Source: COLE BURSTON/THE CANADIAN PRESS
The first half of the NHL season has definitely seen its fair share of ups and downs, and whether it's an underperforming team or player they'll have to step it up in the second half. So here we go, the Top 5 Biggest Disappointments of the first half:
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs were 9-10-4 when Babcock got canned, and since then Keefe has got the Leafs to a 18-7-3 record. Toronto’s slow start is the reason why they're outside a playoff spot but have dragged themselves back into relevance. Though the Jackets and Panthers have been playing good hockey, knocking the Leafs out of the playoffs right now.
The Leafs still have issues though, their defence is still very shaky, and Andersen has struggled as of late late (but played very well in the all-star game). Hutchison has played better but isn't the capable backup that can play with a below average defence, but who knows, maybe the resurgence of Barrie and Muzzin will the back end. All in the Leafs have been better with Keefe and are only 4 points out of a playoff spot, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.
There could be a chance Dubas might be able to pull a trade or two at the deadline to improve the team, but one has to admit the Leafs have fallen short of what’s expected of them thus far.
The Flyers captain hasn't had the campaign we’re used to seeing. With only 35 points in 50 games, and hasn’t scored a goal in his last 9, his point total is ranked 85th in the league. Considering Giroux has averaged a point a game the last two years something has to be off. To be fair, the former first round pick was moved back to centre after two years of playing the wing due to the lack of depth on the team.
Giroux will likely stay at centre for now after Alain Vigneault put Travis Kornecy and James Van Reimsdyk with him. The line has produced the last few games and the Flyers have to be hoping they can continue to put up the points. Currently, Giroux is on pace for his worst season since the 09-10 season, a decade ago.
New Jersey Devils
Entering the season the Devils looked to be team that was going to contend this season. Landing PK Subban in the summer, then drafting Jack Hughes first overall, and also adding Wayne Simmonds, it looked as though these moves gave the Devils a chance to re-sign Taylor Hall. Instead the Devils traded Hall early in the season to Arizona.
PK Subban is having a rough season, which could find him on the trade block come the deadline. He’s not the only one underperforming though, Wayne Simmonds hasn't panned out this season either with only 5 goals in 48 games. The Devils also botched the Hall trade, failing to get anything substantial in return trade. If the wasn’t enough the team has fired both their coach and GM so far. Despite the young talent, it seems Jersey still has a long way to go in their rebuild.
The Panthers took a major chance spending a fortune on former two-time Vezina trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, and so far the gamble is not paying off. While the Panthers are in the playoffs, Bobrovsky hasn't found his game, record wise it looks good for Bob but other than that it’s been a troubling season.
Luckily Bobrovsky's poor play hasn't hindered Florida in the standings but the Panthers should be worried. Bobrovsky recently has shown life though, 3 of the last 4 starts he's had a save percentage over .900, while 2 of those starts he gave up 2 goals or less. If the Panthers are going to secure a playoff spot, Bob will have to be the goalie he was Columbus.
With his skill and size Kakko seemed to be a GM's dream, however the second overall pick from this past year’s draft has mainly seen third line minutes. To be frank, the rookie hasn't been good enough to play alongside the team’s top talent. Pointless in his last 8 it might be safe to say he’s just not ready. Through the first 44 games of his NHL career, Kaapo only has 17 points with an unfriendly -17 to his name.
One can’t be too harsh on the young Finn, he’s only a rookie and has boat loads of talent. However, the hype he had coming into the league and watching him play at the World Juniors and oversees, most definitely been one of the bigger disappointments in the first half of the season.