The Big Question will be a weekly feature on PHT where we ask a question, provide some background and ask you, the reader, to weigh in with your opinions.
Today’s question: Which NHL team is the biggest disappointment at this point in the season?
Three candidates to get things started:
Buffalo Sabres (16-15-3, 11th in the Eastern Conference) – Committed a ton of owner Terry Pegula’s money over the summer, acquiring Robyn Regehr from Calgary and adding free agents like Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino. So far the investment hasn’t paid off. Besides Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, it’s hard to find a Sabre that’s played particularly well. A lack of team toughness and inconsistent goaltending from Ryan Miller are two subjects that have been much talked about.
Washington Capitals (17-14-2, 10th in the East) – Started out with seven straight victories, went in the tank, saw their coach get fired, and now just seem to be treading water. Like the Sabres, the Caps made a number of moves in the offseason, adding gritty forwards Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik, and goalie Tomas Vokoun. Of course, much of the payroll remains tied up in Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin, two ultra-talented forwards that aren’t producing like they should. Making matter worse, the team’s top defenseman, Mike Green, has missed most of the season with injuries.
Columbus Blue Jackets (9-21-4, last place in the NHL) – Another team that jacked up payroll over the summer, the Jackets traded for sniper Jeff Carter and signed offensive defenseman James Wisniewski. The one area GM Scott Howson didn’t address was goaltending, deciding to roll the dice with Steve Mason. Unfortunately for Howson, the gamble was a poor one. It took nine games for Columbus to get its first win, and at that point the team’s confidence was already crushed. No group has suffered more heartbreaking losses than the Jackets in 2011-12. Their latest debacle came Thursday when they blew a 4-1 lead in Nashville, losing 6-5 on a Predators goal with nine seconds left in regulation.
Other “most disappointing team” candidates include Los Angeles, Anaheim, Tampa Bay and Montreal.
I’d have to go with the Blue Jackets, if only because there was so much optimism before the season started. Now their playoff hopes are all but over, and it’s not even January. That’s sad.