Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Assembling the NHL first half all-disappointment team

The Vancouver Canucks haven’t been first in too many categories this year, but they pulled it off over the weekend when they became the first team in the league to get to the halfway mark of the 56-game schedule. And it’s fair to say their first half didn’t go the way they’d hoped.

That’s bad news for Vancouver, but good news for us because it fits the theme of today’s post: Disappointment. There’s been plenty of it to go around this year, with a ton of teams looking pretty miserable these days. So this week, as more teams cross that halfway mark, let’s vent some frustration by building a roster out of the most disappointing players so far.

To be clear about what we’re going for, this isn’t a roster of the league’s worst or least-productive players. That would just be a bunch of depth guys you’ve never heard of and what would you even do with a roster like that? Right, probably beat the Sabres, but not much else. Nobody wants to read us picking on the no-names.

Instead, we’re factoring in the weight of expectations here. Whether it’s reputation, cap hit, recent performance or all of the above, these players came into the year with high expectations that they’ve struggled to meet. And sure, some will turn it around in the second half and make this look bad – that’s half the fun. So let’s celebrate some halves that weren’t fun.

In hockey, you build a good team from the net out, so it goes without saying that this roster needs to start up front.

First line

Taylor Hall, Sabres – The highest-profile forward on the free-agent market surprised us by signing with Buffalo, but it made a certain kind of sense. If he played well and the team was good, he could re-up on a long-term deal. If he played well and the team was mediocre, they’d flip him to a contender at the deadline. Either way, it would work… as long as he played well. Oops.

Hall hasn’t been the only problem in Buffalo, and he won’t be the only Sabre on this list, but a recent MVP going 19 games between goals while his team implodes around him is going to be a lock for this roster.

Jeff Skinner, Sabres – The other no-doubt-about-it Sabres pick didn’t come into the season with the same level of expectations as Hall, although he did have a bigger contract. He’s also had a far worse season, which is really saying something given what Hall’s been able to do. It took Skinner 20 games to get his first goal of the season, with all sorts of healthy scratch drama mixed in. When your head coach seems like he’d rather get fired than say anything nice about you, it’s probably a sign that the season isn’t going great.

Mika Zibanejad, Rangers – No, I’m not quite cruel enough to go all-Sabres on the top line. Instead, I’ll slip in Zibanejad, who was supposed to follow up last season’s breakout by taking another step toward elite status. Instead, his season has been a mess, with just three goals and nine points.

That’s been a disaster on two fronts – he’s costing himself a ton of money with a possible extension looming in the summer, and he’s forcing the Rangers to reconsider whether they really have a first-line center to build around. If Zibanjed isn’t that guy, do they have to figure out a way to trade for Jack Eichel? Oh cool, I did work a Sabre in here after all.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

(Want to read this post on The Athletic for free? Sign up for a free trial.)

No comments:

Post a Comment