Disappointments of the 2021 NHL Season so far

With the beginning of every new NHL season, some teams and players have higher expectations than others. Whether fans or analysts believe something will be one way or the teams themselves bet on a deal or roster to work out, it doesn't always happen that way.

I will look at three of the bigger disappointments that I have pinpointed through the first two months of play in the 2021 NHL season.

Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks were my favorite team last postseason after the Penguins were eliminated. What's not to like about a young team playing far above their heads and nearly punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final in the weirdest season the league has ever seen?

Vancouver stomped out the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round and beat the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in the official first round of the playoffs. Then, they took a stacked Vegas Golden Knights team to seven games in the second. I'd like to believe that had it been the Canucks against the Dallas Stars in the Conference Final, they would have gotten the job done.

Their young stars were far and above the most exciting players to watch last postseason. Elias Pettersson showed that he is a star in this league, scoring 18 points in 17 postseason games. Rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes played at a Norris Trophy-winning level throughout the postseason and broke hearts with the emotion he left out on the ice.

Canucks' captain Bo Horvat was electric throughout the postseason with highlight-reel game-winning goals.

Rookie goalie Thatcher Demko went 2-1, appearing in four games and only two goals on 130 shots. Demko showed potential for being an all-star goalie soon.

I was hoping to see this team go on to do great things in the 2021 season, but they have yet to show any signs of being greater than mediocre.

The Canucks sit in sixth place in the North Division, a division chock-full of young talented teams. An 8-14-2 record with a -17 goal differential leaves a lot to be desired from a team that nearly won three playoff rounds last postseason.

The problem lies in the goaltending, with the team's scoring prowess only slightly below that of the previous postseason. The team acquired Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Braden Holtby in the offseason to replace the outgoing Jacob Markstrom and serve as a mentor to Demko, but neither has been able to hit a stride in the net.

In 14 games, Demko is 4-9-1 with a 3.28 GAA and .901 SV%.

In 10 games, Holtby is 4-5-1 with a 3.51 GAA and .893 SV%.

All of the pieces are there for the Canucks on the front end, but the shaky goaltending has led them to be a disappointment for me this season.

Taylor Hall

The Buffalo Sabres gave 29-year-old Taylor Hall $8 million to play for them just this one season two years removed from his Hart Trophy-winning season as the league's most valuable player. In which he posted 93 points in 76 games and led the New Jersey Devils to the playoffs.

The following season, unknown pain in his knee caused him to miss the entire second half of the 2018-19 season. MRIs were never able to pinpoint a specific injury, and Hall couldn't recall any particular incident that led to it. He scored 37 points in 33 games, and the Devils missed the playoffs without him.

Hall began the 2019-20 season with the Devils scoring 25 points in the first 30 games before being bought by the Arizona Coyotes for a haul that included three prospects and two draft picks, including one in the first round. He finished the season in Arizona, scoring 27 points in 35 games, and reached the postseason.

The Coyotes were able to knock out the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round but ran into a Colorado Avalanche team that was absolutely on fire in the postseason. Hall posted 6 points in those nine playoff games as his contract expired.

With his contract in Buffalo for only one year, Hall has a chance to prove that he can still be a star in this league and is getting paid nicely to do it. However, the first 16 games have not been spectacular.

Hall posted a goal and an assist in the season opener for the Sabres against the Washington Capitals and followed it up with four assists in the next two games. But, he has scored only five points in the next 13 games.

We have all seen what Taylor Hall is capable of; he certainly can play up to the money he is being paid in Buffalo. But he will have to turn it around over the next 40 games. Until then, he is a big disappointment for this season.

Alexis Lafreniere

By virtue of being the first overall draft pick, you enter the league with many expectations. Some come in with a lot more than others.

Lafreniere was highly touted as the number one guy in the draft by a long shot. He scored 112 points in 52 games his last year with Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL, which you may know as the team Sidney Crosby also played for back in the day. With that came the comparisons.

His pre-NHL accolades list goes on nearly forever. He was the youngest player selected for Team Canda's U18 team at the 2018 IIHF World U18 Championships at 16. He captained Team Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.

At the 2020 World Junior Championships, Lafreniere scored 10 points in five games, leading Team Canda to a gold medal win and secured the tournament MVP Honors.

The New York Rangers, already technically a postseason team, won the lottery for the first overall pick and took the slam dunk choice in Lafreniere to play with former Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin.

There has yet to be those fireworks that we expect from a guy with as many accolades and hype as Lafreniere. He has scored only two points in his first 17 NHL games and has yet to find the back of the net.

The Rangers are 6-8-3 playing in a tough East division this year and sit 27th in the league in goals for per game at 2.47. Panarin leads the team in scoring at five goals and 13 assists in just 14 of his teams' games.

While playing in the NHL at just 19 years-old can be challenging, the Rangers and fans certainly want more from their number one draft pick.


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