Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Building a 20-man roster of history’s terrible starts (that turned out OK)

We’re two weeks into the season, and your favorite team probably has at least one player that’s off to a bad start. Maybe they’re not posting numbers, or maybe you’re barely noticing them, or maybe they just look lost out there. Whatever the case, they’re not meeting expectations, and that’s putting it kindly.

And you know what that means: The guy’s a bum. A has-been, or maybe a never-was, or perhaps somehow both at the same time. You should give up on them now.

Or not. That’s the fun of pro sports, where sometimes a slump is just a slump. String together a few bad weeks in January and maybe nobody notices. But do it at the start of the season, and everyone assume it will last all season long. Sometimes that matters, and sometimes it doesn’t.

So today, we’re going to build a roster out of terrible starts from NHL history. Twelve forwards, six defensemen and two goalies, all of whom stunk at the start of a season. I’ll give you facts, you can join me in booing the player for being a bum, and then we’ll reveal who we’re talking about and how it all turned out.

The idea here is to give you some hope for the early-season duds on your favorite team. Hey, a little foolish optimism never hurt anyone, so let’s remember some awful starts.

First line

The bum: This flashy mega-star is a former Art Ross winner and finished second in scoring last year. But this year he’s barely doing anything as the calendar flips from October to November. Eleven games into the season, he hasn’t had so much as a single multi-point game, and is sitting at a pedestrian eight points overall, way below his career average. Even worse, he’s already a -8 on the season, cementing his reputation as a one-way threat who barely knows how to find the defensive zone. Only now he’s not scoring at the other end either. Boo this man!

But you just booed: Jaromir Jagr in 1996-97.

How it turned out: He breaks out with a four-point night in game 12, one of three he’ll have in the next two months. He’ll end up missing 20 games to injury but still finishes the season with almost 100 points, third in the league in points-per-game. Oh, and then he wins each of the next four scoring titles.


The bum: Expectations were sky-high for this established star who’d just won a Hart to go with a Rocket Richard. He looked OK early, scoring his first two goals of the season in his second game. But those would be his last goals for almost a month, as he went his next nine games without scoring, and as the slump went on he wasn’t even getting many shots. He’d finally score again by the second week of November, but you can kiss those trophies goodbye, Slumpy.

But you just booed: Alexander Ovechkin in 2008-09.

How it turned out: He’d score in each of his next five games and never really slowed down from there. He’d finish the season with 56 goals, 110 points and the second most shots in the history of the NHL, and would indeed capture both the Hart and the Richard for a second straight season.


The bum: This player had been considered an elite superstar for a full decade. But everyone slows down eventually, and this guy dropped off big time. He went pointless in his first five games and nine of his first ten, and by mid-November he was on pace for just ten goals and 40 points in a full season. Hey, nobody dominates forever.

But you just booed: Sidney Crosby in 2015-16.

How it turned out: Game 19 launched a scoring streak, and Crosby stayed red hot for most of the rest of the season. He’d end up earning first-team all-star honors, was Hart Trophy runner-up, and won the first of two straight Conn Smythe Trophies as the Penguins captured back-to-back Cups.

>> 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