The February doldrums have settled in over the NHL.
Not to say that some exciting hockey isn’t being played, but after 50-plus games, some wear and tear is beginning to show on formerly fresh faces.
With the trade deadline looming and the Ides of March soon to be upon the league, there is a lot of uncertainty just about who will be buyers and sellers and what teams will fall out of the playoff race. And it’s going to be interesting, since only two teams, Colorado and Arizona, are really out of it.
Team-wise, the Columbus Blue Jackets have settled back to the pack after that historic 16-game winning streak, while the Minnesota Wild just keep on rolling, occupying first overall in the Western Conference.
However, we are going to focus on a group of players who amazed us earlier in the season, getting off to scorching hot starts only to see their games go south after the first half or so of the season.
Here are 15 of them who have nearly disappeared from the highlight reels.
15. Travis Konecny – Philadelphia Flyers
Konecny is on the shelf right now with a lower-body injury. Before that, however, the Flyers surprise rookie had a decent first half. In his first 20 games, the 24th overall pick in the 2015 draft had four goals and eight assists. Now, that may not seem like much, but consider he was a late first rounder, which is always a crap shoot. In his next 20 games, with about the same amount of average ice-time, he fell to two goals and six assists. Not alarming, but a bit of a drop-off. Prior to his injury, though, Konecny was not clicking scoring two points in 10 games and being made a healthy scratch in two contests before being injured in a game against St. Louis on Feb. 6. He isn’t due to return to the line-up until at least the first week of march.
14. Dennis Seidenberg – New York Islanders
In relative terms, journeyman defenceman and Stanley Cup winner Dennis Seidenberg is playing to expectations. In his best offensive season, the German national had 32 points during the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup run in 2011. This season, though, he raised the bar of expectation with a pretty good start. In his first 20 games, the light-scoring Seidenberg had four goals and five assists, all at even strength. On a team that hasn’t received much in the way of offence from the back end, the veteran’s contribution was noteworthy. By the 30-game mark, he had 13 points, one shy of his total in 82 games for Boston in 2014-15 and eclipsing his total production (12 points) in 61 contests last season. Seidenberg has since fallen back to earth with four assists in 15 games. He’s still a valuable shut down guy, however, as his plus-minus is a team-high +22.
13. Chad Johnson – Calgary Flames
When the Calgary Flames traded a couple of draft picks for Brian Elliott at the 2016 entry draft, it was thought that they had put to rest their goaltending woes. Well, Elliott chugged out of the gate, posting a 3-10-1 record into mid-December and all but handing the job to Chad Johnson. In his first 20 games, the career back-up helped keep Calgary within striking distance of a playoff spot, going 13-6-1 with three shutouts, which was already a career high. The wheels have all but fallen off since, as Johnson has pretty much put the reins back in Elliott’s hands. He is 4-7 in his last 11 starts, giving up 30 goals on 288 shots, which equates to a less-than-stellar .896 save percentage. On the positive side, he did beat a powerful Pittsburgh squad on Feb. 7, stopping 31 of 33 shots.
12. Shayne Gostisbehere – Philadelphia Flyers
As the Flyers have gone lately, so has 2016 Calder Trophy nominee Shayne Gostisbehere’s game. After an amazing rookie season that saw him score 17 goals and 29 assists in just 64 games (+8), he has been nearly invisible offensively and defensively. He did start out much like he finished the 2015-16 season, scoring three goals and seven assists in 15 games. The signs, however, were on the wall for a downfall. Away from the puck in those first 15 games, he wasn’t great and was -7. His offence began to dry up over his next 15, with a goal and five assists and just a slight bump up to -5. His last 19 games, including a recent three-game banishment to the press box, have not gone well at all. Just six assists and a -16 plunged his season log to -22. Not what the Flyers were hoping for.
11. Victor Rask – Carolina Hurricanes
It will have to be all hands on deck for the Hurricanes, who are last in the Metropolitan Division but only five points out of playoff spot. Yet, one of their offensive weapons has been lost at sea. Third year man Victor Rask had shown marked improvement his first two seasons, logging 33 points and a -14 in 2014-15, then 48 point and a -6 last season. The Leksand native looked to blow away those numbers early this season, firing eight goals and adding eight assists in his first 20 games. He followed up that great start with another three goals and nine assists in the next 20. After scoring two goals and two assists in games 41 and 42, Rask has absolutely withered. In his last 10 (where the Hurricanes have gone 4-6), Rask has no goals, no assists and recorded a -4 to sink a +3 rating to a -1.
10. Sam Gagner – Columbus Blue Jackets
If there was an award for NHL comeback player of the year, Gagner would have had a lock on it earlier this season. At 27, his once-promising career looked all but washed up after a 16-point campaign with Philadelphia in 2015-16. He wasn’t offered a contract and had to content himself with a league minimum one-year, $650,000 deal with Columbus. Up until the new year, that contract was as prescient a move as any team has made in the last few years. Gagner roared out of the gate, and by Dec. 31 he had 14 goals and 14 assists in 34 games. As the calendar flipped to 2017, Gagner’s offence has all but dried up, particularly post 16-game winning streak. He hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 23rd and has added just six assists since that 28-point start. His ice-time, accordingly, has gone down a couple of minutes per game.
9. Bo Horvat – Vancouver Canucks
Through an up-and-down first half of the NHL season, third-year man Horvat was starting to live up to expectations of being a ninth overall pick (in 2013). The big center was pretty proficient, win or lose, scoring 12 goals and 16 assists in the first 41 games, including one six-game stretch where he failed to register a point. Since the midway mark, Horvat, like his team, has scuffled for any kind of prolonged success. The Canucks, losers of five of their last seven games, are 4-6-3 since game 41. Horvat, who is still tied for the team lead with Henrik Sedin at 34 points, has but three goals and three assists in those 12 games and registered a -5 rating. He has also gone from averaging around 18 minutes per game to under 17.
8. Brandon Saad – Columbus Blue Jackets
The Flyers and Blue Jackets have been getting singled out here, for good reason. While Columbus won’t likely miss the playoffs, they have not been great after a 16-game winning streak, going 7-9-1 to fall behind Washington and Pittsburgh in the standings. The Flyers, who made the playoffs last year (Columbus didn’t), erased the good will from a nine-game winning streak in late-November, early December by going 6-10-3 since. Brandon Saad, Columbus second highest player, was earning his keep and looking to have a career year (he had a personal best 53 points in 2015-16). During Columbus’ amazing 16-game winning streak, Saad scored eight goals and eight assists, boosting his season total to 14 goals and 19 assists through his first 36 games. That put him on pace to smash his all-time high. Since that 16-game, 16-point run, Saad has sadly been ice cold. In his last 17 games, he has scored just three times and added two assists and failing to register a point in 13 of those contests.
7. Jimmy Vesey – New York Rangers
In 2016, Boston native Vesey was a highly sought after young man. Drafted 66th overall by Nashville in 2012, Vesey opted to stay in school at Harvard, putting in four standout years with the Crimson and creating a bidding war for his services, as he never signed with the Predators. The Rangers won and for the first 30 games this season, it showed. He scored 10 goals and added seven assists in that period, which wasn’t elite rookie level, but pretty darned good on a high-scoring Rangers squad. After that laudable start, Vesey is nowhere to be found. In 23 games, he has two goals and an assist and has had a nine-game and a 10-game pointless streak. He is also -10 during this slump.
6. P.K. Subban – Nashville Predators
That big swap between Montreal and Nashville that sent P.K. Subban to Tennessee and Shea Weber to Quebec looked like a bit of a win-win, with an edge to Montreal early. Subban, who won a Norris in 2013, chafed under Michel Therrien’s system and a fresh start seemed the tonic. His season in Nashville can be divided into two parts, pre and post-injury. In his first 29 games before sustaining an injury on Dec. 15, Subban was nearly his normal self, scoring seven goals and 10 assists, seven of those points on the powerplay. In nine games since returning to action Jan. 20, Subban has just three assists and if you count the four games prior to his injury, just three points in 13 games. He has also failed to score since Dec. 6. More alarming is that Subban was a plus-player in his last two seasons in Montreal, but currently sits at -9, second worst on the Preds.
5. Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
When Carey Price went down after 12 games last season — he was 10-2 at the time — so went the Canadiens season and they missed the playoffs. After missing the first three games of this season, Price went on a similar roll, going 11-0-1 through his first 12 starts, posting two shutouts and allowing just 19 goals on 379 shots for an eye-popping save percentage of .950. In his next 12, he didn’t win as many, going 7-4-1 and didn’t record a shutout. The cracks started to show in a loss to Minnesota on Dec. 12, when he allowed three goals on just 26 shots in a loss to Minnesota. Over his last 18 starts he is just 6-9-3 and has allowed four or more goals eight times and logged a very un-Price like save percentage of .897. Worst of all he surrendered eight goals to the two worst teams in hockey this week, Colorado (4-0 loss) and Arizona (5-4 OT win) on only 50 shots (.840 save percentage).
4. Jeff Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes
At exactly the midway point of the 2016-17 season, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner scored two goals and added an assist in a 5-2 victory over Buffalo. It was his eighth multi-point game of the season and second three-point outing in a row, part of a modest four-game Hurricanes winning streak. At that 41-game point, he had a stellar 17 goals and 18 assists to put him near the top of the scoring table. In the 10 games since his star performance against Buffalo, he has exactly one goal and one assist, while the ‘Canes have dropped six of 10 to fall out of the playoff picture. The 7th overall pick in the 2010 draft had a bounce back year in 2015-16, scoring 28 goals and adding 23 assists and trimming his plus-minus to -1 from a horrible -24 the season before. Thus, his hot start had many in Carolina thinking he was going to have a career year.
3. Shea Weber – Montreal Canadiens
For a while there, we — and everyone else — thought the Montreal Canadiens absolutely robbed Nashville blind in the Weber-for-Subban trade last summer. How things have leveled off. In the Habs first 20 games, Weber could do no wrong, providing the kind of scoring and leadership from the blue line Montreal had been craving. He fired eight goals — seven on the powerplay — and added nine assists and was +16, putting him solidly in Norris Trophy contention. A 14-game dry spell followed, though, where he failed to score a goal, had just two assists and was +2. His next eight games, Weber was back to his old self, scoring twice and adding seven assists and was +1. The last 14 games, he has struggled along with his team, with but two goals, both on the powerplay and an assist. Worse, he has been a -3.
2. Richard Panik – Chicago Blackhawks
For a while there earlier this season, it looked like the Blackhawks had struck gold after trading for then minor leaguer Richard Panik half way through the 2015-16 season. Never a big scorer, Panik had six goals and two assists in 30 games with Chicago last year, leading to a bargain basement one-year, $875,000 contract. He scored in his first game this season, added an assist in the next and then unexpectedly recorded his first career hat trick in a win over Nashville in game three. After just six games, he had matched his season total from 2015-16, with another two goals and an assist. Panik would add another two assists in his next for contests to push his totals to six goals and four assists. Then the Panik train went off the rails with a 13-game pointless streak. No matter, he was a bottom six pick-up, but that early outburst raised the bar. By the midway point, he had added another three goals and two assists to give him 15 points. He’s been better his last 14 games, scoring three and adding six assists, but his streaky nature has taken the steam out of that early outburst.
1. Sergei Bobrovsky – Columbus Blue Jackets
A Vezina Trophy winner with Columbus in 2012-13, Bobrovsky started this season with a fluorish, going 11-5-2 in his first 18 starts for the surprising Blue Jackets. He logged three shutouts too, matching his total in 88 games from the two previous seasons. As of that hot start wasn’t enough, Bobrovsky then reeled off 14 straight wins during the Jackets’ improbable 16-game winning streak. While he didn’t shut anyone out in that run, he allowed a mere 24 goals and logged a stellar .939 save percentage. At 25-5-2, another Vezina seemed pre-ordained. As the Jackets have come back to the pack, Bobrovsky’s performance has been below-average. He allowed five goals on just 23 shots to Washington on Jan. 5, a 5-0 whitewash that killed the streak. He is 4-6-1 since that loss and has surrendered 31 goals, equating to a .899 save percentage. His last six starts, Bobrovsky is 1-4-1 with a .875 save percentage. Ugh, and they waived back-up Curtis McElhinney.