Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Get ready for Halloween with this team full of the NHL’s scariest starts

It’s Halloween tomorrow. Do you have a scary costume?

If not, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. If you want to frighten anyone this week, all you’ll need is an NHL jersey, a hockey stick and a stats sheet to point at. Other props are optional, although you might want to invest in accessories like hands of stone, a turnstile or a great big goose egg.

Yes, it’s time for our annual tribute to the league’s scariest starts, where we build an entire roster out of some of the biggest names having the ugliest Octobers we can find. Some of these are bad signs for the rest of the year. Most of them will be forgotten by mid-November. We’ll try to figure out which is which as we go, but in the meantime, you can get into the Halloween spirit by yelling “Boo!” at each guy. It probably won’t be the first time this year that they’ve heard it.


The player: Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks

The start: On the heels of a career year at the age of 30, the Hawks’ captain has managed just two points on the season so far. We already had our first wave of “Is Toews breaking out of his slump?” stories two weeks ago; since then he’s been pointless in six.

Odds it ends well: Toews will get going offensively at some point. But for now, at least, last year’s 81-point season is looking like an aberration for a player who’d been in the 50-something range for the three years before that. That’s not good news for a Hawks team that needs all the help it can get these days.

The player: Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes

The start: Three goals and three assists through a dozen games, with only one of those goals coming against an actual goaltender. To put that in historical context, it’s the worst start in six years for a player who had just signed an offer sheet.

Odds it ends well: Aho’s been heating up lately, or at least getting back to lukewarm. He had that first real goal on Thursday and followed that up with his first multi-point game of the season on Saturday. He can be his own toughest critic, so once he gets a few more solid games under him, he could take off.

The player: Taylor Hall, Devils

The start: On the bright side, Hall is the only player on this roster who is also his team’s leading scorer. On the not-so-bright side, he has just seven points and, well, (gestures at the Devils’ entire season). We could just as easily go with fellow forwards like Jack Hughes or Nikita Gusev, since they’re underperforming Hall. But with apologies to the all-about-the-team narratives, the former MVP has a lot more on the line than his younger teammates. With an extension or unrestricted free agency on the horizon, this isn’t a great time to be sitting with just one goal in the first month.

Odds it ends well: Hall is still generating a ton of shots, and has somehow managed six assists, which doesn’t sound impressive until you realize the Devils are dead last in scoring with just 22 goals on the season. He’s doing his part, even if the numbers don’t look great. The question now is whether he’ll finish the season still doing it for the Devils.

The player: Kaapo Kakko, Rangers

The start: He has just two goals and an assist, is getting caved in on possession and has been on the ice for just one even-strength goal for vs. eleven against. Other than that, things are going great.

Odds it ends well: I think we’ve seen enough to know the kid is a bust. (He’s 18, he’ll be fine.)

The player: Joe Pavelski, Stars

The start: Six points in 14 games for one of the biggest UFA signings of the offseason, half of which came last night. Maybe more concerning, his shots rate has dropped by over a shot-per-game compared to his last few seasons.

Odds it ends well: The shots rate is a concern for sure. But I think we can give Pavelski a bit of a break here; after 16 years and thirteen NHL seasons with the same organization, a bit of an adjustment period after switching teams for the first time seems reasonable. Now if only he could play the Wild every night …

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