Tha Sports Junkies 101

NHL: Five most disappointing skaters so far

disappointing skaters of 2017 Spencer Lee via Flickr


The 2017-18 season has been quite surprising as the new year approaches. Preseason playoff ‘locks’ such as the Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled, while the New Jersey Devils, Winnipeg Jets and Las Vegas Golden Knights have all exceeded expectations. Same goes for certain players. Skaters on both succeeding and failing clubs have disappointed their fan bases, but five in particular have stood out. Here are the five most disappointing skaters so far;

5. Cam Atkinson

Despite the Columbus Blue Jackets’ solid start to the season, one of their top forwards has not lived up to expectations, being Cam Atkinson. Consistently a 20-goal-scorer over the past four seasons, Atkinson has seen a big decline in production so far.

In fact, he was a health scratch during December in which he missed one game. That may have been a bit of an exaggerated move, but it is no surprise John Tortorella was the man who made it.

In 32 games, he has only scored 13 points (6G, 7A) although he is shooting right around his usual average. Pucks aren’t going in for Atkinson and sometimes luck just is not on your side. Best example is Riley Sheahan last year with the Wings, who had only two goals on 109 shots.

Atkinson also has a much better +/- than the other players on this list, showing he has not been a defensive disaster. He is certainly still a great player, but he needs to gain confidence.

Although just as if Atkinson’s rough season was not bad enough, the Blue Jackets announced on Christmas Day he will miss the next 4-6 weeks. We will have to wait and see, but time off may be just the right thing to improve Atkinson’s diminishing confidence.


4. Matt Moulson and Matt Beleskey

Number four on this disappointment list consists of two players, Matt Moulson and Matt Beleskey. Both players carried large cap hits, failed to produce, and were waived by their respective teams.

Matt Beleskey photo

Photo by Marissa Babin

Matt Beleskey is a great example of how quickly NHL careers can decline. It seemed like only yesterday that Beleskey was atop every team’s free agent wish list. Now he is floating in an AHL retirement abyss.

Beleskey is also a great example of how quickly the NHL is changing. Beleskey’s style simply doesn’t fit the mold of the new appreciated style of speed and skill. At age 29, Beleskey would have been considered to be in his prime years ago, but maybe not anymore.

In 14 games played with Boston, he posted 0 points and a -8 +/- which is a sure bet for demotion. As a result, Beleskey was waived and sent to the Providence Bruins, which very well seems could be permanent.

Matt Moulson photo

Photo by tsyp9

Matt Moulson, who was waived by the Sabres on December 4th, was immediately loaned to the King’s AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign. Moulson had previously failed to produce a point in 14 games, and held a terrible -9 +/- causing Buffalo to make a difficult decision.

Moulson during the 2011-12 season scored a career-high 36 goals and 69 points with the Islanders, but since has seen a slow decline in production.

However, unlike Beleskey, Moulson may soon see another chance in the big leagues. Through 8 games played in the AHL, he has posted a solid 13 points (1G, 11A). It is unlikely the Sabres will continue to pay Moulson his five million dollar contract next year in the NHL, but if he continues to prove he’s a viable asset the Sabres will likely attract a trade partner.

3. Sam Reinhart

Sam Reinhart photo

Photo by tsyp9

Another Sabres’ disappointment comes in at number three. Similar to Eriksson Ek, Reinhart is still young and certainly has time to develop. Yet, the Sabres seem more than likely to shop Reinhart if his trend of poor play continues.

The 22-year-old has played in 36 games this year, meaning he has yet to be scratched. He’s posted a dismal -12 +/- and has only scored 11 points (5G, 6A). That’s not quite what Sabres’ management expected after producing 42 and 47 points in the last two seasons.

Reinhart, as a result, has seen significant time on the fourth line and a sharp decline in playing time all together. Once a trusted scorer, Reinhart seems to have lost the trust of his coaches and linemates. Thus, we may very well see Reinhart in a different uniform come the February deadline.

2. Duncan Keith

Duncan Keith photo

Photo by howsmyliving

The Chicago Blackhawks seem to be on the downward trend as of late, and so does its number one defensemen, Duncan Keith. In fact, Keith’s poor play this year has initated analysis of his elite status as a whole.

He currently sits at 18th in the league in terms of ice time, averaging 24:40 minutes per game, which is surely less than his usual numbers. It may be in part to his growing age and injury history, but it very well be the result of declining play.

Keith has also failed to produce a single goal in 35 games, which is very unlike his attacking character. The Blackhawks are a scary opponent when Keith is involved in rushes with players like Kane, Toews, and Saad. But without that added element, the Hawks lose depth scoring. The Hawks’ leading defensemen scorer has only 3 goals, so Chicago could surely use a Keith production boost.

1. Kris Letang

Letang Stanley Cup photo

Photo by AxsDeny

For a three-time Stanley Cup winner like Kris Letang, it has been more than a frustrating season. The Penguins as a whole have looked downright awful at times, and Letang’s play has not helped that fact.

Last year, the Penguins did what seemed to be the impossible: win a Stanley Cup without Kris Letang. Sidelined with a neck injury for roughly six months, Letang’s growing elite status took a halt.

Though he has returned to full health, that growing elite status has seemed to halt even further. In 37 games, he has scored 25 points (2G, 23A) which is not exactly disastrous, but it is not his full potential.

However, Letang’s offensive play hasn’t been his biggest problem, it’s his defense. He has a terrible -15 +/-, and it is no coincidence. Letang’s terrible defensive shape has caused several breakaways and his poor decision making is the cause of his repeated turnovers.

Although he continues to join rushes, he is not scoring goals. At times he has been demoted to the second powerplay unit, and often times he simply cannot be trusted on penalty kills

Kris Letang in my opinion is still elite, but he has failed to show it so far. He is by no means the sole reason for the Penguins woes this year, but he has surely played a role in it. If the Penguins improve their play in the coming weeks, it very well be because Letang has improved his individual play.