Underachieving players

The NHL season is nearly 40 percent complete – more than enough time to establish which players are flat-out underachieving. Who are the league’s biggest underachievers so far? That’s the focus of the Top 10 this week:

10. Paul Stastny, Avalanche

Yes, Stastny is on pace to finish this season with 22 goals, the same total he had last year. But the 25-year-old also is on track for just 19 assists –16 fewer than he had last season, and 40 fewer than he amassed in 2009-10.

9. Kyle Okposo, Islanders

He’s still just 23 and is coming off an injury-plagued season, but two years ago, Okposo had 19 goals and 52 points in 82 games – and this year, with four goals and 10 points in 25 games, he’s on pace for just 12 goals and 30 points.

8. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers

Bryzgalov hit the contractual jackpot when he signed a nine-year, $51-million deal with Philly, but for the first two months of the season, he was abysmal – at one point, his save percentage was .870 – and the team still needs more from him if the Flyers are to stay at the top of the tough Atlantic Division.

7. Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils

It’s hard to believe Kovalchuk is a two-time 50-goal scorer at the NHL level, and with each passing year of declining production, the 28-year-old is making harder to believe. He’s on pace for 27 goals this year, down from 31 last season, and down from 41 in 2009-10. And he’s a team-worst minus-10.

6. Eric Staal, Hurricanes

It’s bad enough Staal is headed for a 17-goal, 50-point season – his worst since his rookie numbers of 11 goals and 31 points – but his minus-18 mark is the worst in the entire NHL. At least Cam Ward has the excuse of a subpar defense.

5. Ville Leino, Sabres

Leino has been under pressure since the second his signature appeared at the bottom of a six-year, $27-million contract with Buffalo and has crumbled under the weight of it, amassing just three goals, 10 points and a minus-7 rating.

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4. Drew Doughty, Kings

The latest in a long line of players who’ve followed up a contractual stalemate with a tough start to the season, Doughty is on course to finish the year with 24 points – three fewer than he had his rookie season. In the first season of an eight-year, $56-million deal, that’s beyond unacceptable.

3. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

What hasn’t been said about the fall from grace of one of the league’s marquee talents? The problem with Ovechkin’s severe drop-off in play clearly wasn’t about ex-Caps coach Bruce Boudreau: in the seven games since new coach Dale Hunter came aboard, Ovechkin has one goal, four points and is a minus-three.

2. Scott Gomez, Canadiens

By now, it’s almost unfair to keep harping on Gomez and his diminishing skill set. Almost. When you have a cap hit of $7.4 million for this and the next two years, and when you have just four assists to show for it this season, the fairness spectrum isn’t tilted in your favor. Probably the league’s leading candidate for an amnesty buyout if that is part of the NHL’s next labor agreement.

1. Alex Semin, Capitals

Semin is earning $6.7 million this year. In 26 games, he has as many goals (five) as Dennis Wideman and John Carlson and fewer goals than teammates Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer. Even as a potentially appealing expiring contract, he is attracting virtually zero trade interest from other teams. I’d call him a dog, but the sun shines even on every dog’s behind sooner or later, and Semin has been a remarkable shade-finder this year.


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