Thursday, November 18, 2021

Elias Pettersson, Philipp Grubauer, and the rest of the NHL’s first month all-disappointment team

We’re well into the second month of the season, and it’s time to stay positive by talking about all the players having terrible seasons.

OK, that sounds weird. Picking 20 players from around the league and labelling them as early-season busts doesn’t sound especially positive, after all. But its not all bad, for two reasons. First, as we already highlighted a few weeks ago, bad starts by good players will often turn out to be meaningless, the sort of thing that all balances out by the end of a season. And maybe more importantly, it’s worth remembering that your favorite team isn’t the only one with underachievers. Almost every team has a few guys who aren’t living up to expectations; that’s just life in the NHL. We’re all in this together.

So today, we’re going to build a full roster of early-season letdowns. Twelve forwards, six defensemen and two goalies, with a max of one player per team so that it’s not all Canucks we maximize the positivity. Then we’ll shower them in good vibes for their inevitable turnaround. You’re going to do that part, right? Of course you are. The power of positive thinking!

On to the roster, where we’ll build from the net out.


Philipp Grubauer, Kraken — You never really got the feeling that Grubauer was part of the Kraken plan as they assembled their first roster. We all kind of assumed he’d end up back in Colorado, even after he officially hit the UFA market. When that didn’t happen, Seattle swooped in and made the deal, seemingly setting up an excellent pairing with Grubauer and Chris Driedger. Instead, both guys have been mediocre at best, leaving Seattle with almost $10 million worth of not-great goaltending, and one eye on a Grubauer contract that runs through 2027.

Linus Ullmark., Bruins — When Ullmark signed a surprising four-year, $20-million deal to become Boston’s new starter, he was positioned to be the long-term replacement for Tuukka Rask. A month in, he seems to have already lost the starting job to Jeremy Swayman, at least temporarily, and his numbers are barely so-so. Look, Rask never actually said that he wasn’t coming back for sure, right?

First pair

Jakob Chychrun, Coyotes One thing you heard a lot heading into the season is that the Coyotes would be awful, but at least Chychrun would be good. So far, both predictions have turned out to be too optimistic. Arizona has been worse than awful, and Chychrun has just one goal on the year after scoring 30 over the last two seasons. That part won’t last — he’s still generating shots, and he’s not going to shoot 2 percent forever — but the year has been a worrying step back for a guy who seemed headed towards the Norris conversation.

Alex Pietrangelo, Golden Knights — This one is debatable. No, literally — we saw Jesse and Dom battle it out between the pro-Pietrangelo and anti-Pietrangelo sides. That was from the first week of November, and he’s had three multi-point game since then, so maybe the ledger is tipping. Still, when a Cup favorite is paying a guy nearly $9 million to carry the blueline, “debatable” probably isn’t what you’re hoping for.

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