At the start of every NHL season, there is a certain level of expectation for every team and player. Some players surprise us by exceeding those expectations, while others disappoint us by not meeting them. Here we are going to take a look at some of the NHL's most surprising and disappointing players so far this season.
The big question for the Blue Jackets this season was how they were going to replace a two-time Vezina Trophy winner (Sergei Bobrovsky) after he left in free agency. But the duo of Joonas Korpisalo and Merzlikins has turned out to be just as good, if not better, than the goalie they let walk. Merzlikins has been an especially big surprise with a .922 save percentage (one of the best in the league) in his first NHL season.
This is too difficult to narrow down to just one player, so we will just say, everyone. This team was in the Western Conference Final just one year ago and was expected to be a Stanley Cup contender again this season. The result instead has been one of the league's worst teams that is full of disappointment. The goaltending stinks again. The top defense duo of Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns has struggled. The forwards have regressed. Everything has gone wrong this season.
With Vladimir Tarasenko sidelined for most of the season, the Blues seemed to have a huge hole at the top of their lineup that might hold back their Stanley Cup repeat. They needed someone else to step up and carry the load offensively, and Perron has done that in a big way. He is the team's leader in goals, total points and game-winning goals.
After scoring a career-high 40 goals a year ago in his debut season with the Sabres, Skinner signed a massive long-term contract extension with the team to be a significant part of its core alongside Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin. Just one year into the deal, and the Sabres might be having some regrets. Skinner has just 12 goals in his first 53 games this season and has mostly been a non-factor on what has been an overwhelmingly disappointing Sabres team.
With Braden Holtby an unrestricted free agent after this season and the Capitals probably not able to re-sign him, the long-term future of the position was always going to focus on Samsonov. Based on the way he has played this season, the position should be in good hands. While Holtby has been better in net in recent weeks, Samsonov has been the Capitals' best goalie overall this season, solidifying his chance at a bright future as a strong NHL starter.
Turris has simply not been the player the Predators were hoping he would be when they acquired him two years ago and signed him to a long-term contract extension. He found himself as a healthy scratch this season under former coach Peter Laviolette and has seen his offense regress dramatically when n the lineup. The Predators were hoping he would be one of the missing pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle, but he has simply added one more question to their roster.
If you missed the Penguins' acquisition of Marino in the offseason, no one could blame you. An unsigned prospect in the Oilers' organization, the Penguins got him for a conditional sixth-round draft pick. After an impressive training camp and preseason performance, he made the Penguins roster and immediately became one of their best defenders and one of the top rookies in the NHL. An injury has sidelined him in recent weeks, but his return should be huge for the Penguins defense.
The Panthers went all out in trying to solve their goaltending issue by throwing a seven-year, $70 million contract at Bobrovsky. It has not worked out. Bobrovsky has been challenged through his debut season in South Florida due to a combination of his own personal struggles as well as the fact the Panthers have put an awful defensive team on the ice in front of him.
The Rangers are climbing their way back into playoff contention, and there are a lot of players at the center of the team's recent success. Artemi Panarin has played at an MVP level, while their young goalies ( Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev) have been outstanding. The other big development has been the emergence of Fox, probably the most overlooked and underrated rookie in the league. He is already playing at a top-pairing level and has been one of the team's most important assets.
Kessel was a huge score for the Coyotes in the offseason and hopefully one of the missing pieces they needed to get over the hump and back in the playoffs. Trouble is that he has rapidly aged and is no longer the impact offensive player he once was, even as recently as a year ago. He is on track for the worst offensive season of his career and is not providing much help away from the puck.
The surprise here is that Pacioretty can still be an elite goalscorer. With him entering his age 31 season it stood to reason that his days as a 30-35 goal-scorer were in the rearview mirror, but he has shown this season that is not the case. He already has 30 goals in his first 65 games and is on track for one of the best goal-scoring seasons of his career.
Gardiner seemed to be a free agent steal for the Hurricanes, adding another good player to an already deep and talented blue line. I don't know that he's lived up to that expectation. His possession numbers are still strong, but he has mostly been relegated to third-pairing duty, does not have great offensive numbers and has been on the ice for too many goals against.
After a disappointing run with the New York Rangers, Shattenkirk found himself a free agent this offseason and signed a one-year bargain contract with the Lightning. It has been a perfect situation for both. Shattenkirk gets an opportunity to rebound on one of the league's best teams, while the Lightning get some additional puck-moving and offensive depth on their blue line.
Subban was part of the Devils' massive offseason overhaul that saw them retool their roster in an attempt to return to the playoffs. None of it has worked out as planned, and Subban is at the center of that disappointment. His play has rapidly declined across the board, as he is on track for the worst offensive season of his career and simply does not look as dynamic as he did even a couple of years ago.
There are not many positives for the Blackhawks, as they are on their way to a third consecutive non-playoff season. The one exception has been the rapid emergence of Kubalik, one of the league's top rookies. The Blackhawks acquired him in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings a year ago for next to nothing, and the 24-year-old is scoring at a 40-goal pace this season.
Quick was one of the NHL's worst-performing goalies during the 2018-19 season and it seemed reasonable to assume that he could bounce back this season. There is no way he could be that bad two years in a row, right? Well, he has been. The Kings have a lot of problems, and Quick's regression the past two seasons is a significant one, especially with the contract he still has remaining.
Miller was always a good player with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers, but it was still surprising to see the Canucks give up a first-round draft pick for him. What has been an even bigger surprise is that Miller has gone from "pretty good" to "pretty dominant" since arriving in Vancouver. He has averaged more than a point per game, has some of the best possession numbers in the league and has been a huge part of the Canucks' ability to compete for the Pacific Division crown.
It is a safe bet that a lot of Gibson's struggles this season have to do with the lackluster team in front of him. Still, this is least productive season of his career, and he has not shown the game-stealing ability he has over his first four years in the league. Put him on a better team with a better defense in front of him, and he is almost certainly back to being one of the best goalies in the NHL. This is a good player stuck in a tough situation.
Nichushkin's 2018-19 season was one of the least eventful for any NHL player in the history of the league. He played 57 games for the Dallas Stars, scored zero goals, had zero penalty minutes and did next to nothing to be noticed. He signed a bargain one-year contract with the Avalanche this summer and has turned out to be a significant addition. He already has 12 goals and has been a great two-way player for a Stanley Cup contender.
It was another offseason where the Stars were the champions, once again landing a high-profile player. This time it was Pavelski, fresh off a 38-goal season for the San Jose Sharks. He was supposed to help the Stars fix their scoring depth issues, but he has not performed up to expectations. His numbers are not bad overall, and he has helped make the Stars better, but given the bar Pavelski has set for himself in his career, he has not quite reached it.
You'll receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams.
Emailed daily. Always FREE!