Scott Arniel

PHT presents: Three Duds of the Week


Every Monday, we’ll highlight (lowlight?) three of the NHL’s biggest duds from the past week.

1st Dud: Pick a Jacket, any Jacket.

Key Stats: Columbus is 0-4-1, 24th in goals for, 25th in goals against, 28th on the power play and 28th on the penalty kill.

It’s hard to pin the Blue Jackets’ woes on a single individual, but not because there’s a lack of candidates.

— Steve Mason has an .889 save percentage and already been hooked once in favor of Curtis Sanford.

— RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard have combined for one point and a minus-6 rating.

— With James Wisniewski suspended, the defensive workload has been forced upon Grant Clitsome (team-high 23:15 a night) and Radek Martinek (22:39). Just to clarify: Columbus GM Scott Howson spent $74 million on his defense this offseason, yet the high-minute blueliner is Grant Clitsome.

— After the Jackets put a season-low 15 shots on goal in a 4-2 loss to Dallas on Saturday, head coach Scott Arniel bag-skated them for an hour, a tactic that, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch, “hasn’t been used in Columbus since Gerard Gallant stood behind the bench.” Good times in C-Bus.

NB: Rick Nash (2G-3A-5PTS) and Vinny Prospal (3G-2A-5PTS) could be exempt from being picked, although Nash is the captain of this mess and Prospal has been a real penalty magnet.

2nd Dud: Marco Sturm, LW, Vancouver Canucks

Key Stats: Sturm has zero goals, zero assists and zero points. He is minus-4, however.

Vancouver’s lone notable free agent signing on July 1, Sturm was brought in on a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the hopes of 1) Recapturing the form that made him a seven-time 20-goal scorer, and 2) Being a top-six forward to start the year, given the injuries to Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond.

In retrospect, these expectations might’ve been a tad high given 1) Sturm’s torn his ACL twice since 2008, and 2) The Canucks are his fourth team in 12 months. But neither of those facts prevented the always-compassionate Vancouver media from eviscerating him after just five games!

The Province: “How much time is Marco Sturm going to get to make something happen?”

Vancouver Sun: “Sturm, a free-agent acquisition signed largely because second-liners Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond were injured in the Cup final, may be the most disappointing forward so far.”

The Province (again): “It’s nearing mid-October and we’re still unsure what it takes to get Marco Sturm going.”

The Province (yeah, again): “Marco Sturm, who had two knee surgeries the past three years, has been a bust with no points, two shots and a minus-4 rating after five games.”

On the bright side, Sturm was Vancouver’s best German-born player this past week.

[Update: One of our top-secret inside sources in Vancouver says Sturm is “likely” to be scratched tomorrow night against the Rangers.]

3rd Dud: Bryan Little, C, Winnipeg Jets

Key stats: Little has zero goals, zero assists, zero points and is also minus-4. Sound familiar?

Much like in Columbus, there are numerous people to blame for Winnipeg’s awful start (in no particular order: Ondrej Pavelec, Johnny Oduya, Dustin Byfuglien, anyone wearing a Jets jersey.) But right near the top is Little, the only member of the Jets’ first line without a point. Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd got theirs on Saturday in Phoenix.

Little’s struggles aren’t for a lack of opportunity, as he’s Winnipeg’s No. 1 centre on the power play, most active faceoff man and playing over 17 minutes a night. He just isn’t getting anything done. Case in point: Little’s only registered three shots on goal through three games, with two of ’em coming in the season opener against Montreal.

If you’d like to weigh in with your duds of the week, add ’em in the comments section below.

The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the season

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) watches as Patrik Laine's game-tying goal goes past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

In case you haven’t noticed, NHL goalies are having a real struggle to start the 2016-17 season. After 80 games, the average save percentage sits at just .903, per Hockey Reference.

To put that number in perspective, the last time a season finished with that low an average was 2000-01. The last couple of years, it’s been at .915, the highest save rate in league history. So don’t expect it to stay at .903 for long. Remember, the goalies’ equipment hasn’t really been altered yet.

With that in mind, here are five goalies that need to pull it together:

Brian Elliott: The most obvious candidate. He’s been extremely shaky for his new team in Calgary, going 0-3-0 with an .839 save rate. Another poor performance tonight in Chicago and head coach Glen Gulutzan may need to give Chad Johnson an opportunity to take the ball and run with it, because the Flames are already in a hole.

Frederik Andersen: Another goalie playing for a new team. He’s gone 1-0-3 for Toronto, with an .879 save percentage. The Maple Leafs had better hope this is just a blip, because they’re committed to Andersen through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $5 million.

Corey Crawford: This is an interesting one, because Crawford has mostly been ventilated on the penalty kill. His save percentage is a ridiculously low .615 while the ‘Hawks are shorthanded (10 goals allowed) and an impressive .966 at even strength (three goals). Overall, he’s 1-3-0 with an .886 save percentage, which needs to be higher one way or the other.

Eddie Lack/Cam Ward: Let’s count these two as one, because they both play for Carolina and they’re both having serious issues. After five Hurricanes games, Lack’s save percentage is just .857 (three starts), while Ward’s is somehow worse at .852 (two starts). It was a similar story last year, when Lack and Ward combined for the second-worst team save percentage in the NHL, so don’t feel obligated to act surprised.

Steve Mason/Michal Neuvirth: We’ll also count these guys as one, since they both play for Philadelphia and they’re both having a tough go. This scenario is different than Carolina’s, though, because Mason and Neuvirth were both excellent last season in helping the Flyers to an unexpected playoff berth. This season, Mason is 1-2-1 with an .882 save percentage, while Neuvirth is technically undefeated with a 1-0-0 record, but his save percentage is just .854 in two appearances.

So that’s seven struggling goalies. There are plenty of honorary mentions, including Anton Khudobin, Louis Domingue, Darcy Kuemper, Craig Anderson, John Gibson, Martin Jones, Jake Allen, and even Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, whose save percentage sits at a lowly .861.

PS — Henrik Lundqvist, Semyon Varlamov, and Marc-Andre Fleury haven’t been great either.

Oh look, more injuries in Dallas

Lindy Ruff
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The Stars should be on the lookout for banana peels and open manhole covers.

After a disappointing 3-0 loss to Columbus, Dallas received more bad news in the health department — Ales Hemsky, who returned from a groin injury to play his first game of the year on Saturday, was re-injured and is now out for Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg, while Jason Spezza “tweaked something in practice” today and is listed as questionable, per the Morning-News.


Spezza and Hemsky join Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee), Patrick Sharp (concussion), Patrick Eaves (lower body) and Jiri Hudler (flu) among Dallas’ inactives.

Eaves might be able to go against the Jets, while Hudler has all but been ruled out. The rest of the ailments are of the longer-term variety, with Janmark the longest at 5-6 months.

As you might expect, the Stars have struggled while trying to compensate. The lineup against Columbus featured the likes of Gemel Smith, Lauri Korpikoski and Adam Cracknell — all of whom are basically new to the team this season — and, unsurprisingly, Dallas’ recent record reflects that lack of roster consistency: 1-2-1 over the last four games, including a pair of home defeats to the Kings and Jackets.

“We’ve got to deal with what we’ve got,” head coach Lindy Ruff said.

Related: The injury situation in Dallas is out of control

Rozsival to make season debut for Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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An injury to Trevor van Riemsdyk has paved the way for Michal Rozsival to make his season debut for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rozsival might’ve been scheduled to play anyway, as the veteran defenseman is expected to replace Michal Kempny when the ‘Hawks host the Flames tonight at United Center.

“We want to get everyone in at some point,” said head coach Joel Quenneville, per the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t want to wait too long to get him into the season here. He can be useful, gives us some experience and can play minutes against top guys.”

At 38, Rozsival is one of the oldest players in the NHL. When the ‘Hawks re-signed him for another year, it came as a surprise to many. And by the time training camp rolled around, even he wasn’t exactly sure what his role would be this season.

But not surprisingly, after last season, GM Stan Bowman would rather err on the side of too much depth on the back end.

“It’s funny, because we had these [interviews] a year ago and they were always saying, ‘Are you worried about your defense? Do you have enough depth there?'” Bowman said, per the Sun-Times. “And now you’re saying we have too much depth. I think no matter what the story is, there’s a story line to it. But I’d rather have more guys who can play. Are we going to be healthy all year long? I hope so. But I don’t know if we will. … The thing with Michal, even last year, he just played too much consecutively. He still has a lot of hockey left.”

Related: Blackhawks’ issues go beyond the penalty kill

Goalie nods: Slumping Flames go back to slumping Elliott

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Goalie Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Edmonton Oilers on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan made a noteworthy decision over the weekend, opting to sit No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott against his former team, the St. Louis Blues, in favor of backup Chad Johnson.

The move didn’t pay off. Calgary lost 6-4, with Johnson allowing five goals on 39 shots.

So now, Elliott is back in goal was the Flames take on the ‘Hawks tonight at the United Center.

Acquired to fix the goaltending issues that plagued Calgary all of last season, Elliott has gone 0-3-0 with an .839 save percentage and 4.72 GAA.

Not good, obviously — especially for a 31-year-old pending UFA that’s looking to score a contract extension.

The Flames will hope that Elliott’s former goalie partner, Jake Allen, is something of a psychic. Over the weekend, Allen predicted that Elliott “will find his game very soon,” and tonight would be a good night for that to happen — Chicago’s offense has been firing over the last four games, finding the back of the net 16 times.

That said, the ‘Hawks are facing issues of their own.

They’ll give Corey Crawford the start tonight.


— Just one other game on the ledger, as the Flyers will take on the Habs in Montreal. Philly is going with Steve Mason, who allowed three goals on 30 shots in a win over Carolina on Saturday. The Canadiens are going with Carey Price, who allowed two goals on 21 shots in a win over Boston on Saturday.