If there’s one thing the NHL isn’t lacking in, it’s superstars.
Dozens of names come to mind when the word “elite” is mentioned. From Connor McDavid to Cale Makar, there is no shortage of star power throughout the league. In fact, the “elite” moniker is thrown around so much that its meaning has diluted. Dozens of players have held the revered title without doing much in recent years to earn the honour. In today’s NHL, consistency is key. Players that were once considered franchise staples are just a few bad seasons away from earning the dreaded title of overrated. These are just a few that have earned such an honour.
An Overview of Overrated NHL Players
While they may have played as some of the league’s top players in the past, they’re a far cry from who they once were. At times, they’ll show flashes of brilliance, reminding us why they were regarded so highly in the first place. Now, however, their fall from grace is becoming more apparent each game. On paper, the players may seem brilliant. They’re highly regarded stars that have garnered a lot of success in the past, earning big contracts and bigger trophies in the process. With the rise of puck tracking and analytics, the decline of these once-prestigious players is more evident than ever before.
We’ll be looking at a variety of factors to properly categorize just what makes them overrated. From laser-focused analytic data to simple eye-tests, outlining the reasons why these players are overrated is just as important as how they got here n the first place. Without further ado, take a look at the most overrated players in the NHL today:
1. Drew Doughty
The former two-time Stanley Cup-winning defenceman is a shell of who he once was. Last season, over 93% of the defenceman in the NHL had better offensive output than Doughty. While he certainly plays a tough role on his team, he does very little to create his own offence. His expected goals and wins above replacement ratios are abysmal at best.
To make matters worse, Doughty is signed for the next six years at $11M per year. That’s a colossal contract that does very little to justify Doughty’s current play style. The 31-year-old has been unmotivated and disengaged for the last two seasons. If he doesn’t turn things around quickly, his overrated title will seem more justified for years.
2. Patrick Kane
“But Jake!” you shout. “Patrick Kane is putting his team on his back this season!”. While that’s good and fair, it doesn’t excuse the ugly reality that Kane is a defensive nightmare. Last season, Kane was ranked as the worst defensive player in the NHL, worse than analytics horror show Andreas Athanasiou. He exposed his defence and goaltending to more scoring opportunities than any other player in the league. In fact, Kane’s defensive ability was so woeful that it cost the Chicago Blackhawks nearly three points in their standings.
Kane is a two-sided player. On one hand, he’s an offensive dynamo, capable of output worthy of a star player. But his defensive woes nearly topple any effort he puts forth on the offensive end of the ice. There’s no doubt that Kane is absolutely still a star player. Having said that, he is nowhere near the calibre of the player he once was — even with the astonishing offensive output he’s made this season.
3. Seth Jones
Seth Jones earned his reputation as a minute-munching elite defenseman after his playoff performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 NHL playoffs. Last year, he recorded a colossal amount of ice time against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Lightning, and since then, many have regarded him as a top-tier defenceman. The amount of time he plays has had many in the media classify him as an elite, top-10 defenceman. But do the numbers back it up? At best, the numbers show a solid top-pairing defenceman in Jones. At worst, they reveal an above-average player capable of long, gruelling shifts.
Many may wave away Jones’s numbers, simply stating that his analytics were affected by higher levels of competition. If we take a closer look at the Columbus Blue Jackets’ ice time in percentages, Jones actually ranks fifth on the team in ice time vs. elite competition. David Savard, Ryan Murray, and Zach Werenski were trusted just as much as Jones to handle facing off against elite lines. In addition, when compared against another elite defenceman — let’s say Victor Hedman for example — Jones falls short of nearly every analytical expectation. Jones is a perfectly competent defenceman, but to say he’s an elite, top-tier defenceman is a stretch at best.
4. Erik Karlsson
It seems like just yesterday we were watching Erik Karlsson put the Ottawa Senators on his back as he worked wonders in the playoffs. Now, just a year removed from his colossal $92M contract with the San Jose Sharks, he seems like a shadow of his former self. Karlsson’s expected goals differential is the worst on his team by a wide margin. He’s not contributing offensively and is doing little to justify his role on the defence. Evolving Hockey’s analytics model has Karlsson’s standing points above replacement level at 96th overall. If that isn’t bad enough, his advanced metrics show an average defensive output at best.
Karlsson’s contract continues for the next six years at $11.5M per year. Like fellow West Division defenceman Drew Doughty, Karlsson is on a sharp decline and is showing very little signs of redeeming himself. Whether he’s with fellow offensive defenceman Brent Burns or defensive specialist Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Karlsson seems to struggle in just about any situation. He’ll show flashes of magnificence at times, but it appears that the magic is becoming harder to grasp with each passing game.
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