Every Monday, we’ll highlight (lowlight?) three of the NHL’s biggest duds from the past week.
1st Dud: Eric Belanger, C, Edmonton Oilers
Key stat: 27GP, zero goals.
Throughout his 12-year career, Eric Belanger has been to the NHL what nachos are to bar patrons. You know how nachos are a safe, solid order? That’s ’cause it’s hard to screw up nachos. You know what you’re getting with nachos. Nachos hold few surprises, mostly because they’re nachos.
Same goes for Belanger — every year, he’ll average 15-17 minutes of ice time, score around 15 goals, notch 35-40 points and win around 55 percent of his draws. Solid every time. He should come with a side of guacamole.
This year, most of that consistency has carried through. Belanger’s played in every game for the Oilers, posted a 55.2 faceoff percentage and is averaging 15:41 a night.
Just one problem: He has no goals. Zero. Nada.
I have no clue why. The opportunities are there — he gets solid minutes and decent PP time. He has good linemates and shoots the puck enough (not a ton, but enough). To keep with the theme, Belanger’s season is like that one place that screws up nachos by putting calamari or something on them. Makes no sense whatsoever.
2nd Dud: Chris Thorburn, RW, Winnipeg Jets
Key stats: 26GP, zero goals.
(Before we start, let me preface: I know Thorburn is not a goalscorer. But he did score nine last year!)
This might surprise some, but through 26 games Jets are the NHL’s 11th-highest scoring team — and Thorburn has been in the lineup for all 26 games, averaging over 10 minutes per night. But for some odd reason, he’s been completely ineffective offensively. (He’s also being soundly outscored by Tanner Glass. If Glasser can score some goals, Thorburn can score some goals.)
Here’s a guy that’s scored 13-19 points in each of his last four seasons, but now stuck on just one measly assist. Maybe part of Thorburn’s problem is his refusal to direct the puck towards the opponent’s net: In October, there was a stretch where he registered one shot on goal over nine games. Yeah, that’s probably it.
3rd Dud: Blake Geoffrion, LW, Nashville Predators
Key stat: 19GP, zero goals
Geoffrion was a talented scorer at the collegiate level (50 points in 40 games as a senior), the AHL level (37 points in 45 games) and, briefly, the NHL level (scored a hat-trick in his 11th game). Yet this year…it’s been bad. Really bad. Prior to going on injured reserve at the end of November with an arm injury, Geoffrion was mired in Barry Trotz’s doghouse. Part of that was due to having more penalty minutes (13) than shots on goal (seven), but we’re guessing the “you have fewer goals than Colton Orr” thing played a role as well.