The second half of the 2015-16 NHL season is upon us and it’s time to get down to business. For some, more than others.
Here are 10 players who need a strong second half to make amends for a rotten first half:
SIDNEY CROSBY, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: The points are starting to come for Sid the Kid even if his performances are not always as inspiring as they were a few years ago. Crosby has nine goals and 20 points in his past 15 games so maybe he’s out of the woods. On too many nights in the first half Crosby looked too much like just any other player on the ice instead of the awe-inspiring superstar we have come to know. He looks tired and frustrated – ordinary. Crosby was held pointless in 20 games in the first half.
RYAN GETZLAF, ANAHEIM DUCKS: Getzlaf has taken over the team lead in scoring, but let’s be honest, 28 points in 40 games for a player of his caliber is nothing to write home about. Getzlaf didn’t score in Anaheim’s first 13 games and had just one goal in his first 29 games. The Ducks go nowhere without Getzlaf hitting on all cylinders.
MATT MOULSON, BUFFALO SABRES: Through games played Jan. 20, Moulson had gone 17 games without a point and was stuck on four goals and 12 points in 44 games and his ice time had dwindled to under seven minutes per game. Are we to believe Moulson can only produce while skating on a line with John Tavares? Moulson is paid $6 million this season and the Sabres are on the hook for $13 million in the next three seasons.
JIRI HUDLER, CALGARY FLAMES: In the past two seasons Hudler improved from 17 to 31 goals and 54 to 76 points. Through 38 games this season Hudler had five goals and 22 points. He has been slowed by a groin injury and if he is not healthy and productive in the second half the Flames are not likely to return to the playoffs.
NICK FOLIGNO, COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: The Blue Jackets rewarded the 28-year-old Foligno for his breakout season of 31 goals and 73 points in 79 games by naming him captain. He paid them back with just six goals in 39 games. It has been a trying year in Columbus and now Foligno is on IR with an upper body injury. Kind of explains why the Blue Jackets are the leading contender for the No. 1 draft pick in 2016.
COLIN WILSON, NASHVILLE PREDATORS: The Predators were patient with their slow-developing first round pick from 2008 and they were rewarded with a 20-goal, 42-point season last year. He added five more goals in six playoff games. Wilson is big, strong and fast, but wildly inconsistent. He failed to score in Nashville’s first six games and had only one goal in the first 28 games. Now he’s on IR with a lower body injury. This is not the follow up season either Wilson or the Predators hoped for.
DEREK STEPAN, NEW YORK RANGERS: Stepan kicked off the season with a game-winning goal on opening night, but his blessed fortune was not a sign of good things to come. Rather, the player who had back-to-back seasons of 17 points in 82 games and 16 goals and 55 points in 68 games, has struggled along with a handful of his teammates. He has a goal and three assists in his last three games.
PHIL KESSEL, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Some people thought Kessel would shoot out the lights in Pittsburgh playing on a line with Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Hasn’t happened, though. Kessel, who was criticized in Toronto for his lack of conditioning, has not embraced his new situation and with 14 goals and 29 points in 46 games, he was on pace to score 29 goals and 49 points. Pretty sure the Penguins had much higher expectations when they acquired the Maple Leafs leading scorer the past six seasons last summer.
JONATHAN BERNIER, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: The Maple Leafs thought they got their No. 1 goalie when they acquired Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings on June 23, 2013. That has not been the case. On some nights Bernier looks like he could be that guy, but too often he allows bad goals and then goes into a shell. He needs to be stronger mentally. He was handed the starter’s job at the start of this season by new coach Mike Babcock, but he couldn’t hold onto it. Bernier was eventually sent to the AHL for a conditioning stint. He has been marginally better since being recalled.
STEVEN STAMKOS, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: There are players in the NHL who dream of scoring 20 goals and 37 points in 47 games. And they would be delighted to be on pace to score 35 goals. Not Stamkos, though. We’re talking about a guy who should score 50 goals in his sleep. Maybe it’s the lack of a contract or a possible trade hanging over his head, but Stamkos has not been the goal-scoring threat he should be.