Thursday, January 16, 2014
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The Five Most Worthless Players in the NHL
We apologize in advance, Flyers fans: Sidney Crosby is not on this list.
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we discussed how the Dallas Stars basically own the Olympics. This week, rather than pop the champagne and plan the parade, we're going to go in a totally new direction and list the five most worthless players in the entire league.
Now, this will not necessarily be a list of the five worst enforcers, though there is, inevitably, some overlap with that. A good fighter, after all, can have a beneficial effect on a game --this has been anecdotally proven time and time again throughout the years. This is a list of players so hopelessly outclassed on the ice, that they actively cause their teams to flat-out suck. Perhaps they are "good in the room," or "exhibit leadership off the ice," or "have incriminating photos of the GM and head coach in flagrante delicto." Either way, they're terrible players and a waste of both a roster spot and a jersey number.
The Fifth Most Worthless Player in the NHL: Stephen Weiss
Coming in as likely the worst free-agent signing of the year (time to step it up, Clarkson and Gonchar!), Weiss has put up some truly awful numbers to go along with his truly awful contract. With just 2 goals and 2 assists in 26 games, the Red Wings are paying about one million dollars per point this season. For comparison's sake, since we're having so much fun inventing made-up bulls**t stats, Crosby's season would currently probably end up costing the Pens about $115 million this year at Standard Weiss Rates (or SWR).
What makes the signing worse --and justifies the long-held belief of those of us who think that Ken Holland is one Nick Lidstrom away from being the most overrated GM in sports-- is that Weiss' numbers are actually better than they were last season with the Panthers. Sure, he scored four points in 17 games with Florida, but his Corsi Close last season was an abysmal 45.3%, his Fenwick close a similarly bad 43.9%. Those numbers have dropped off the map since joining the Red Wings, to 40.3% for both (worst on the team in both categories by a long shot). This is especially troubling considering that he gets the best minutes on the team.
Heckuva job there, Holland.
The Fourth Most Worthless Player in the NHL: Marc-Andre Cliche
We're throwing this one in there just for the advanced stats nerds, because unless you're a Corsi fanatic, an Avalanche goaltender or the guy who has to keep changing the lightbulb on the red goal light at the Pepsi Center, it's very likely you've never heard of the guy. Cliche is technically a journeyman rookie who has inexplicably played 40 games for the Avs this season. Described as a 'rugged,' 'two-way' 'defensively-responsible' centerman, Cliche has been exactly the opposite of that in his first season. His goals for/goals against is 24% --meaning that for every time he's on the ice when his team scores, he's on the ice for three times that many in his own net. His Corsi is 29.1%, which is rock-bottom worst of all regular position players in the NHL.
So, he must be really good at other stuff, like faceoffs and bodychecks and whatnot, right? Wrong. Cliche currently sports a 43.1% faceoff percentage, has thrown all of 9 checks over 40 games (19 fewer than noted hairy-knuckled double-flusher Henrik Sedin, for comparison's sake) and his 17 blocked shots are 16th on his own team. He's put up zero goals and five assists over 40 games, and is a breath of fresh air for opposing forwards.
The Third Most Worthless Player in the NHL: Adam Hall
Poorly-managed teams tend to accumulate poor players, and the Flyers are a perfect example of that. Paying exorbitant salaries to a few top-end (and underperforming or non-existent) guys leaves just a few scraps for the guys needed to fill out the bottom of the roster and the fourth line. Smart teams put promising young call-ups in those spots, but teams like Philly, who've spent decades mortgaging their future and thus have no decent prospects worthy of bottom-six minutes, are forced to sign and play guys like Hall.
Not that they should. On a team that's not actually that bad of a puck possession team overall, Hall stands out like a female with a college degree in a James Neal jersey at Wells Fargo Center. He's been on the ice for 6 goals for (low but not unexpected for a fourth liner with limited minutes) and...let's check it... carry the one... 30 goals against, meaning that whenever he comes over the boards, the Flyers' opponents will get mad at themselves if they don't pot one immediately. His Corsi and Fenwick are both abysmal at 34.2% and 35.4%, respectively, making him the worst forward on a team that also employs Zac Rinaldo (who, in all fairness, is only a few percentage points better). Guys like Hall, who has chipped in all of one goal and one assist over 45 games, are a sure sign that your GM isn't building a Cup contender anytime soon.
The Second Most Worthless Player in the NHL: Colton Orr or Frazer McLaren
You could put half the Toronto Maple Leafs roster on a list of "terrible at hockey," but what makes these two extra-special is that they both serve the exact same role... poorly. It's bad enough to have one guy like Orr, who has all of zero points in 36 games this season and skates to a 36.8% Corsi and doesn't take faceoffs or much of anything else. Yes, that's a total waste of a roster spot, but hey-- it's the Eastern Conference and you gotta protect your little guys like Kessel and Kadri from getting run, right? So then why have another, equally-as-ineffective enforcer in McLaren, whose stats are even worse than Orr's?
To make matters worse, neither is all that intimidating as a fighter. Say what you will about John Scott's ability to skate, but at least he "wins" almost all of his fights. That's a valuable asset to have on your team, because he's the best one at something. Players, coaches and fans can get behind that. But Orr and McLaren? McLaren's "won" just two of his seven fights this season, while Orr checks in at 1-for-7 (his lone victory coming against, ironically, the #1 person on this list). How are these guys "enforcing" anything, when they can't even win pre-arranged pointless fights? Are they preventing Kessel from cheapshots? Are either of them standing up for teammates... or are they just a two-man sideshow to sell twice the number of overpriced jerseys to casual fans?
You could argue, I guess, that enforcers pay for their own salaries in jersey and ticket sales. Sure. I'll buy that. But on the ice, that's two roster spots spent on a couple of guys who are lucky to skate six minutes a night. Small wonder the rest of the team looks so shoddy: they're having to do far more work to carry the team. And that's not even mentioning the prime offensive minutes these two are stealing from their top point producers.
The Single Most Worthless Player in the NHL: Tom Sestito
Tom Sestito is the ultimate "throwback" player, in that you throw him into the back of an abandoned van on the side of the highway and leave him there forever. He's a straight-up goon with zero hockey skills, although his four goals in 45 games are admittedly quite impressive, and only one goal fewer than alleged offensive powerhouse Ray Whitney has this season. Sestito is a terrible fighter, with just two wins in 14 fights this season (or four if you count the two times where his opponents didn't fight back), putting him on the same pathetic W-L level as Colton Orr. He's a terrible hockey player, with a Corsi of just 42.9% and a goals for/goals against of 36.4%. He's terrible at trash talking. He even relies on 13 year old girls to publicly defend him.
But most importantly, he's got but one role to play on his team, and that's a cheap shot artist. The fact that he has rarely been fined or suspended just makes his one "skill" that much more impressive: his collection of incriminating photos must go far beyond just his coach and GM... all the way up to the top. Paying Sestito money you could use for, say, literally anyone else sends just one message to the rest of the league: we are a team that will aim for your players' heads. Unlike fights, which are fan favorites, cheap shots are massive downers and only celebrated by a select few psychotic fans that have no bearing on your team's bottom line. Then again, this is Vancouver we're talking about, so maybe Canucks GM Mike Gillis is on to something here.