Hockey players can get an inflated ego and reputation (usually the bank account follows) for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a player gets hot for a single postseason and scores a couple of key overtime or game-winning goals that can overshadow a few mediocre seasons or two. Plenty of free agents have gotten larger contracts than they deserved this way.
Sometimes players can get the title of overrated by getting an MVP award in a weak year that some people feel isn’t deserved. If the voters just tend to completely snub a fan favorite, there can be a sudden backlash to the player who did. As hockey starts to become more based on advanced player statistics and analysis, players that were Hall of Fame worthy from past eras are being exposed as just average. Also, plenty of promising rookies haven’t been able to live up to their Calder Cup nominated or winning first seasons.
This list is going to run down the top overrated players of all time in hockey, regardless of the reason. For these players, the honeymoon’s definitely over. Lucky for them, the sway of fan opinion can go both ways just as fast. One generation’s overrated could be the next generation’s hidden gem. And of course, for most of these players that have been “rated” by their contracts and signing bonuses – they’ve already gotten paid anyway.
20. Andrew Raycroft
After bursting onto the scene with a Calder Cup winning rookie season in 2004, Andrew Raycroft’s NHL career would get derailed in more ways than one. Expectations were high after the rookie goalie led the Bruins to the playoffs in the 2003-2004 season. During the ensuing lockout, however, Raycroft would struggle to regain his form while playing abroad. When he returned to the NHL, his struggles continued when he was a healthy scratch for most of the shortened season. After another bad season, the Bruins would trade him for a promising prospect. To add insult to, well, more insult, that prospect was goalie Tuuka Rask, a cornerstone of the Bruins and recent Vezina trophy winner. While many fans haven’t overrated Raycroft for years, there was a portion of time where he was all hockey fans and experts would talk about, which lands him on this list.
19. Darryl Sittler
Darryl Sittler is a classic example of a player getting overrated for one huge accomplishment that pushed him from a good, but not great, player into the Hall of Fame. Sittler was a consistent player for a long 15-year career, but he would never rise higher than the second All Star team. Every so often, he’d land in the top ten of goals, assists, points, but he was never one of the top players in the league during his career.
Sittler is known for that one fateful night in 1976 when he abused a rookie goalie to the tune of 6 goals and 4 assists. No one has ever scored nine points in a game, much less matching his 10. This huge record likely added to Sittler’s undeserved push in to the Hall of Fame.
18. Bobby Holik
Bobby Holik enjoyed success as an efficient grinder for the New Jersey Devils, winning two Stanley Cups with the team. However, he never really met his potential after seeing his stock rise as a “Stanley Cup Champion.” The Rangers bought out his contract only two years into a five year deal, essentially paying him to not play. After signing with the Thrashers and even becoming the Captain of that team, Holik had several poor seasons after the 2004 lockout in Atlanta before resigning with the Devils. At least he was able to retire in the only sweater in which he saw success.
17. Bernie Federko
Bernie Federko is a Hall of Fame player for the Blues that rode his success during one of the most explosive offensive eras in hockey history to become quite overrated. It’s true that Federko was a very consistent player in the 80s – scoring 50 assists in 10 consecutive seasons along with several 100 point years.
However, in the era where Gretzky had 200 point seasons, this wasn’t enough. Bernie has impressive point and assist per game numbers, but when adjusted for when he played, he doesn’t even place on the adjusted points per game leaderboard.
16. Dick Duff
Dick Duff is a hockey Hall of Famer mostly known for being the best small player of his generation. He also won a staggering six Stanley Cups as a player in the 1960s. However, that’s about the only two things that stand out from his career. He never led the league in any statistical categories throughout his 18 seasons or finished high in the voting for any major awards. It’s also telling that Duff was traded four times in his prime. If he isn’t the least-deserving member of the Hall of Fame, he’s definitely close.
15. Chris Drury
Chris Drury is another case of a player being cursed by early success. Playing for Boston University, he racked up team championships and Player of the Year awards in equal measure. Moving to the NHL, Drury won the Calder Cup for outstanding rookie as well as a Stanley Cup in his first three years. He became a star for the Avalanche for his clutch play in their Stanley Cup winning season. He’d never realize that potential again, however, moving on to overpaid stints with the Sabres and Rangers before retiring after 12 seasons in the NHL.
14. Jeremy Roenick
Roenick might be one of the best American players of all-time and is a prolific 500-goal scorer, but he is still a highly overrated NHL player. Much of his production came in the offense-heavy era before the 1998 lockout. After that time, Roenick’s play fell off due to multiple concussions, age, and the rule changes after the lockout. With nearly 20 seasons in the NHL, only the first 10 were above average. His longevity in the NHL was a major asset, but those injury-plagued later years weaken some of his impressive career accomplishments. To add to it, Roenick also frequently found himself in controversies with the media, complaining about playing time in the NHL, USA Olympic team bias, as well as bias against him for being an American player. No one likes a whiner.
13. Todd Bertuzzi
Todd Bertuzzi entered the NHL overrated from the jump, as the Islanders had contentious contract negotiations with him that came down to the last minute. Had they not signed him, he would’ve re-entered the draft.. Bertuzzi only lasted three mediocre seasons before being traded to the Canucks, where his career could take off. The next five seasons in Vancouver saw him flirt with the 100-point-a-year promise that the Islanders saw.
However, that all came crashing down with the vicious 2004 attack on Steve Moore. It derailed the Canucks’ entire season and Bertuzzi’s indefinite suspension came right as he was entering his prime. After a brief resurgence two years ago with the Red Wings, Bertuzzi is technically a free agent now, but not likely to get another chance due to his age and baggage.
12. Martin Straka
Straka was a talented and speedy two-way player who would never realize his potential in the NHL. After an uneventful first few seasons in the NHL, Straka would break out with the Penguins in the 1998-2001 seasons. Combining his speed with being one of the best two-way players in the league, Straka was better than a point per game player over that stretch. However, after a broken leg, Straka would once again flounder and be traded. He turned in another respectable season or two with the Rangers, but his speed was mostly gone due to the injury. After returning to his home country as a player-owner for the rest of the 2000s, Straka is now retired from on-ice play.
11. Ilya Kovalchuk
During his years in the NHL, Kovalchuk lit up the league. He was easily one of the most dynamic young Russian stars in the NHL. During his time with the Thrashers, it could have even been argued that he was evem underrated. However, after signing a mammoth contract with the Devils (which saw them lose draft picks as a penalty) and enjoying one of his best seasons in the NHL, Kovalchuk retired, leaving his controversial 10-year, $100 million contract flapping in the wind. After leaving for the KHL at the age of 30, he is still enjoying success playing overseas today. And he’s left the rest of the NHL wondering what might have been.
10. Curtis Joseph
More known for his iconic nickname (Cujo) and corresponding snarling dog masks, Curtis Joseph was an accomplished journeyman goaltender for almost 20 NHL seasons. He holds the dubious distinction as the goalie with the most wins in NHL history without being on a Stanley Cup-winning team. Winning championships doesn’t define a player in the NHL as much as other sports, but it is a big measuring stick for goaltenders.
Another sign of his overrated status is the sheer number of teams, seven, that ended up on his resume. Despite a couple All Star games, Cujo was always very good, but never great and his status as an elite goaltender isn’t backed up by his career save percentage of just over .900.
9. Andrew Cassels
Andrew Cassels is another example of a player that peaked too early. He was a very promising 1st round pick for the loaded Canadiens teams in 1987. He starred in the OHL, leading the league in goals and assists in one season. After jumping to the NHL, he struggled to stand out and get playing time until he was traded for a second round pick. With his new team, Cassels led the Whalers in assists for five seasons, but never became the breakout star that he appeared to be in the OHL. When the Whalers left Hartford, Cassels left the organization and spent the rest of his career bouncing around the NHL as a veteran journeyman.
8. Marty Turco
After learning under Ed Belfour, Turco immediately lived up to his pedigree by setting the NHL record for GAA in his first season as starter. Turco would go on to set franchise records for the Stars during his nine season tenure as starter. However, that success would never translate into a deep Stanley Cup run and Turco would never even make the playoffs with another team. Despite being known as “the smartest goalie in the league” for his puck-handling, Turco is more remembered for his poor postseason play after inheriting a talented Stars team from Ed Belfour.
7. Keith Tkachuk
Despite having one of the best names in hockey, Tkachuk never lived up to his reputation or stature. He was an anchor for the Jets/Coyotes franchise, but never a superstar. He ended his career as one of the statistical leaders among American-born players, but he was never the best player in the league and always a trade target/rumor. He had a fast and feared shot, but never could put his game together enough to make a deep and memorable playoff run through his nearly 20 year career.
6. Dany Heatley
Heatley is still an active player, but a late career resurgence seems incredibly unlikely at this point. Despite a stellar first two seasons and a Calder Trophy, he’s most known for a tragic car accident that severely injured himself and killed one of his teammates on the Thrashers. After his recovery and a trade, he was able to post two 100-point seasons and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. However, for several years after, he was only good and not great, before completely falling off the face of the Earth in 2012/13.
5. Alex Kovalev
Kovalev was a fiery Russian player and undoubtedly a trailblazer for his countrymen in the NHL. He was the first Russian to go in the first round, etch his name on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and has played more games than anyone born and raised in the USSR. However, that same fire would land him in trouble with teammates and coaches for being outspoken.On top of that, he’s known for being one of the most talented in NHL history, who was never able to consistently demonstrate that.
4. Manny Legace
It could be argued that Legace was more of a victim of bad timing than being overrated. However, he was still touted as the Red Wings’ heir apparent in goal after Dominik Hasek led them to the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, Legace could only get part time work behind Chris Osgood and Curtis Joseph for several disjointed seasons. Upon another frustrating season, he jumped to the rival Blues to be their starter. He couldn’t break through with postseason success there either and his career finally fizzled out with the Hurricanes and their minor league affiliates.
3. Scott Gomez
Gomez was a solid player for the New Jersey Devils organization and a key contributor on the dominant teams of the late 90s-early 00s led by legendary goalie Martin Brodeur. He rode this postseason success and solid play to a big free agent contract with the Rangers. Gomez would unfortunately turn out to be a product of his system and never achieved the same success after the lockout, changing teams a few teams and never performing. He’s now arrived back where he started – fighting for ice time on the New Jersey Devils.
2. Nikolai Khabibulin
“The Bulin Wall” was a workhorse goaltender that was more notable for his durability than his amazing play. His greatest success came during a Stanley Cup championship run in Tampa Bay where he won the Cup with a sterling GAA of 1.71 in the playoffs. This was an outlier season in a career where he lost more games than he won, with a career GAA of 2.71. On top of that, he only made the postseason once in the 10 years after that championship and remains retired as of last season.
1. Rick DiPietro
Being the 1st overall draft pick can put most players in danger of being overrated, but the Islanders decided to double down on the pressure by offering the young goalie a 15-year contract after only a few seasons. After the 2006 signing, DiPietro would barely play 175 more games in his whole career. After being sidelined for many seasons with knee and concussion injuries, he was unceremoniously waived less than halfway through the contract. Instead of being a franchise player on Long Island, he is already retired and hosting a radio show at the age of 33.
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