2015-16. However, things haven’t quite worked out that way. Johnson has just returned from injury, but has only four goals and seven assists in 22 games. Unless he can turn things around n a hurry with the rest of his teammates Tampa may miss the playoffs this season.
1 Jakub Voracek
If there’s one player in the NHL who has definitely lost his mojo this season it’s 26-year-old right-winger Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers. The native of the Czech Republic was drafted seventh overall by Columbus in 2007 and has lived up to his billing until now. Voracek scored 134 points for the Blue Jackets in 241 games before joining the Flyers. He then posted 95 points in his first 126 games with Philly and then hit a career-high of 62 points in the 2013-14 season. Voracek followed that up with 81 points last year to finish as one of the league’s top scorers. However, after 28 contests this campaign he had just one goal and 15 assists. Voracek needs to find his game again.
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