The burden of expectations is not for everyone.
Year after year, the top players in the National Hockey League are called upon by their teams (and their fantasy hockey owners, for that matter) to produce at an elite level, based on past successes or the (usually) logical assumption that younger, developing players will continue their ascension to stardom with a breakout season.
The burden of expectation is nothing new for some on this list. For others, it has blindsided them, and the 2015-2016 campaign - despite it being only half a season old - is on the verge of being a complete wash, save for a late season burst back to relevance.
With that in mind, it might in fact be too early to write off this season for some of the names on this list. There is still plenty of time for them to turn their year around with as strong second half - even if it might be too late for their teams to climb back into the playoff race.
The disappointing start to the season for some of the game's biggest name has fans and pundits wondering whether the sport needs another rule overhaul to increase scoring across the board.
On the other hand, it quite possible that the problem is much simpler than the size of the nets or the amount of times referees award penalties. Perhaps the hype around certain players was too loud for them too handle. Perhaps certain big names are dealing with uncontrollable factors, be it injuries or off-ice issues.
For others, it might just be a matter of the rest of the league catching up to them.
Whatever the reason may be, one thing is for certain. The names on this list came into this season with sky-high expectations, but so far have been incapable of taking off and reaching the lofty goals set for them.
*Stats are correct as of January 2nd, 2016.
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15 Cam Talbot
It's hard enough being Henrik Lundqvist's backup - it's even harder to have to take over for him during one of the tougher stretches of the season and play to (if not better, at times) to the level of King Henrik. Cam Talbot stared down the barrel of the gun last season and performed well enough to draw attention from teams looking for a starting goaltender.
Talbot landed with the Edmonton Oilers, but has been anything but the consistent starting goaltender the Oilers thought they were acquiring during the summer. Talbot is 5-11-2 through 18 starts, with a 2.92 GAA and a .906 save percentage. He's been outplayed by Anders Nilsson and is slowly but surely losing the crease with each passing subpar performance.
14 Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller was solid in his first season as a Vancouver Canuck and did nearly enough to help exasperated Canucks fans forget the mess former general manager Mike Gillis left in the Canucks' crease before he was fired. Miller was expected to again be one of the leagues top goaltenders heading into this season, but has been anything but up to this point. His 10-11-6 record sticks out like a sore thumb and his 2.74 GAA is nearly .20 points higher than his career average.
13 Milan Lucic
Bruins fans were stunned and saddened when they were hit with the news that Milan Lucic had been shipped across the country to play out the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Kings.
Thus far, however, Lucic hasn't done much to make the Bruins regret their decision. He hasn't provided as much of an offensive punch as he was expected to, nor has he imposed his will on opponents the way he regularly did as a member of the Big Bad Bruins. While Lucic hasn't been horrendous, he hasn't been great, either - and if you consider that the Kings gave up a starting-caliber goaltender in Martin Jones, the Kings might be wondering if they swung and missed with this deal.
12 Nick Foligno
Following a career year in which he put up a surprising 31 goals and 73 points, Nick Foligno came into the 2015-2016 season with the bar set much higher than it was at the beginning of last year, or any season of his career for that matter.
He hasn't been able to reach that bar yet; in fact, he's nowhere close. Foligno has seemingly come back down to Earth, with only 5 goals and 22 points in 36 games. His shooting percentage has taken a nosedive, from 17% last season to 5.9% so far this year. The metrics are balancing out for Foligno, a common fate for players who blow up unexpectedly during a season where everything seems to go right for them.
11 P.K. Subban
P.K. Subban headed into the summer as a Norris Trophy finalist. He came into this season with an A stitched onto his Montreal Canadiens uniform. The (hockey) world was at his feet and he had a chance to make it his season, to quiet doubters and take his game to an even higher level.
So far, P.K. has been just OK. He's racking up assists, but he's sitting at one goal through 39 games and has looked like an average defenseman on many nights, highlighting once more the inconsistencies in his overall performance that have plagued him for several years.
10 Filip Forsberg
After tearing up the league during an outstanding rookie season, Filip Forsberg was primed for an even better performance in his second full NHL season. For long stretches last season, he brought back memories of another Forsberg, but this year the young Predators forward has struggled to rekindle the magic of 2014-2015. He's put up average numbers - but for an above average player, Forsberg will need to get it back into the gear he was in last year to consider this season a step forward.
9 Brandon Saad
Brandon Saad was arguably the hottest commodity on the trade market last season and when he landed in Columbus he was expected to take the next step in becoming an elite NHL scorer - especially if he was going to play along the likes of Ryan Johansen. The two were expected to become the next up-and-coming dynamic duo in the league and would be the pillars that would carry the Blue Jackets to the promised land this season.
So far, nothing has gone right for the Jackets and Saad can take part of the blame for Columbus' lack of success. Granted, he's already scored 14 goals, but he's been streaky all season and hasn't been the game-breaker the Jackets thought they were acquiring during the offseason, and has already drawn the ire of interim head coach John Tortorella.
8 Corey Perry
For most players, 13 goals in 37 games would constitute a solid start to the season.
Then again, Corey Perry isn't most players. Perry, along with most of his Anaheim Ducks teammates, struggled early on in the season and are only now starting to round into a shell of the team that nearly went to the Cup Final last season (and likely would have won if they hadn't been knocked off by the Blackhawks).
It took Perry twelve games to score his first of the year and while he's righted the ship a bit over the past couple of months, he hasn't looked like the player the NHL has come to know as one of the most fearsome snipers of this era.
7 Mark Giordano
Remember when Mark Giordano was the certain Norris Trophy winner halfway through last season?
It's amazing what a few months can do to a player. By no means has Giordano fallen off the radar, but his performance has slipped significantly. Giordano came into the season with high expectations after dominating for long stretches last year. Giordano hasn't been as good offensively and is a disappointing -10 so far this season. He'll have to start playing like the player the league finally took notice of last season if the Flames are going to truly build on last year's surprising effort.
6 Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel went from being the brunt of 90% of jokes in Toronto to being the player everyone expected to blow up this season alongside one of the two Penguins elite centers. How many people had Kessel penciled in for close to 50 goals before the season?
Too many, it seems. Despite escaping the intense Toronto spotlight, the media scrutiny has followed him to Pittsburgh. Considered by many to bounce back in a major way this year, Kessel has done anything but that, sitting on 11 goals despite having spent the majority of the season playing alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Kessel will need to have a great second half to justify the gamble the Penguins took by trading for him, or the never-ending doubt about his ability to be a top-end player will continue to swirl around him for the rest of his career.
5 Sergei Bobrovsky
Considered by many to be among the best goaltenders in the league, Sergei Bobrovksy - along with many experts around the hockey world - had high hopes for this season. Just two years removed from his first Vezina trophy and coming off back-to-back thirty-win seasons, Bobrovsky was expected to carve out a spot alongside Price, Lundqvist, Holtby and Quick this season.
It hasn't worked out that way thus far. Bobrovsky is 11-12-1 thus far this season and while he statistics (2.52 GAA, .916 save percentage) aren't terrible, they aren't anywhere near what many expected them to be before the season.
4 Jakub Voracek
Jakub Voracek had seemingly figured everything out last season - he put up a career 81 points and looked prime to continue to be an offensive force this season. Once considered an enigmatic player with a ton of potential, Voracek had finally arrived. Some even threw his name out as a player who could challenge for the Art Ross Trophy this season.
Barring an incredible second half, that isn't going to happen. Voracek (along with several players in Philly) has been average, at best, so far this season and it's reflecting on the Flyers record. Voracek has still put up 24 points, but he's stuck at four goals. Three of those have come over the last six games, in which he's tallied nine points, so maybe Voracek is turning things around - but he'll have to keep it up if he wants to stay off lists like this for the rest of the season.
3 Ryan Getzlaf
No one had any surprising proclamations to make about Ryan Getzlaf before the season, because he's established himself as one of the league's premier centers over the past decade - so no one was expecting anything different this year.
Perhaps they should have. Getzlaf's numbers have been frightening, to say the least. He only has three goals in 31 games this year and has to take part of the blame for the Ducks lethargic starts.
One has to wonder if wear and tear has finally cracked Getzlaf's seemingly impenetrable armor - he just hit 30 years old and history suggests things aren't going to improve from here on out, especially with the amount of rugged miles on Getzlaf's towering frame.
2 Sidney Crosby
If we're calling Ryan Getzlaf's start to the season surprising, what word can be used to describe the numbers Sidney Crosby has put up so far this year?
Use whatever word you want. The fact of the matter is that Sid the Kid looks off - that, and the fact that Sid isn't a kid anymore. He's nearly 30 years old and is currently playing in his 11th season. It was Christmas in July when the Pens acquired the aforementioned Phil Kessel, but the two have been unable to mesh so far this year. It's never a good thing when people are wondering whether or not Crosby can play with anyone, let alone one of the league's better shooters.
Here's a sentence that should worry anyone who claims to be a Crosby fan: Sidney Crosby is arguably the best player in the NHL. Arguably...arguably?!
What was once a foregone conclusion is no longer the case. One might even be able to name five players that they might take before Crosby - and his numbers this season have done nothing to quiet the doubters. Crosby is too talented to remain in the kind of rut he's been in all year, but there's no question that he's been one of the most overrated players in the league this year.
1 Ryan Johansen
Crosby can thank a rival for sparing him the dishonor of taking the top spot on this list.
To say Ryan Johansen's season has been disastrous thus far would be putting it lightly. He broke through last year with 71 points last season, but has been able to take the next step to super stardom that everyone thought he was going to take this year.
Sure, Johansen still has 25 points in 36 games, but he's been hard-pressed to find the back of the net, has been a turnover machine, has been benched, scratched and called out by his coach, and overall has looked nothing like the player who terrorized opponents last season.
Johansen is likely just going through a rough stretch and he's still only 23 years old. There is plenty of time for Johansen to make everyone forget about the beginning of this season. That said, he might have to do it in another uniform, as things in Columbus have taken a very quick - and very unexpected - turn for the worst.
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