Monday, December 10, 2007

Worst NHL Regular This Season

I think it is an informative question to ask who the worst player who plays regularly in the NHL in a given season and why is he still being played. I have found that by the end of the season, the answer to that question is usually a hard working forward who lacks the skills to play at the NHL level, but because he is on a weak team and because his hard working style has impressed his coach, he continues to play a fourth line role on his club. Over the last two years, this "honor" has gone to Steven Goertzen of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005/06 and Jean-Francois Jacques of the Edmonton Oilers last season. Both of these players saw their ice time drop considerably in the following year, with the majority of their play in the AHL.

While it is possible for the worst regular in the league to be a defender in the early going of the season (this year I picked Kevin Bieksa of the Vancouver Canucks and then Steve McCarthy of the Atlanta Thrashers), it is less likely that a defender can hold the position at season's end. This is likely because team usually dress four lines of forwards and only three lines of defenders so there is less room for a bad defender on the roster than a bad forward.

While McCarthy has played poorly this season, he has been a bit better lately. He has an assist and his +/- rating is no longer in freefall. Thus it is time to pick another worst NHL regular. As expected, we are far enough into the season that the choice is a forward. However, it is not a player who has had no NHL success in the past. It is Craig Adams of the Carolina Hurricanes. Craig Adams has been playing in the NHL since 2000/2001. Adams is a hard working fourth line checking forward, who has never scored well in the NHL (his career best is 21 points in 2005/06) but he has scored. He just hasn't scored recently. Adams has no points yet this season in 26 games played. He hasn't scored a goal in almost a year. His last goal came on January 11th, 2007. He has a team worst -7 +/- rating. This number may not be among the league worst, but that is largely because Carolina is a division leading team where most of its players are plus players. I am not sure why Craig Adams seems to have suddenly lost his ability to be a useful NHL hockey player, but if he doesn't get it back; his NHL career may soon be over.

1) About 1/2 of the forwards on the Islanders and Washington Capitals may fit that descrpion
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