NHL: 3 most disappointing players this season (so far)

We are roughly a quarter of the way through the 2020-21 NHL season which means we have a solid sample size. Here are the three most disappointing players so far.

A condensed schedule lends to lots of overreactions but we are a quarter of the way through the NHL season which gives us a good enough sample size to start making evaluations. Here are three players that have simply not lived up to expectations so far:

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3. Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlsson is the fourth-highest paid player in the NHL with an $11.5 million cap hit for the next six years after this season. He’s had major injuries and is 30-years-old, his regression has been quick and there seems to be no solution for the San Jose Sharks.

Ever since he became a Shark, his point production has been shrinking year by year. It started at 0.85 points a game, then 0.71, and this season it is at 0.31. While points are not all what makes a defenseman important, the $11.5 million price tag says that he should be a big part of the Sharks’ offensive production.

What made Karlsson such a good player was his skating. His skating is what made him so elusive in the defensive zone and what helped him drive the offense.

However, he’s been struggling with groin injuries which got in the way of his performance with the Sharks. Heading into this season, he was confident in his health and General Manager Doug Wilson even said that this was going to be the first season that Karlsson would be 100% healthy with the team.

While he says he is healthy, Karlsson just doesn’t seem to possess the speed that he used to have and it has really bled into his defensive game. Before, he was able to be aggressive with his play because he had the engines to get back if the play went south. Now, he doesn’t have that ability and he always seems to be a step behind. If the San Jose Sharks want to go for another postseason run with this core, they’re going to need Erik Karlsson to be at his best.

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2. Alexis Lafreniere

Alexis Lafreniere is off to one of the worst starts among the NHL’s No. 1 overall picks. He has two goals in 15 games played. That’s it. His performance has not lived up to the projections made of him at the start of the season. While there is no doubt that he will eventually find his way again, it has been an incredibly disappointing start.

He averages just 14:31 minutes a night and has been benched by Head Coach David Quinn quite a bit as there seems to be a lack of trust to put Lafreniere out on the ice in big situations, although Quinn is known for treating rookies with kid gloves and easing them in bit by bit. Lafreniere has also been up and down the lineup and perhaps the lack of consistency in both his ice time and line mates are contributing towards his lack of production.

However you want to slice it, the player who was supposed to be a rookie sensation is just not performing up to expectations.

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1. Taylor Hall

When the Buffalo Sabres acquired Taylor Hall in the offseason, it seemed like they were taking the next step towards relevancy. The one-year deal for $8 million was a “show me” deal and expectations were high for the winger. Instead of taking the next step, the team is last in the East Division and are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games.

Hall has just 10 points (1 G, 9 A) in 12 games played and for $8 million, that’s simply not good enough. The team is averaging 2.36 goals a game which is 27th in the league and their team total of 17 goals at even strength is dead-last in the NHL.

“Right now, it’s been tough. I can’t lie to you. If I have four or five goals right now, you don’t really know what our season looks like, especially with how close the games we had and how much we’ve been in games right until the very end.”

Taylor Hall via Bill Hoppe

Hall’s right. Three of the Sabres’ seven losses were by two or less goals while two other losses came in Overtime and the Shootout. How different would the Buffalo Sabres’ season look if Taylor Hall had a few more goals?