Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When the 2013 campaign was set to begin
nearly a month ago, we knew some players would thrive during the lockout-
shortened season while others would suffer.
With most of the league already a quarter-way through this year's 48-game
schedule it's a little bit clearer which players fall into the first category
and which ones are still trying to get their seasons on track.
Of course, the same goes for teams. Some clubs, like the Chicago Blackhawks,
for example, have started 2013 like they were shot out of cannon while other
teams such as the St. Louis Blues and the defending Stanley Cup champions Los
Angeles Kings have begun the campaign with a case of lockout lethargy.
Here's a look at some players and teams -- both the good and bad -- that have
grabbed our attention in the early going.
MOST SURPRISING TEAM - ANAHEIM
Few things went right for the Ducks in 2011-12 when the team managed 80 points
and finished 13th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference, the club's worst
showing since a 76-point campaign in 2003-04. Anaheim appears determined to
put that ugly campaign behind them in 2013 and a boost in the club's offensive
numbers has been key to the Ducks' 8-2-1 start to this season. The Ducks are
averaging 3.36 goals through 11 games (3rd in the NHL) after ranking 23rd in
the league with only 2.45 goals per game in 2011-12.
A great deal of credit has to go to head coach Bruce Boudreau, who has slowly
brought the team back to respectability since taking over for the fired Randy
Carlyle early in the 2011-12 season. Boudreau, who is 35-25-9 since taking
over for Carlyle, led Washington to four straight Southeast Division titles
before being fired by the Capitals in November of last season. With the way he
has Anaheim playing in 2013, Boudreau may add a Pacific Division crown to his
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM - ST. LOUIS
Of course it's tempting to go with the Kings here, but St. Louis has the
defending champs beat for this dubious title. While Los Angeles' poor start
has Cup hangover written all over it, the Blues have flat-out lost their
identity as a defensive juggernaut during the opening weeks of the season. St,
Louis started the campaign with a 6-1-0 record in January before coming
unglued in February with an 0-5-1 stretch to begin the month.
Although the Blues easily led the NHL by allowing a stingy 1.89 goals per game
in 2011-12, the team is 25th in the league this year with an average of 3.25
goals surrendered a night. Head coach Ken Hitchcock is a stickler for details
and is obviously frustrated at how sloppy the team has played in the early
going. So far, Hitch has been unable to find a fix and he won't have much time
to tweak things during this compacted schedule. Much of the blame for the slow
start has been placed in the crease, where Jaroslav Halak already has missed
significant time due to a nagging groin problem and an ineffective Brian
Elliott has been unable to pick up the slack. The duo formed the league's most
efficient goaltending tandem in 2011-12, but that seems like forever ago at
M.V.P. - PATRICK KANE, CHICAGO
Coming off his worst NHL season, Kane had an even more difficult offseason
thanks to the controversy surrounding his highly-publicized display of public
intoxication during an infamous weekend in Madison, Wis. last spring. For months
and months, Kane had to listen to the detractors find different ways to label
him an immature brat. Since this wasn't Kane's first experience with bad
publicity (a run-in with a Buffalo cab driver led to Kane being arrested in
2009) the pot-shots were more than fair, but it seems the former No. 1 overall
pick decided to use the criticisms as fuel heading into 2013.
Kane -- the top pick of the 2007 draft -- played in all 82 games in 2011-12
but his 66 points marked a career-low and his 23 goals was his second-worst
output after his rookie season tally of 21. So far this season, he has
compiled nine goals and 10 assists, leaving Kane behind only Buffalo's Thomas
Vanek for the NHL scoring lead. The fact that Chicago has begun the season
with a 10-0-2 mark only makes his case for the Hart Trophy even stronger in
the early going.
M.D.P. (MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER) - CLAUDE GIROUX, PHILADELPHIA
Although Flyers' fans seem ready to point the finger for their slow start
(5-7-1) at just about anybody else, Giroux is clearly the player holding the
team back. Maybe it's the lockout or problems adjusting to his new role as
team captain, but the Flyers won't scare anybody as long as Giroux is playing
like anything other than his club's best weapon.
At a glance, his three goals and four assists through 13 games doesn't seem
too awful but his drop-off in points-per-game is nothing short of alarming.
Giroux had 93 points in 77 games in 2011-12 for an average of 1.21 ppg, but
he's only scoring at a rate of 0.54 ppg in 2013. Some folks blame the
centerman's poor showing on the loss of winger Scott Hartnell, who played in
only three games before breaking his foot, but the loss of one of his
linemates isn't a good enough reason to explain away Giroux's lack of success.
After all, Giroux entered this season as a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate
and is supposed to be the type of creative player who can pick his linemates
off the street and still make them look like NHLers.
Prominent players on other teams may have fewer points than Giroux at this
stage, but none of them have hurt their team this much. Plain and simple, with
Giroux at the top of his game in 2011-12 the Flyers were tied for second in
the NHL in goals scored. This year, Philadelphia is ranked 22nd and the only
way that's going to get better is for Giroux to pick up the pace before it's
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