Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Victims of the new NHL, ver. 2

About a month into this season, I offered a listing of 25 players who were struggling in the new, freer NHL™, those that had failed to adapt and were in danger of leaving the league entirely. To date, three of those 25 have been demoted or retired.

In the interest of staying current, here's another look at players who just aren't having any fun this year. Consider this the 'high-profile player' edition (i.e. a Wade Belak no-fly zone).

The Top 10:
(stats indicate totals players are on pace for)

10. Milan Hejduk, Colorado. 71 GP, 20 G, 55 pts. Hampered by a knee injury to start the season (he missed six games), Hejduk has yet to look like the player that finished 7th in NHL goal scoring in 2003-04. Still, a return to form is likely not far off.

9. Richard Zednik, Montreal. 64 GP, 35 Pts, -6. Another player hampered by an injury, Zednik hurt his groin in the first game of the year and hasn't regained the form from his consecutive 31- and 26-goal seasons. He's just one of a handful of offensive players for the Habs who haven't played up to par.

8. Miro Satan, NY Islanders. 82 GP, 60 Pts, -13. Sure, he's on pace for another 30-goal season, but boy has Satan looked disinterested this year, especially in his own end. The Buffalo Sabres took a lot of heat for cutting him loose in the offseason, but look at where they are now.

7. Sean Hill, Florida. 75 GP, 3 G, 19 Pts, -10, 126 SOG. Hill's numbers are hardly even comparable to 2003-04 when he was with the Hurricanes. He's on pace for 10 fewer goals, 20 fewer points and a whopping 102 fewer shots on goal.

6. Mike Ribeiro, Montreal. 78 GP, 57 Pts, -19. Sixty per cent of his production is coming on the power play, where he's been fine. On defence, he's been awful, including in the faceoff circle where his 44.1 per cent rating is one of the NHL's worst.

5. Dick Tarnstrom, Pittsburgh. 53 GP, 16 Pts, -18. I'd be remiss if I said many expected Tarnstrom to repeat the kind of season he had in 2003-04, but, even injuries aside, he has been terrible. His icetime has also fallen dramatically since Michel Therrien was named coach, averaging only 12 minutes a game the last five games.

4. Mark Recchi, Pittsburgh. 82 GP, 54 Pts, -41. Mark, as one Kamloops brother to another, I gotta tell you: -41 isn't acceptable. Acceptable left the building a while ago. After finishing 12th in NHL scoring in 2003-04, Recchi has apparently also been a disruption in a Penguins dressing room already full of tumult. I expect he'll be dealt towards the deadline, and a potent playoff addition he would make.

3. Bill Guerin, Dallas. 80 GP, 15 G, 44 Pts, 6.3% Spct. Absolutely nothing is going in for Guerin, and looking at the huge dip in numbers, I find it hard to believe any elite players have fallen as much as he has this season. Eight goals through 44 games is unfathomable for the guy who had 34 in 2003-04. His shooting percentage is less than half of what it was that year. Yikes.

2. Adrian Aucoin, Chicago. 56 GP, 2 G, 11 Pts, -26, 106 SOG. Aucoin has quite a few excuses cards in his back pocket, namely that of injury and playing on one of the NHL's worst teams. That said, it's not as if the 2003-04 Islanders team he played for was a powerhouse. A Norris Trophy candidate that season, Aucoin is on pace to finish with 33 fewer points and a plus-minus rating 43 points lower than the +29 he put up. Team Canada was never so far away.

1. Andrew Raycroft, Boston. 44 GS, 13-29-0, 3.68 GAA, .822 svpt. The Calder Trophy curse is strong this year, with all three of the top candidates from 2003-04 (Raycroft, Mike Ryder and Trent Hunter) nowhere near their level of play from their rookie campaigns. Raycroft was shelled in his last two starts, posting goals-against averages of 8.33 and 7.20 in those games, and looks to have lost his starting spot to third-stringer Tim Thomas now that rookie Hannu Toivonen is out. The air around Raycroft is thick with trade-rumour talk, and one wonders if he's headed for a fate similar to former Bruins 'tender Jim Carey, who won the Vezina Trophy in his second season and was never heard from again.

And, here they are, your Team Implosion all-stars.

Goal. Raycroft
Defence. Aucoin-Tarnstrom
Forward. Guerin-Ribeiro-Recchi
Taxi squad. Hill, Satan, Zednik, Hejduk


At 10:19 a.m., January 18, 2006, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Gonchar and Khabibulin also deserve serious consideration for your list. Gonchar had seasons of 54, 57, 59, 67, and 58 points under the old NHL but this year he is barely on pace for 40 points, almost all on the PP. Five on five he has been useless. And Khabibulin has just been plain awful. Can't say much more than that about him.

At 11:58 a.m., January 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At first I wondered, "Why is James Mirtle writing about my fantasy team?"

At 12:46 p.m., January 18, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

David — you're absolutely right. Those two, Khabibulin and Gonchar should have definitely made the cut.

I'll have to revise my methods next time.

At 11:07 a.m., January 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget Rick DiPietro. The new rules have completely killed his game. He seems to handle the puck twice as much in spite of the new rules.


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