As the season winds down we can start to look ahead to the post-season and some award contenders. But it's also a time to look back at what went wrong for so many teams and players. So today, our picks for the players who we expected a lot more from in 2016-17.
John Klingberg, Stars
I've got a vested interest in this one because in our 2016-17 Yearbook, I ranked Klingberg 31st on our annual top 50 player ranking. And this is how he repays me? All joking aside, this was not the ascendancy I expected in Klingberg, who was flirting with Norris consideration last year and heading into another prime season. Clearly the re-jigging of the Stars blueline hurt the mobile Swede (as it did the entire franchise) and now the 24-year-old is looking a lot more mortal than he did in his first two NHL campaigns. His offense is down, his possession numbers are down and Dallas is one of the worst teams in the West. (Ryan Kennedy)
Anze Kopitar, Kings
There’s a very good chance that Anze Kopitar will finish this season having been paid more than a million dollars per goal. That’s not a good thing. Not at all. Even though Kopitar’s cap hit is $10 million, he’s actually being paid $14 million this season, so he needs six more goals to get in under the million dollars-per-goal standard. What’s worse is that Kopitar, a perennial contender for the Selke Trophy, hasn’t been all that great defensively this season. He’s not even among the top 50 among centers who have taken at least 200 faceoffs this season and his plus-minus (as flawed as that stat is) is kind of ugly. The worst part of it is that we didn’t see this coming. Kopitar was terrific during the World Cup for Team Europe, a driving force behind that team advancing to the final. A lot of people were hoping that might rid him of his usual slow start. It didn’t and instead that slow start has extended through the season. (Ken Campbell)
Claude Giroux, Flyers
I don't understand what's happened to Claude Giroux. The only players with more points than him over the past six seasons are Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, yet Giroux's game has fallen off a cliff in 2016-17. He's nowhere near ancient at 29, so I don't think we can blame the decline on age, even if his best years are behind him. He has three goals in 29 games since the start of January and averages his fewest points per game since 2009-10, which was his first full NHL season. What's to blame? Is it because the Flyers' lack of forward depth has prevented him from spending much of his season centering Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, with whom he made magic in the second half last year? Who knows? But Giroux is the captain, the Flyers' most talented player, and he hasn't produced like it. That could cost them a playoff spot this spring. (Matt Larkin)
Anze Kopitar, Kings
Is the Kings’ captaincy cursed? Los Angeles stripped Dustin Brown of the ‘C’ ahead of the season and he’s on pace to post his best offensive totals since 2011-12, while Kopitar, who took over for Brown, is set to see a drop of more than 20 points. In fact, Kopitar is going to be lucky to even crack the 10-goal mark at his current pace and this season stands to be his worst offensive season ever.
It doesn’t help that Los Angeles is fighting for a post-season spot, either. The Kings haven’t won a post-season round since winning the Stanley Cup in 2013-14 and they’re in danger of missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. The lack of punch from Kopitar has hurt a Kings team that already has difficulties scoring. That this is the first season of an eight-year, $80-million deal for Kopitar makes matters even worse. He’s being paid $14 million in actual salary for his services in 2016-17 and not providing near the two-way impact that he was paid to bring. (Jared Clinton)