With the San Jose Sharks eliminating the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night and the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins headed to a seventh game Thursday, we’re just hours away from having our Stanley Cup Final matchup set. We’ll be down to the best of the best, going head-to-head with the greatest trophy in sports on the line.
And so today, let’s do what any true hockey fan does when confronted with greatness. Let’s ignore it, and pick on the guys who weren’t quite good enough instead.
We’re going to assemble a full lineup of the biggest disappointments from the 2016 playoffs – four centres, eight wingers, six defencemen, two goalies, and even a coach and GM. And we won’t shy away from including some big names. In fact, the bigger the name the better, since high expectations bring more disappointment when they’re not met.
When you look at it that way, finding someone from your favourite team on this list could be considered a compliment, which you should definitely keep in mind before immediately heading into the comments section to call me an idiot. (You still will.)
True, as Ovechkin's critics love to point out, maybe he didn't elevate his game – by which they presumably mean he should float around three feet over the ice by sheer force of will. But he wasn't a bust, or anything close to it.
Kuznetsov, on the other hand… ouch. After leading the Capitals with 77 points in a breakout regular season, Kuznetsov was limited to just two points in two rounds of the playoffs, which works out to an average of — *tries to do math in head* — not enough.
As with many guys on our list, a lot of that was bad luck – he went from 11.4 per cent on-ice shooting across all situations during the regular season to an almost comically awful 0.9 per cent in the playoffs. That's not a player (and all of his teammates) forgetting how to play, it's random chance striking at the worst possible time. Still, for a team that was desperate to go deep, having their leading scorer go cold at exactly the wrong time stings badly.
Heading into what was likely to be his last NHL post-season, Datsyuk had the makings of a feel-good playoff story.
Instead, the 37-year-old was held pointless as the Wings bowed out to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five. We're still not sure if he's heading home, although recent reports sure make it sound that way. If this really is the end, it wasn't the one his magnificent career deserves.
Eric Staal, New York Rangers
When the Rangers acquired Staal at the deadline, everyone cautioned that expectations should be reasonable. This wasn't the 2006 version of Staal, after all. New York was getting a guy on the wrong side of 30 who was having a tough season. And the relatively cheap price they paid reflected that – for once, they didn't even give up a first round pick.
But even given all that, they had to be hoping that a change of scenery and chance to play on a potential Cup contender would give Staal some sort of boost. Instead, they got six points in 20 regular season games and none at all in their first round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The bar was low; Staal sailed well under it.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Typically, a one-point post-season from one of the league's best offensive players would be enough to earn a spot at the very top of the list. But given the injuries Giroux was battling, we'll bump him down to fourth-line duties. That will keep Flyers fans happy, right?
[Gets pelted with souvenir bracelets.]