East Disappointments and Surprises

So since that last one was done before I could get to it, here is a good old midway through the season surprises and disappointments list. The first thing I will say is that some teams may have a few of each, but my choices are based on the expectations that I had for them at the beginning of the year. I will start with the Eastern Conference:

Atlanta Thrashers

Surprise: Max Afinogenov – 40 points in 45 games for a training camp tryout is pretty damn impressive, especially after getting just 20 and 28 his last two seasons in Buffalo.

Disappointment: Bryan Little – Again, not very hard to see this one. After a 31 goal season in his sophomore campaign, Little is on pace for just 12. I was expecting him to give Atlanta a more formidable 1-2 punch, which could have taken them deep into the playoffs.

Boston Bruins

Surprise: Patrice Bergeron – Easy to say that the team’s leading scorer has been a surprise but it has been the manner that he has done it. After last season’s emergence of David Krejci, Bergeron was pushed down to the third centre on the depth chart. Although the injuries to Savard have helped, he has provided timely scoring, solid defense and has turned into one of the best faceoff guys in the League.

Disappointment: Dennis Wideman – There have been more than a few on Boston this year, but none more than this potential Norris nominee from last season. 50 points last year, 29 this year. Are all the troubles in Boston related to the departure of Phil Kessel?

Buffalo Sabres

Surprise: Tim Connolly’s health – Buffalo has played 44 games, Connolly has played 44 games. Enough said.

Disappointment: Thomas Vanek – Averaged 39.6 goals in the past three seasons, but on pace for just 24 this year. I guess it doesn’t matter too much right now when they are winning, but it will come playoff time. Especially because I highly doubt the Sabres will be a big time spender at the deadline.

Carolina Hurricanes

Surprise: Their up and down tendancies continuing – I think the Canes are the Vaclav Prospals of NHL teams; 2002 – lost in the Finals to the Wings, 2003 – Missed playoffs, 2004 – Missed playoffs, 2006 – won Cup, 2007 – Missed playoffs, 2008 – Missed playoffs, 2009 – lost in Conference Finals, 2010 – Will miss the playoffs. These guys have taken the playoff hangover and spread out over two years. For the betters out there, put your money on them going deep in 2012. See how I turned a disappointment into a surprise. When you think about it, every disappointment is actually a surprise for me anyway; I am surprised at how disappointed I am.

Disappointment: Chad LaRose – 11 points in 18 games in the postseason last year, he was one of the unsung heroes for them in their run. It led him to arbitration, where he got a $3.4 million deal. Now he has 6 points in 28 games. There have been many disappointments on this team, but he is the biggest.

Florida Panthers

Surprise: Nathan Horton – I guess? I thought he was on his way to big things with 62 points out of the lockout. But then another 62 point season, followed by 45 in 67 games last year, I was not expecting much from him. But he is almost at a point per game pace right now, and although that is inflated by his absolute tear with Stephen Weiss last month, I still think he should set a career high.

Disappointment: Rostislav Olesz – He signed a six year deal for $18.75 million in 2008. This former 7th overall pick has been supposed to break out for years now, just like other high draft picks Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton. Is Florida just a wasteland for these players? Or do they suck at drafting?

Montreal Canadiesn

Surprise: Tomas Plekanec – although he is due for the inevitable stat correction I touched on earlier today, he is still going to absolutely destroy the 39 points he put up last season. Since the lockout, 47-69-39-80 (’10 pace); is he going to be like fellow Czech Prospal, or is he here to stay?

Disappointment: Kostitsyn brothers – They were expected to give the Habs some much needed secondary scoring, but have been unable to find much consistency. Andrei was on fire before going down with an injury that will keep him out for about two months, but that was also when he was being put in place of the injured Gionta.

New Jersey Devils

Surprise: Niclas Bergfors – It is very rare to see a Devils’ rookie have as much success as Bergfors has had this season, but he is currently on pace for 50 points (John Tavares is on pace for 51). He is another first rounder of the 2005 Lottery Draft that is making a big mark.

Disappointment: Lack of a powerplay QB – I guess this is just from a fantasy perspective, because it clearly doesn’t seem to be hurting them in the standings, but them have lacked a legitimate offensive defenseman since Brian Rafalski left. I would just love to see what they could do if Lou went out and got Niedermayer or Kaberle at the deadline this year.

New York Islanders

Surprise: Matt Moulson – while he has lost a lost of the luster that he held earlier in the season, it is still pretty impressive for this relatively unknown player to come from the AHL and put up 30 points in 47 games. I don’t know what his future holds, especially with Rob Schremp finally getting some playing time, but he will at least continue to improve with the young Islanders.

Disappointment: Mark Streit – While he isn’t on as skilled a team as the Habs were two years ago, his numbers are set to decrease by more than five for the second STREIT year. HA

New York Rangers

Surprise: Glen Sather is still GM – Seriously, look at who he has brought in that is doing absolutely nothing for this team. Chris Drury: while his leadership and defense is very valuable, it is not worth five years and $35.25 million. Ales Kotalik: I understand they needed to plug some holes, but $3 million a year for a constant question mark is horrible. Donald Brashear: two year, $2.2 million for what? Wade Redden: six year, $39 million ($8 million this year)and Michal Rozsival: four year, $20 million ($6 million this year) should be enough alone to get him canned.

Disappointment: Chris Higgins – brought over in the Gomez deal, it was expected that a fresh start would give Higgins a much needed boost. After 72 goals in the first three post-lockout campaigns, Higgins has only 17 in his last two. What sucks even more is that he is making $2.25 million this year. Just another contract Glen Sather wants to get rid of. Thank god he is a UFA.

Ottawa Senators

Surprise: Mike Fisher – Another examples of a stat anamoly correcting itself, but him being almost 15 away from setting a career high is pretty good for a suspected defensive centre. His production will probably continue to slip until the Sens are healthy again.

Disappointment: Jason Spezza – In five years he has went from breakout star to elite foward to disappointing and now just abysmal. He will pick it back up someday, I just don’t know when or on what team. Maybe he will sign with Toronto in 2015 🙂

Philadelphia Flyers

Surprise: Michael Leighton – Now 8-0-1 as a Flyer, he has been out of the few surprising things on the Flyers this year, and I don’t want to pull another disappoint as a surprise.

Disappointment: Richards/Carter – neither have been able to take the reigns of this team and bring them to another level…yet. Both are on pace for statistical decreases from last season, and Jeff Carter is on pace for 29 goals after scoring 46 last year.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Surprise: Sidney Crosby totals – Crosby currently has two more goals than assists when during his first four seasons he had 35 more assists than goals on average. He has continued his surprising playoff form and is second in the League in goals. He should easily crack 40 this year and might even break 50.

Disappointment: Evgeni Malkin – He will need a huge second half to break 100, and he has just looked disinterested at points this season. I am partly hoping for Crosby to get hurt so Malkin go on his yearly run. It kind of reminds me of the Yzerman-Fedorov relationship in the 90’s, where the Russian was always better without Stevie in the lineup.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Surprise: Steven Stamkos – Showing absolutely zero signs of a sophomore slump is pretty damn good indicator of how good he is going to be. He is playing over a point per game pace and is currently outscoring Mr. $10 million man, Vinny Lecavalier. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vinny turns it around (21 points in 19 games since Dec 4).

Disappointment: Alex Tanguay – While Lecavalier is definitely disappointing, Tanguay was one of my big late round picks this year, and this is the second year in a row he has disappointed. He was more successful last season on a less talented Montreal team. I would have thought with his play making skills, he would have been absolutely perfect for all of the scorers on Tampa.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Disappointment: Zero breakouts – As bad as I thought the Leafs were going to be, I at least thought that maybe ONE player would be able to have a breakout season. So far this season, it has been completely status quo for the team. Poni, Stajan, Hagman, Grabovski, Stempniak…all performing exactly where they were expected to.

Washington Capitals

Surprise: Tomas Fleischmann – It looks like he has hit the big time. After missing the first month of the season, he has 29 points in 34 games, giving the Caps yet another legitimate scoring winger. The only problem is that he is a RFA this summer, and while they will likely lose the contract of Jose Theodore, the recent Semin signing, plus Backstrom, Fehr and Neuvirth also being RFAs will make it difficult to keep him. Especially if an offer sheet comes in from another team. Add this to the fact that Varlamov, Laich and Semin will need new contracts after next season, and I would doubt they want to be THAT cash strapped in their prime years. I would love to see him back in Detroit, and they have the space to make a pitch.

Disappointment: Defense – For one of the big contenders, they still have a shaky defense that I think needs to be added to at the deadline. Maybe they can grab one of Toronto’s overpaid defenders.

4 Responses to “East Disappointments and Surprises”

  1. Listen, Evgeni Malkin is not a disappointment this season. He has started playing better again (so what if he just scored his first goal in 9 years on Saturday? he’s skating with purpose). Check out my blog for more info.

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