Compiling a short list of players considered early-season disappointments only a dozen games into a normal NHL schedule would be premature.It’s a different story, however, in  a 48-game schedule. A slow or disappointing start in a shortened season takes on more meaning.

Here, in no particular order, are six players I believe have been early disappointments. Feel free to debate these choices or offer up your own in the comments section.

Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals. As a team, the Capitals have played poorly, and certainly more is expected of team captain Alexander Ovechkin, but Holtby’s play has been the biggest letdown. Last spring’s playoff hero (14 games, 1.95 GAA, .935 SP) has been this season’s goat so far, entering this weekend with a league-worst 4.73 GAA and .857 SP. Holtby played well Saturday in a 5-0 shutout of the Florida Panthers, but overall he’s looked nothing like last spring’s confident youngster who seemingly resolved the Capitals need for a reliable starting goaltender.

Drew Doughty, LA Kings. Doughty has teased with flashes of greatness in his career. A finalist for the Norris Trophy in his sophomore season. A standout for Canada’s Olympic gold medal-winning Men’s hockey team. Leading all defensemen in points and plus-minus during the Kings run to the Stanley Cup last spring. It was expected this season Doughty would firmly establish himself as the league’s elite defenseman. Like the rest of the Kings, however, Doughty is off to a slow start. Granted, he’s had to carry more responsibility on the injury-depleted Kings blueline. It’s also taking time for him to return to game shape after the lengthy lockout. Still, Doughty has yet to be the dominant defenseman the Kings need him to be on a consistent basis.

Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres. Three years ago, Myers was NHL rookie of the year, and seemingly on the cusp of becoming one of the league’s top defensemen. Since then, however, he’s struggled to regain that promising form, slowed in part last season by a broken wrist . This season has been especially difficult for Myers, managing only one goal and tied for the league’s worst plus-minus at -9. On Saturday, he was a healthy scratch,  which would’ve been unthinkable not too long ago. If the struggling Sabres hope to make the playoffs this year, there’ll need a lot more from Myers than what he’s given them so far.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s tough to get off to a slow start after a lengthy layoff, more so when playing under the spotlight in Leafs Nation. It’s not that Kessel has played poorly, but until recently he struggled to bury his scoring chances and slow to regain his 82-point form of last season. It’s  just a matter of time until Kessel finds his touch, and his three-point effort in the Leafs 6-0 beatdown of the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday suggests he’s rounding back into form. But in a hockey market desperate for a playoff contender, a slow start by Kessel is cause for concern.

Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes. Smith had a career year in 2011-12. His regular season stats (38-18-10, 2.21 GAA, .930 SP, 8 shutout) ranked among the league’s best, and his heroics between the pipes carried the Coyotes to the Western Conference Final. Naturally, expectations were high for Smith coming into this shortened season, but entering this weekend his play was  inconsistent (2-3-1) and his stats (3.43 GAA, .863 SP) among the league’s worst. Smith has to do much better  if the Coyotes are to make the playoffs this season. A shutout of the San Jose Sharks on Saturday is a step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen if his consistency has returned.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators. Weber has long been considered among the league’s two-way defensemen, but so far he’s off to an uncharacteristic slow start offensively, with only one assist in his first ten games. Predators coach Barry Trotz is quick to defend Weber’s performance, pointing out he’s playing well in other aspects of the game. Still, the low-scoring Predators rely on their captain’s offensive skills – especially on the power-play – as they do his defensive ones. They’ll need more offense from Weber as this season progresses.

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10 Responses to Six NHL Players Who Are Early Disappointments This Season.

  1. Bickleton Wigglesworth III says:

    i’d put jonathan quick on that list as well, although i’d imagine his performance has been affected by the kings’ porous defense. but still, he’s clearly not in the same place he was last year, let alone last spring.

    • Captain Ahab says:

      I agree with BW 3. Last year we saw Quick stopping just about anything that came his way – this year pucks are finding ways past him.

      Living in Kelowna, BC, I had the pleasure of watching both Shea Weber and Tyler Myers play their junior hockey for the Kelowna Rockets and am a big fan of both of them. Also, as a Canucks fan, I would like to see Vancouver make a trade for Myers. I still think he has a huge upside to go along with his size and would like to see him partnered with a veteran, steady defense partner like Bieksa. A change of scenery might just be the ticket.

      While not a fan of Kessel’s I still believe he is an elite goal scorer and while getting off to a slow start, goal scoring wise, will soon pick it up and net close to 20 for the season.

  2. Ron Moore says:

    I can’t understand anyone writing about a player who scores 10 pts in 12 games and currently sits tied for 36th best point producer in the league mind you that by only scoring 3 more points would propel you ahead of 25 more players and into the top ten… unless of course one is talking about the Leafs and poor Phil Kessel. Maybe you rank Kessel with the likes of superstars Malkin, Crosby, Stamkos, Toews, etc. and that’s why you see him as a disappointment because his lack of pure goal scoring hasn’t really hurt the Leafs chances of winning any given night since he is more defensively aware and setting up many of his teammates with some underrated playmaking.

    So tired of the same lazy writing about the Leafs. If you want to talk about a disappointment on the Leafs I think one has to think of Phaneuf in the early going. With only 3 points and a minus -6 those stats aren’t the type you want from your captain and anchor on your defense. Just looking at your list, it seems a few defense men are having the harder time regaining their game but that only makes logical sense since defense and goal is harder to play than forward positions.

    PS why isn’t Ovechkin on this list? I mean 4 goals, 4 assist and a minus 4…Tied with Bozak however Bozak is a minus -2… Superstar free pass?

    • Such selective memory. How quickly you overlook his only notching four points in his first nine games, and potting his first goal in his 11th game. Beside, I don’t believe I was unduly critical, merely pointing out how, in Leafs Nation, in a market desperate for a playoff contender, Kessel’s slow start made him an early disappointment. Or did you forget about the calls from some Toronto pundits, and an even split of a recent Toronto Sun poll, for Kessel to be dealt? As for Ovechkin, his struggles are well documented and have in fact carried over since last season, but the bigger story in my mind was Holtby, for the reasons I noted. Hope that answers your questions about my “lazy” writing, Ron. Cheers.

  3. AssMoses says:

    “Kessel sucks!” – leaf fan

    “Kessel is having a disappointing season (10pts/12gm)” – leaf fan

  4. IceMan says:

    Dustin Penner and possibly Brian Boyle are two big forwards who have been benched already this year. Penner, who has only played in 3 games would be the most likely to go. Not too much value for him but on a team like the Canucks, he could be a good fit with Kesler and Kassian. Of course the Bruins are looking for depth on the Left wing so that could be another option.

  5. Jason says:

    I would definitely put Corey Perry on that list.

  6. John says:

    I think Ovchkin play started going down hill just before the last Olmpics.

  7. John says:

    Sorry spilling error I meant Olympics, and he does not hit every thing in sight.

  8. Fotiu29 says:

    You forgot Giroux. He is suffering from the “Curse of the EA Sports cover”. Have they really figured this guy out or is he just missing the room the Jagr opened up for him?

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