West Disappointments and Surprises

Alright, here we go; my surprises and disappointments from the Western Conference:

Anaheim Ducks

Surprise: Bobby Ryan – Of the three guys nominated for the Calder last year, I thought Ryan was the most likely to go through the sophomore slump. Boy, was I wrong; Mason has been terrible and Versteeg’s status is more a result of the stacked team he is on. Although Ryan is on a bit of a slower pace, being almost as good is good enough for me.

Disappointment: JS Giguere – I think he was let off the hook a bit last year because of injuries, so he was expected to come back into his Conn Smythe form. That has not happened. Jonas Hiller has kept the number one role for most of the year. It looks like the Ducks will be stuck with his $7 million next year, the most he gets in any year of his deal.

Calgary Flames

Surprise: Rene Bourque – Bourque has been able to keep up his extremly hot start with almost a point per game pace this season. Forgotten about in Chicago, the Flames got him for a steal; $2.7 million over two years. He is a UFA at the end of the season, so the Flames will want to resign him.

Disappointment: Olli Jokinen – Brought in to be a 1B player to Jarome Iginla at the deadline last year, all he has been is inconsistent for the Flames. He is currently on pace for his lowest total since his rookie season in 1998-99.

Chicago Blackhawks

Surprise: Cristobal Huet – Besides a horrible start, Huet has been almost perfect for the Hawks this year. While a lot of this has to do with how good they are, he has been giving them a chance to win most games he plays, and that is all that matters.

Disappointment: Brian Campbell – $57 million over eight years…..for Brian Campbell…..I understand that the Hawks needed to make a statement to get some butts in the seats, but this is still one of the worst deals out there, especially when they had guys like Keith, Seabrook and Barker in their system. There is no way for a player like him to live up to being the highest paid player on the team.

Colorado Avalanche

Surprise: Chris Stewart – six points in his first 18 games, 23 in his last 24. Definitely way ahead of schedule for the 2006 1st round pick. Remember when his brother was good?

Disappointment: Attendance – This is quite a shame for what used to be a powerhouse both in the League and in terms of tickets. They currently sit 27th in the League. For a team fighting for the Northwest division that is just horrible.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Surprise: Powerplay – This is one that I had to change my criteria for because there was not too much I was surprised about, unless I turned it in to a surprising disappointment again. I just find it surprising that a team that has been so bad is 6th in the League on the powerplay.

Disappointment: Any young player – I was going to go with the fact that Hitchcock didn’t play Filatov, but I have overdone  that, so I will say Derick Brassard. His season last year was cut short by an injury, but he still had 25 points in 31 games. This year he is only on pace for 37 points. Call it a sophomore slump if you want, but I thought the fact that he missed most of last year would make him a lot hungrier.

Dallas Stars

Surprises: Stephane Robidas – It is not very common to see somewhat of a journeyman defenseman to be on apce to double career highs in his ninth NHL season, but Robidas is in the process of doing that right now. He also leads the team in powerplay goals and is third in shots!

Disappointments: Brenden Morrow – This one is really strange for me and I don’t know how to describe it. He has been getting a ton of ice time with good players like Richards, Ribeiro and Neal, but the points are just not coming. I don’t know if it is the lingering effects of surgery last year either. I am sure he still brings leadership qualities to that locker room, I just thought after his great campaign in 2007-2008, and his dominating playoff performance that year, he would have been better. And I am still mad Canada took him over Doan or Smyth.

Detroit Red Wings

Surprise: Jimmy Howard – What else can you say about Jimmy Howard? He has almost put this team on his back after Chris Osgood’s horrible start. After three very inconsistent seasons in the AHL, this was Howard’s year. They couldn’t send him down without having to clear waivers, and they did not have the money to go out and sign a backup. He is now in the running for the Calder Trophy.

Disappointment: Pavel Datsyuk’s stats – I only say this because I obviously could not have predicted the Wings to have as many injuries as they do. I think his decrease has a lot to do with the team often playing in shut down mode now; he just isn’t willing to take the chances he used to. Most of his goals have been on shots coming down the wing, not the flashy dashes to the net where he would make a few players looks stupid. As they get healthier, watch for his stats to increase again.

Edmonton Oilers

Surprise: Dustin Penner – Although he has finally comeback down to Earth, Penner’s first 40 games were pretty remarkable (38 points). With all of the injuries the Oilers have gone through, there is no way he would be able to keep that pace up for an entire season.

Disappointment: Andrew Cogliano – This was another tough one because there have been so many disappointments on this team (Horcoff and Gilbert). I would have thought that the “NHL’s Fastest Skater” would be able to relay that into points in his third full season, but he is due for his third straight decrease in totals (45, 38, 18). Maybe being rumoured in the cancelled Dany Heatley deal is getting to him?

LA Kings

Surprise: Drew Doughty – Already named to Team Canada, and likely to be a Norris Trophy nominee…and he just turned 20. Definitely did not think there would be this much, this soon.

Disappointment: Teddy Purcell – I thought he would make it out of training camp, he didn’t. I thought he might seize the opening when Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams went down, or when Frolov was in the doghouse….he didn’t. Now it seems Wayne Simmonds has passed him on the development chart.

Minnesota Wild

Surprise: Eric Belanger – same deal as Robidas; on pace to significantly improve his career high (37 points), on pace for 50 if he can stay healthy.

Disappointment: Brent Burns – I guess 10 points in 21 games isn’t that bad, but when the hell is the guy going to have the breakout year we have all been waiting for. I thought he would have made a push for Team Canada; instead he just labeled himself another injury prone Dman.

Nashville Predators

Surprise: Patric Hornqvist – In what will be his first full NHL season, Hornqvist has been absolutely awesome for the Preds. The last overall pick in the 2005 draft leads the team in goals (18), shots (149) and game winners (5), all of this while spending time on the third and fourth line earlier in the year.

Disappointment: My expectations – It is hard to find something disappointing about a team that seems to overachieve every single year, so I will disappointed in the fact that I once again underestimated them and the job that Barry Trotz does. Please at least nominate him for coach of the year.

Phoenix Coyotes

Surprise: Flawless Transition – They got a new coach in training camp!!! They currently sit 6th in the very tough Western Conference. Dave Tippett has them playing very smart defense first hockey, where not even one player has over 30 points through 47 games.

Disappointment: Peter Mueller – Another guy who will suffer his lowest total in three seasons, Mueller is the most disappointing because he probably has the most potential. Maybe a deadline move for some veteran depth will help him. I can’t imagine Burke not wanting to get his hands on another American.

San Jose Sharks

Surprise: Patrick Marleau – He is having another awesome season for Sharks. I never would have thought he would be outscoring Dany Heatley, but it is happening right now.

Disappointment: Patrick Marleau – Why get our hopes up? He will inevitably choke in the playoffs on route to San Jose being upset once again. Then we will finally see him leave San Jose as a UFA after years of offseason speculation.

St. Louis Blues

Disappointment: Offense – I think every forward on this team is producing less than I expected them to. Perron, Backes, Berglund, Oshie, McDonald, Kariya and Boyes; only one has over 30 points. Did they just waste all of their steam in last year’s remarkable run to the Playoffs. I hope so, because this team has potential to be awesome.

Vancouver Canucks

Surprise: Henrik Sedin – How can it not be? He is on pace for 112 points this season, that would be a 30 point increase from his career high. There is no way that he will hit that; it is just impossible for a guy to keep up the pace he has been going at the past month and a half. But I can he will definitely break 90.

Disappointment: Kyle Wellwood – He came into camp much leaner than in previous years, but I think he migth be better off putting the baby fat back on. Only 12 points in 40 games.

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