The NHL's most disappointing teams so far and why it has gone wrong for them
Some bad teams are just meeting expectations. These teams are failing to meet expectations.
At the start of every NHL season we should have a pretty good idea as to which teams are going to be good and which teams are going to be bad. Sometimes there are variables that can change things one way or another.
For example: A goalie might go on a season-long heater and carry a bad team to the playoffs, or go ice cold and hold back what should have been a playoff team.
Or maybe a couple of young players come along and develop faster than expected and help speed up a rebuild, or perhaps those players do not develop as quickly as hoped and a team gets stuck in the rebuilding phase longer than they hoped.
Sometimes we also just get things wrong.
Sometimes teams just fail to meet expectations across the board.
Today we are going to look at some teams across the NHL that have probably failed to meet expectations through the first quarter and try to figure out why they are falling short.
Let’s get into it.
The Panthers finished the 2021-22 season with the league’s best record and were the first team since the 1995-96 to average more than four goals per game over an 82-game season. They were a powerhouse offensive team and looked to be in line to continue that for the foreseeable future after trading for one of the league’s top players in Matthew Tkachuk.
But more than a quarter of the way through the season they find themselves on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and look like a shell of the team they were a year ago, even though Tkachuk has been spectacular with his new team.
What has gone wrong: A little bit of everything. For starters, the Panthers lost a LOT of talent from last year’s team. It cost them Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in the trade for Giroux. They also lost Mason Marchment and Claude Giroux in free agency, while Anthony Duclair has missed the first half of the season due to recovery from offseason surgery. As good as Tkachuk is, there is no way one player can replace ALL of that talent going out the door.
There is also the fact they did not bring back head coach Andrew Brunnette and replaced him with Paul Maurice, who is the NHL embodiment of mediocrity.
Still, even with those changes this should still be a very good roster with Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, and Anton Lundell at the top of it.
Injuries have been a problem as Barkov and Ekblad have both missed time, but the biggest problem has probably been in goal where Sergei Bobrovsky is just having an absolutely terrible start to the year.
The Panthers entered play on Tuesday with a 5-8-1 record in games where he is the goalie of record, while he has a sub-.890 save percentage. That record would only be a 64-point pace over an 82-game season. That would be worst team in the league territory.
When Spencer Knight is the goalie of record the Panthers are 8-4-3, while Knight he has a .915 save percentage. That is a 104-point pace over 82 games, which is a guaranteed playoff spot.
Can they turn it around: I did not like the hiring of Maurice because he just struck me as a retread hire whose teams have been alarmingly average at every stop, while Bobrovsky has been a problem ever since he arrived in Florida on a seven-year, $70 million contract in free agency. As long as he is playing the way he is they need to rely on Knight to be their guy. The return of Duclair and some better injury luck will help, but the Eastern Conference is a lot deeper than it was a year ago. I would not give up on them, but goaltending will impact a lot.
St. Louis Blues
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