Tag: Wednesday Wake-Up Call

Atlanta Thrashers v Florida Panthers

Wednesday Wake-Up Call: Stephen Weiss


The Wednesday Wake-Up Call is where we pick a struggling player and kindly ask him to SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. COME ON. YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!

Stephen Weiss, C, Florida Panthers

Key stats: Hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 5.

Cap hit: $3.1 million annually.

First, let’s begin on the rare positive note (this feature is called the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, after all) — Weiss recently became Florida’s all-time assists leader with 232, surpassing Olli Jokinen and a host of other forgettable Panthers, including Robert Svehla.

That’s about all he’s done lately, though.

For a guy that’s basically the face of the franchise — he needs just 15 more appearances to become Florida’s all-time leader in games played — Weiss has done little to keep Florida atop the Southeast Division. He’s goalless in his last 15 games, recording just five assists over that stretch, and the Panthers’ record during that time is 5-5-5. They’ve gone from holding a healthy lead over Washington in the division to being just one point up on the Caps heading into tonight’s action.

To be fair to Weiss, his linemates aren’t exactly helping him battle through the slump. Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann have been invisible of late and recently drew the ire of head coach Kevin Dineen, who benched Versteeg last Friday against Pittsburgh and cut the ice times of both Weiss and Fleischmann.

All that said, this should be Weiss’ team. He’s 28 years old, the longest-tenured Panther, in the midst of his 10th season and one of four alternate captains (the Panthers don’t have a captain), an honor he said he “takes pretty seriously“.

So wake up, Stephen Weiss. Your team needs you.

Wednesday Wake-Up Call: Niklas Backstrom

Niklas Backstrom

The Wednesday Wake-Up Call is where we pick a struggling player and kindly ask him to SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. COME ON. YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!

Niklas Backstrom, G, Minnesota Wild

Key stats: 1-6-2 in last eight games played.

Cap hit: $6 million annually

Most have pinned Minnesota’s recent slide — the Wild have lost 11 of their last 13 — on a lack of scoring. The 29th-ranked offense in the NHL is averaging just over two goals per game and has gone in the tank of late…but that’s not the only reason Minnesota has dropped from first in the Western Conference into a dogfight for eighth.

The other reason: Niklas Backstrom hasn’t been very good.

After dropping a 2-1 shootout decision to the Islanders back on Dec. 17, the Finnish netminder has struggled to keep pucks out of the net. After the loss to New York, Backstrom allowed four goals in three consecutive contests — against Vancouver, Edmonton and Colorado — before allowing three in each of his next three against Edmonton, Phoenix and Calgary. Five of those six games ended up in defeat with the last one, a 3-1 loss in Calgary, being especially troublesome as Backstrom allowed three goals in a 9:13 span in the final period.

The Wild need Backstrom to be at his best for a variety of reasons. One, they’ve sunk $6 million bucks into his services this season, a fair chunk of change for a team that’s not spending to the cap. Two, the health of backup Josh Harding has been dicey — he missed all of last year with a knee injury and part of this season with a head injury — and he’s yet to prove capable of handling the starting load.

Bottom line: To avoid an embarrassing collapse, Minnesota needs its No. 1 netminder to show the form that made him a former Vezina nominee.

So wake up, Niklas Backstrom. Your team needs you.

Wednesday Wake-Up Call: Joe Thornton

Joe Thornton

The Wednesday Wake-Up Call is where we pick a struggling player and kindly ask him to SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. COME ON. YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!

Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks

Key stats: 1PPG, 5PPA

Cap hit: $7 million annually

Kudos to TSN’s Scott Cullen for bringing this statistic to my attention. He astutely points out that with six powerplay points this season, Joe Thornton sits behind such luminaries as Tim Stapleton, Corey Potter and Frans Nielsen.

Six points!

To give you an idea of how bad that PP production is — by Thornton’s standards, of course — consider where he’s finished in recent seasons:

2010-11: 9G-24A-33PTS, 7th in the NHL

2009-10: 4G-25A-29PTS, 16th in the NHL

2008-09: 11G-24A-35PTS, 13th in the NHL

2007-08: 11G-26A-37PTS, 7th in the NHL

At the time of writing, NHL.com had Thorton ranked 163rd.

With this lack of production, it’s no surprise San Jose has struggled with the man advantage. The Sharks currently rank 16th in the league (17.7 percent), a far cry from their usual top-five placing — heck, they had the NHL’s second-best PP a year ago (23.5 percent).

This isn’t for a lack of opportunity, either. Thornton’s actually averaging more PP ice time per game this season than he was last season and is still tops among all Sharks forwards in TOI.

So wake up, Joe Thorton. Your powerplay needs you.

Wednesday Wake-Up Call: Shawn Horcoff

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs

The Wednesday Wake-Up Call is where we pick a struggling player and kindly ask him to SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. COME ON. YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!

Shawn Horcoff, C, Edmonton Oilers

Key stats: Pointless in last eight games, goalless in last 13.

Cap hit: $5.5 million annually

It’s almost an annual rite of passage to bring up the albatrossian six-year, $33 million extension Edmonton gave Horcoff back in 2008. Not that Horcoff’s a bad player — the year he signed it, he scored 50 points in 53 games — it’s just that, every year, there’s a stretch of play that reminds you this is costing the Oilers five-and-a-half million bucks.

Horcoff’s currently in the midst of one of those stretches. After a strong start (16 points in his first 22 games) the Edmonton captain has fallen off. He’s gone scoreless in eight despite logging big minutes — a distressing development as Edmonton’s season looks to be going off the rails.

The Oilers have just three wins in their last 13 games and fallen to 13th in the West. Such a swoon was expected of a young, inexperienced team…so isn’t this when the (highly paid) veteran captain is supposed to step up?

Yes, says Horcoff.

“It’s just a matter of trying to get out of this,” he told the Emonton Journal. “You just have to stick with it. As veteran players, we are looked upon to lead these guys out of situations like this.”

It seems the captain is aware of what needs to be done.

So wake up, Shawn Horcoff. Your team needs you.

Wednesday Wake-Up Call: Jack Johnson

Image (1) jackjohnson-thumb-250x278-7973.jpg for post 528

The Wednesday Wake-Up Call is where we pick a struggling player and kindly ask him to SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. COME ON. YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!

Jack Johnson, D, LA Kings

Key stats: 1G-2A-3PTS in last 15GP, minus-10 rating.

Cap hit: $4.35-million annually

It’s going to be really interesting to watch Johnson play under new head coach Darryl Sutter. The third overall pick in 2005 (taken behind Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan) has had his moments — his 42 points last year led all LA defensemen — but still catches heat for his questionable hockey IQ and frequent mental lapses.

[And by frequent, I mean FREQUENT. Johnson’s career rating is minus-88.]

That’s not something the new coach will to stand for. In his introductory presser, Sutter emphasized responsibility and awareness when discussing the razor-thin difference between winning and losing.

“There are little areas of the game that we can be a lot better at. ” Sutter said. “In the big part of it, this league is a 3-2 league. It’s not a 5-2 or a 5-4. It’s a 3-2 league. There’s still a tremendous amount of impact by being good defenders, and not spending as much time in your own zone, spending time in the offensive zone, controlling the neutral zone. ”

Getting Johnson to ‘play the right way’ could be a tall task for Sutter. Remember, it was only last year when Kings GM Dean Lombardi gave the infamous interview where he said Johnson “never had any coaching [at the University of Michigan]” and “just did what he wanted.”

“Jack was a thoroughbred out there,” Lombardi explained. “But he was all over the place. He was awful as a hockey player. As an athlete, you’re going, wow! Look at the way he skates, shoots, he can pass.

“But he had no idea where he was going.”

So wake up, Jack Johnson. Your team needs you.