On Monday, my Puck Prospectus colleague Robert Vollman wrote about the NHL's most underrated players in the first of a two part series. While there are many unsung heroes in hockey, there are also plenty of players who receive too much credit for their performances on a daily basis. Some players are overrated because of their charisma, others for the number of Stanley Cups they've won, while others are perceived as better than they actually are because they made an Olympic roster. While there are many players who receive all of the media coverage and the fame for being mediocre, these are the players that are overestimated the most and should be considered among the Chris Osgoods of the National Hockey League.
Goalie: Jonathan Quick
The 24 year old Milford, Connecticut native has already had one of the greatest honors in his lifetime in being named to the 2010 United States Olympic hockey team. This is a great achievement until you realize that he shouldn't have gotten one of the U.S. goaltending roster spots since he's not one of the top three American goaltenders in the NHL nor is he even amongst the top five players on his own team. Quick, who has just recently become a father, is eighth on the Los Angeles Kings with a 6.0 GVT behind names such as Jarret Stoll, Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds.
The 72nd pick of the 2005 Draft had should not have been selected by Brian Burke and Team USA for the final goaltending spot on the Olympic roster. That last spot should have gone to Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson, who has been 15.5 goals better than Jonathan Quick this season (21.5 GVT to 6.0 GVT). With a 25th ranked .909 save percentage, it's surprising that he's received so much recognition for being an above average goaltender. Then again, when you look at the rate stat of even-strength goals against per 60 minutes, you can see that Quick's 2.18 is very close to Anderson's 2.16. Nonetheless, the 6'1" lefty has a long road ahead of him before his goaltending matches the reputation he's gained for it.
Defense: Mike Komisarek and Jack Johnson
Known for his mean and rough style of defensive play, the 6'4'' 28 year old defenseman is loved by many, and by many I mean the majority of his teammates. Anyone who takes a shot at a Maple Leaf skater will have to answer to the 7th overall selection of the 2001 Draft.
While Komisarek is not known for his offense, it took him 123 games to score his first NHL goal, his defense isn't as spectacular as it's made out to be either. Quite frankly, it's below average. According to Defensive GVT, the Long Island native is the worst player defensively of all of the Maple Leaf defensemen on the roster with a -0.1 DGVT. In fact, his Offensive GVT, -0.8, is nearly on par with his Defensive GVT. Further, his struggles are coming against below average skaters as his QualComp, Quality of Competition, is -0.024 (0 is league average). However, it's important to note with his season-ending injury that this is over less than half a season. But the fact still remains that he shouldn't be as highly regarded as he is by Toronto GM Brian Burke.
The Carolina Hurricanes drafted Jack Johnson 3rd overall in the 2005 Draft with high hopes of the defenseman becoming a cornerstone of the franchise for a long time. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, things don't always work out the way you expect them to. Johnson, another player that somehow made the U.S. Olympic team, has never lived up to the expectations placed on him. His GVT of 5.6 places him a modest ninth on the Los Angeles Kings roster and his 3.42 goals against per 60 minutes on the ice, which is worst among King defensemen, is a black mark on his 2009-10 season. At 23 years of age there is still time for a breakout season, but it's not looking like he'll ever live up to expectations.
Left Wing: Ilya Kovalchuk
Fans of the New Jersey Devils have to be frustrated with what they're seeing from Kovalchuk. The Russian left winger averaged 0.26 GVT per game with the Thrashers this season, and as a Devil so far he's averaged only 0.16 GVT per game. Still, the Olympian has time to return to form in New Jersey. With the playoffs starting soon Kovalchuk will need to bring his 'A' game to the Atlantic Division. This year, the 6'1" 235 lbs. Kovalchuk is making a hefty $7.5 million, which means that he should be expected to produce a GVT of 21 if he is to be worth his salary. So far, the 1st overall selection of 2001 has only produced a GVT of 13.9. Kovalchuk is still a good player, but he's not nearly as valuable as he's made out to be.
Center: Vincent Lecavalier
Former Lightning owner Art Williams once proclaimed that Vincent Lecavalier was going to be "the Michael Jordan of hockey." To Tampa Bay fans, he is just that. The 1st overall selection in 1998 had the Stanley Cup-clinching assist in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals against the Calgary Flames, was named to the Canadian Olympic squad in 2006 and won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy after the 2006-07 season for being the NHL's top goal scorer. As for now, like with many veterans, his reputation exceeds his actual worth. The recipient of an eleven year, $85 million dollar contract in the 2008 offseason, Lecavalier would soon find himself rumored to be on the trade market only half a season later. For $10 million per season for the next several years, Lecavalier should be producing a GVT of 28.5. This is an unexcusable contract considering:
- His age at the time he signed the contract was 28 and the peak years for a forward are generally from ages 23 to 26;
- It is rare for non-goalies to achieve that level of production, let alone for several years in a row;
- Even if he was a goalie, the year to year variance would make that type of contract risky.
Like Kovalchuk, Lecavalier is not a below average player. But like the New Jersey left winger, he's overpaid. Tremendously overpaid.
Right Wing: Blake Wheeler
As with Jack Johnson, much was expected from the 5th overall selection of the 2004 Draft. The Boston Bruins forward played in the NHL YoungStars Game in 2009 for NHL rookies with promising futures and completed the game as the Most Valuable Player. Fast forward to the present and you'll find that Wheeler is struggling in his sophomore season. With a GVT of 0.9, the former Golden Gopher has been merely a replacement level player and has been equally mediocre on both sides of the puck with a 1.3 Offensive GVT and a 1.4 Defensive GVT (his -1.8 Shootout GVT brings his total GVT down). Unlike many of his teammates, his QualTeam (Quality of Teammates while on the ice) has been an above average 0.089 (0 is league average). Wheeler is not the only Bruin to have a disappointing season, but he hasn't lived up to everyone's expectations. Boston fans were certainly expecting more.
While there are many other Chris Osgoods in the National Hockey League, these are the most overhyped players throughout the league. Unlike the unsung heroes of hockey, these players have been perceived by the media, fans and teams as being more valuable than their actual worth. Several players on this list have time to turn their performances around, while others on this list will never be considered overrated because of a Stanley Cup-winning season. Overall, it shouldn't come as a surprise to many to see some of the names on this list, however a few names could come as quite a shock.
Andrew Rothstein is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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