November couldn’t come soon enough for some of the NHL’s top stars. With it comes the chance to turn the page, at least symbolically, on their stumbles through the season’s opening weeks.
For some, like Boston netminder Tuukka Rask, there already are signs that they are back on track and ready to resume their place among the game’s elite. But for others, like perennial leading scorer Sidney Crosby, there’s only hope that better days lie ahead.
Here's a look at 10 players who suffered through an horrific start to the new season.
10. Tuukka Rask, Bruins
Rask might have been less effective during October than at any point in his career. He started the season by allowing 22 goals over his first five starts, four of which were losses, and his .889 save percentage still ranks 32nd among goalies who made at least five appearances this season. He’s starting to turn things around, allowing just one goal in his past two starts, but that early inconsistency helped dig a hole for the B’s.
9. Marian Gaborik, Kings
The Kings have turned things around after a slow start but Gaborik’s been a spectator to the process. The $6 million winger has two points on the season and is averaging just 1.9 shots per game, well below his career average of 3.2. No surprise then that he’s been dropped to the third line and has been relegated to spot duty on the power play.
8. Corey Perry, Ducks
The appendectomy Ryan Getzlaf underwent last week suggests there may be some underlying causes for his own lethargic start, but what’s Perry's excuse? The 2011 Rocket Richard winner has three assists but is still looking for his first goal of the season after 11 games. It’s telling that he’s been held to one shot or less in six of those contests. And that he’s not doing much of anything else, either: Perry is just a +6 in SAT, his possession numbers are down and he’s been a plus player once, after coming out ahead 28 times last season.
7. Matt Duchene, Avalanche
No scorer is immune to slumps, but the month-long dry spell thaat Duchene just went through was plain nasty. The Avalanche star tallied one goal and two points in October, and while he was robbed by a couple of highlight-reel stops along the way, he also made a habit of pounding shots into the goalie’s gut–the surest sign of a frustrated shooter. More troubling: he’s –53 in SAT. Tough to make it rain when you’re spending most of the night chasing the puck.
6. Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets
His coach called him “out of shape,” and that might be the reason behind RyJo’s slow start. But it’s no excuse. The 23-year-old was poised on the verge of stardom coming into this season, but he’s averaging just 1.0 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five and his shooting percentage is 7.7, both career lows. More troubling is his body language. Johansen looked disengaged as the Jackets got off to their disastrous start, leading to speculation that he might not be a part of their foundation after all.
5. Dougie Hamilton, Flames
To be fair, his usual partner Kris Russell has been a bigger tire fire, but Hamilton was the one who came into the season with the highest of expectations. His failings then have been more pronounced. Hamilton may as well wear orange for all the time he’s spent impersonating a traffic cone. On the rare occasions when he has been in position, he’s been easily muscled out of the play. And when he’s had the puck, he’s been a turnover machine. After starting the season on the first pair, Hamilton played a season-low 12:07 in Calgary’s 5–4 win at Edmonton on Saturday. That may be an indication of how much good will he’s burned through with coach Bob Hartley, and an indication of his diminished role moving forward ... at least until he proves he can be consistently better.
4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets
Columbus wouldn’t be in a hole this deep if Bobrovsky was playing anywhere near to his personal standard. The former Vezina Trophy winner has compiled a 2-8-0 record while posting a save percentage below .900 in seven of his appearances, including a dismal .727 in a horrifying Halloween loss to the Jets. He’s been better since declaring he had “zero confidence” in himself after dropping his first four decisions, but there’s still a lot of hesitation in his game. If he can’t get his game back on the rails, the Jackets can start looking ahead to the draft.
3. Rick Nash, Rangers
Coming off a campaign in which he scored 42 goals, third-most in the league, Nash is on pace to score fewer than eight this season. He has just one tally, and that one was awarded to him when his empty-net bid was interfered with before he could take a shot. He does have four assists in his past five games, including three helpers in a 3–1 win over Toronto on Friday, but Nash gets paid to finish. And so far, he’s not earning his paper.
2. Jakub Voracek, Flyers
Maybe it’s the pressure of that eight-year, $66 million contract extension. Maybe he’s struggling with the systems of new coach Dave Hakstol. Or maybe his zero-goal, three-assist October was just a really rough patch. Clearly, Voracek was nowhere near as effective as he was last season, when he finished fourth in the scoring race with a career-best 81 points. His failures are felt most accutely on Philadelphia’s power play. Last season, when he ranked third in the league with 33 power play points, the unit ranked third in the league at 23.4%. This year? It stands 24th at 12.5% and finished the month on a 0-10 slide.
1. Sidney Crosby, Penguins
Crosby is the closest thing to a lock that there is in hockey. A brilliant creative force with the work ethic of a fourth-liner, he’s sure to rank among the league’s top scorers as long as he’s healthy. So how is it that he's ranked 163rd on the scoring chart after October, with just five points through 11 games? Or worse, that he’s been held off the score sheet nine times? Part of the problem appears to be coach Mike Johnston’s system—Sid is averaging just 2.22 even strength points per 60 minutes under Johnston, as opposed to 3.44 under Dan Bylsma according to war-on-ice.com. Part may be ongoing linemate issues—a lack of chemistry with Phil Kessel, the deteriorating skill set of Chris Kunitz. It could even be a lingering injury that he doesn’t want to talk about. Whatever the cause, he’s nowhere near the player the Pens need him to be.