There are two sides to the surprise coin. On one side, you have the players who outperform even your wildest expectations. This season, they’ve taken the form of Colin Wilson, Mathieu Perreault, and several others. On the other, you have players who haven’t come close to expectations.
At the midpoint of the 2014-15 season, there are more than a few candidates for disappointing player of the campaign, but only one can take the cake. While fans of every team have the players they wish they would get more from, the following 10 are the ones that are playing well below the expectations this season.
10. Johnny Oduya, Chicago Blackhawks
It’s hard to believe there would be a player from one of the league’s best teams kicking off this list, but the reasons for Oduya having a disappointing season are simple.
He’s been paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson and asked to shut down tough competition, and while Hjalmarsson has been steady, Oduya has been the weakness of the pairing. Of all the players in the league that have played at least 300 minutes, Oduya has the fifth worst Corsi For percentage relative to his teams performance. He faces competition weaker than Hjalmarsson and gets more favorable starts, yet still has weaker numbers. The Blackhawks were relying on Oduya to step up after trading Nick Leddy to the Islanders, but it hasn’t been the case.
9. Dave Bolland, Florida Panthers
It’s always difficult to harp too much on a player that has had to miss a good portion of time due to injury, but even since his return to the lineup, Bolland has been subpar. When you consider his salary cap hit -- $5.5 million – it looks even worse.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion is on pace for a mere 19 points, which, if he stays healthy, will be the lowest mark in a season in which he’s played over 40 games. For the abilities that he does boast, like being able to face tough competition and draw the ire of opponents, he’s simply not playing up to his massive salary and that’s a let down for a cash-strapped team like Florida.
8. Colin Greening, Ottawa Senators
After a 17-goal, 37-point season in 2011-12, Greening’s game has slowly gone downhill. His 19 points in the lockout-shortened season were admirable, but he followed that up with only six goals and 17 points in 76 games throughout the 2013-14 season.
It’s been more of the same for Greening this season, too. He was never going to be a 30-goal player, but with the thought that he could be on an upward trajectory, it’s simply disappointing for Senators fans to watch as Greening is scratched repeatedly. He has one goal in the 19 games he has played this season, but that puts him on a three-point pace over a possible 62 games.
7. Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers
You never want to attach the bust tag to a player too early in their career, and Yakupov does still have a ton of time to turn his career around, but he hasn’t been the player anyone, including the Oilers, had hoped he could be.
Given that he’s starting a higher percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone than any other player on the Oilers and that he’s facing some of the weaker competition, you would expect more than four goals and nine points from 2012’s first overall pick. For the third straight year, Yakupov is looking a point total that will decrease, and it seems increasingly likely the Oilers will move on before his game turns around.
6. Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia Flyers
It’s hard to believe how quickly Lecavalier’s game has fallen from grace. Once one of the most feared offensive threats in the NHL, Lecavalier is now relegated to the least ice time of his career, and that includes his rookie season.
The 34-year-old winger has had some injury troubles this season, but he was also a healthy scratch for five straight games at the beginning of December. A 13-time 20-goal scorer who once eclipsed the 50-goal mark, Lecavalier has an innate ability to find the back of the net, and his 18-goal pace is the only thing that doesn’t find him higher on this list.
5. R.J. Umberger, Philadelphia Flyers
Maybe it’s indicative of the season the Flyers are having that Umberger finds himself on this list right after Lecavalier, but if you want to talk about a trade that simply didn’t make any sense, the Flyers-Blue Jackets swap of Umberger and Scott Hartnell simply didn’t work.
Umberger, 32, has only nine points this season, and that’s without missing a single game. He’s on pace for the worst season of his career, and if his play doesn’t pick up, he may actually finish with less points than he did in the lockout year of 2012-13. At a $4.6 million cap hit until 2016-17, that’s not a good look for Philadelphia.
4. Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild
This was supposed to be Kuemper’s year, and he started out so incredibly well. With back-to-back shutouts to start the season, it’s hard to imagine that he’s fallen on such hard times.
Of all the goaltenders in the league that have played at least 1,000 minutes, only Mike Smith has a worse 5-on-5 save percentage. That’s not enough from Kuemper, especially in a season where Minnesota has the offensive talent to make some noise in the playoffs. Because of the poor goaltending, Minnesota is looking like a long shot to even make it there.
3. Olli Jokinen, Nashville Predators
In 2006-07, Jokinen scored 39 goals and 91 points for the Florida Panthers. He looked like one of the brightest stars in the league, simply trapped in Florida during their darkest years and trying desperately to work his way out.
Fast forward to 2014-15, and after signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Predators, and Jokinen has only three goals and five points after 39 games. That’s a 10-point pace from a player that once looked like a threat to reach 100 in a season. Though Nashville, as a team, has been pretty good, Jokinen’s numbers are thoroughly disappointing.
2. Cody Hodgson, Buffalo Sabres
It may seem unfair to pick on a player who is saddled with a team that at times this season has looked a better fit for the AHL than the NHL, but Hodgson put up very respectable totals in 2013-14 on a Sabres team that was nearly as bad.
But this season has been a far cry from last campaign’s 20 goals and 44 points. After 40 games, Hodgson has only two goals and six points, and if this pace continues, he’ll only register 12 over the course of the entire season. Hodgson is incredibly talented and has all the tools that make a good player, but he hasn’t been able to put them all together to finally break out and become a star in the league. Now in his fourth season, questions may start to arise whether or not he’s ever really destined for stardom. At a $4.25 million cap hit for the next four seasons, Buffalo is sure hoping he is.
1. Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes
The term “pure scorer” is thrown around from time to time, but Semin was the embodiment of it in his first few seasons in the league. A sniper with a rocket of a wrist shot that made him a threat from anywhere on the ice, Semin burst into the league with seasons of 38, 26, 34, and 40 goals.
Last season, Semin registered 22. While not as outstanding as his early seasons, it’s still a respectable total, especially considering had he been healthy and suited up for all 82 games, it was a 28-goal pace. However, this season has been a different story.
Through 22 games, Semin had only one goal and six points. And though he’s been out with injuries over the past month, before he went down, he was being taken out of the lineup entirely. Consider that he’s in the first year of a five-year, $35 million contract, and it looks even worse. Looking at bang for your buck, plus talent-to-output, Semin is the most disappointing player in the league midway through this season.