Yesterday, we looked at surprises and disappointments in the Eastern Conference. Today, we look at the Western Conference.
Biggest Surprise: The team posted a 10-4 record when Ryan Getzlaf was out of the lineup, effectively saving the season and keeping playoff hopes alive.
Biggest Disappointment: Andy Sutton hasn’t been great but really, was this team expecting much from him? One goal from Todd Marchant seems to indicate his career his over.
Biggest Surprise: That standing-pat after their GM-shuffle somehow motivated this team to make a run at the playoffs. This narrowly beats out the rejuvenations of Brendan Morrison, Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen’s careers. Each of these players looked like corpsicles at the start of the season.
Biggest Disappointment: Jay Bouwmeester is Bret Hedican 2.0, and has become the NHL’s most overrated defenseman. Honourable mention goes to a couple of ex-Maple Leafs. Neither Matt Stajan (30 points) nor Niklas Hagman (on waivers earlier this year) has played anywhere close to what was expected of them coming over from Toronto.
Biggest Surprise: Brian Campbell’s price-tag is ludicrous, but he’s played pretty well this year, leading the team in plus-minus, and giving the ‘Hawks a good first-pass out of the zone. Honourable mention goes to Corey Crawford, who will try this spring to duplicate Antti Niemi’s unexpected post-season success from a year ago.
Biggest Disappointment; Marty Turco is done as an NHL starter.
Biggest Surprise: John Michael-Liles was terrific through the first half of the NHL season. While his play (along with most other Avs players) has dropped off a cliff, he’s near his career-high in points. Not bad for a player long considered a chronic underachiever.
Biggest Disappointment: The general malaise and lack of competitive spirit that seems to have engulfed this franchise, which at one point this year looked like a solid playoff team. It’s like all the young forwards are experiencing the sophomore slump together, at once. Joe Sacco’s job is in significant jeopardy.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Biggest Surprise: Derek Dorsett has outplayed Ethan Moreau and Matt Calvert has shown a nose for the net. These two kids represent hope for the perennially poor Blue Jackets franchise.
Biggest Disappointment: This hasn’t been the rebound season the franchise was hoping it would get out of Steve Mason, and you have to wonder if Columbus may make a play for an elite goalie (Tomas Vokun) in the off-season. And while there’s been some solid development from some of the team’s youngsters, Nikita Filatov’s really looking like a bust.
Biggest Surprise: Close race between the MVP-esque season from Brad Richards, and the quick development of Jamie Benn. The latter made James Neal expendable.
Biggest Disappointment: Jason Williams hasn’t done much since he joined the team, while it remains a mystery how Toby Petersen retains an NHL roster spot.
Detroit Red Wings
Biggest Surprise: Nik Lidstrom showing no signs of decline. Todd Bertuzzi showing signs of friskiness as a secondary scoring option.
Biggest Disappointment: It took the first half for Jiri Hudler to find his NHL legs again. Still, the Red Wings were hoping for more from this enigmatic Russian.
Biggest Surprise: After languishing in the minors, Devan Dubnyk’s development has grown by leaps and bounds this year. He looks like the potential solution in goal.
Biggest Disappointment: Nikolai Khabibulin has played the 2010-11 season with a fork stuck in his back. He’s done. Kurtis Foster hasn’t nearly been the offensive threat the team hoped he would be. Gilbert Brule has gone from potential 3rd line stalwart to marginal NHL player again. The hype regarding Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi has masked another troubling season in the City of Champions.
Los Angeles Kings
Biggest Surprise: After three years of injuries, Justin Williams might just play every game for the Kings this season. He’s become a valuable part of the team’s attack.
Biggest Disappointment: Alex Ponikarovsky has not lived up to expectations. One wonders, if he had, if the team would have needed to trade for Dustin Penner.
Biggest Surprise: Martin Havlat playing every Wild game is a bit of a surprise. However, the unheralded duo of Cal Clutterbuck (19 goals) and Kyle Brodziak (16 goals) have given Minnesota the secondary scoring they’ve lacked for a long, long time.
Biggest Disappointment: Cam Barker has been brutal. His career appears to be at a crossroads.
Biggest Surprise: Pekke Rinne has vaulted himself this year into the elite-goalie discussion. The Preds may play a defensive system, but Rinne is also very, very good.
Biggest Disappointment: Mike Fisher was supposed to provide the offense that would guarantee the Predators a playoff spot. Instead he has four points in 17 games.
Biggest Surprise: Keith Yandle is not only leading the team in points, but is tied for the NHL scoring lead amongst defensemen.
Biggest Disappointment: The continued slow developments of Martin Hanzel and Kyle Turris. Ed Jovanovski’s play also slipped this year.
San Jose Sharks
Biggest Surprise: This might be his ceiling as an NHL scorer, but a 50-point season from Logan Couture was not expected this early in his career.
Biggest Disappointment: Not counting his 2003-04 season (when he only played 31 games), this is the first season Dany Heatley won’t score 30-goals since his rookie season.
St. Louis Blues
Biggest Surprise: The emergence of Alex Pieterangelo, which made Erik Johnson expendable. Also, Matt D’Agostini might score 20-goals.
Biggest Disappointment: The Blues have struggled when Jaroslav Halak has been hurt, with neither Ty Conklin nor Ben Bishop sporting save percentages over .900. While he has played better of late, Patrik Berglund (45-points, 72 games) has point-per-game talent.
Biggest Surprise: Ryan Kesler’s 36-goals. Honourable mention to the team’s defense, which’ve been tested by injury throughout the year but have consistently held the fort.
Biggest Disappointment: Mason Raymond’s 12-goals.