Every team has that one player who makes you want to tear your hair out, the player that is first to be blamed, the one that makes you ask yourself “How is he in the NHL?”. Every player gets some kind of criticism, but some seem to get a lot more than others. Every turnover, every bad pass, every missed opportunity gets magnified when you have a bad reputation with your own fan base. So, I took to social media, the main outlet for player criticism, and asked each team’s fans who this player was on their team.
Read Most Hated: Eastern Conference Edition here.
Anaheim Ducks: Kevin Bieksa
The 35-year-old stay at home defenseman was acquired from the Canucks in late June 2015 for a second round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Afterwards he inked a 2-year contract extension through the 2017-18 season. Bieksa has been criticized for getting lazy on his man, which often results in a goal. According to fans, the veteran defender is also taking a spot in the starting lineup from talented defenseman prospects; Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour. Ducks fans are also upset with Bieksa’s no-move-clause, which means he will need to be protected in this year’s expansion draft, potentially leaving their talented defensive prospects exposed.
Arizona Coyotes: Alex Goligoski
Goligoski, a recipient of a 5-year/$27.5 million contract in 2016 after having his rights acquired by Arizona from Dallas in exchange for a fifth round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The 31-year-old defenseman has received his fair share of criticism, not for extremely poor play but for play that does not warrant the contract he was given.
Calgary Flames: Dennis Wideman
You may remember Dennis Wideman for checking linesman Don Henderson and receiving a 20-game suspension from the NHL late last season. Wideman, who surely is disliked by Don Henderson, is also disliked by Calgary fans. Wideman is in the final year of a 5-year/$26.25 million contract, paying him $6 million this season. Wideman has been scrutinized by fans off the ice for his huge contract. On the ice, his offensive numbers have fallen off after setting a career-high in points with 56 just 2 seasons ago. Defensively, fans have seen Wideman fail to clear the puck at crucial times, fall down and not finish his checks. There is also a theory that after the Wideman-Henderson incident, Calgary is penalized at a higher rate. After all, Calgary does lead the league in penalty minutes with 741.
Edmonton Oilers: Benoit Pouliot
Former fourth overall pick and top prospect Benoit Pouliot’s career could be summarized in two words: untapped potential. The big left winger has bounced around the league since being drafted in 2005 by the Minnesota Wild. In 2014, Pouliot inked a 5-year deal worth $20 million with the Oilers. In his first two years with Edmonton, Pouliot posted 19 goals and 15 assists in 2014-15 and 14 goals and 22 assists in 2015-16. In 51 games this season, his production really fell off with 5 goals and 5 assists and has found himself a healthy scratch often.
Los Angeles Kings: Marian Gaborik
After being traded to the Kings from the Colombus Blue Jackets in exchange for Matt Frattin and second and third round picks in the 2014 NHL Draft, Gaborik became a hero among Los Angeles Kings fans. In the 2013-14 playoffs, the newly acquired Gaborik led the Kings to their second Stanley Cup in three years, scoring 14 goals along the way. Gaborik went on to sign a 7-year deal worth an annual average of $4.875 million per year. In his first full season with the Kings, Gaborik was solid, netting 27 goals to go along with 20 assists. Gaborik’s production dropped off in the 2015 season, only playing in 54 games and scoring just 12 goals and tying a career-low with 10 assists. This year, now 35 years old, Gaborik has dropped of even further, posting 7 goals and 8 assists in 42 games. Gaborik was also shopped at the NHL trade deadline last week, but remained with the Kings. Fans will remember Gaborik for his playoff heroics, but recently has not produced at a rate that is worth a $4.875 cap hit through the 2020-21 season.
San Jose Sharks: Brendan Dillon
Dillon was acquired via trade from the Dallas Stars for Jason Demers and a 2016 third round pick. After the 2015 season, Dillon signed a 5 year/$16.35 million contract that would keep him in San Jose through the 2019-2020 season. In his three seasons in San Jose, Dillon has yet to live up to his contract, putting up only 6 goals and 24 assists.
Vancouver Canucks: Jayson Megna
The 26-year-old forward signed a 1-year deal with the Canucks in early July. So far this season, usually playing with the Sedins’, has only put up 4 goals and 3 assists in 46 games. Fans have also criticized Megna’s usage on the first powerplay unit with his lack of production. Canucks fan @S7HDesign expressed his disapproval with Megna playing over Canucks top prospect Nikolay Goldobin, tweeting “JAYSON MEGNA IS ON THE 3RD AND 4TH DAMN LINE AND GOLDOBIN IS ON NONE HOCKEY IS TRASH”.
Chicago Blackhawks: Michael Rozsival
The 38-year-old defenseman was signed to a 1-year deal in September of 2012. He is now on another 1-year deal with the Blackhawks. Rozsival has taken a lot of heat from Hawks fans since suffering a serious ankle injury in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hawks fan u/tophcity31 rationalized the hate Rozsival takes, saying”…unnecessary hate most of his mistakes get blown out of proportion because his surrounding cast is better than him and therefore deals with harsher scrutiny. In reality he’s a serviceable 7th defenseman whose age has caught up with him”. Another answer I received referred to Rozsival’s injury and age as likely reasons for his decline, u/sorator simply saying “Age and injury – he was a lot better before his knee exploded”.
Colorado Avalanche: Blake Comeau
Comeau signed a 3-year deal with the Avalanche worth $7.25 million in July 2015. In his first season with the Avalanche, Comeau enjoyed a career season, posting a career-high 36 points. However, in his second season, Comeau and the Avalanche have struggled. Through 60 games, he has put up just 14 points to go with a -17 +/-. Recently, the veteran forward found himself under fire again for attempting a pass during a breakaway in a loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
Dallas Stars: Cody Eakin
The 25-year-old centerman along with a second round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft were acquired by the Stars in a trade with the Washington Capitals. Since his first full season in Dallas, he has been a 15-20 goal/35-40 point player, which is fairly good for a third liner. This season however, Eakin has gone through a tough season with only 3 goals and 7 assists in 44 games. Stars fans are also upset with his contract. Eakin will make $3.850 million through the 2019-20 season.
Minnesota Wild: Chris Stewart
The Minnesota Wild signed Stewart to a 2-year/$2.3 million deal in July 2016. The winger has been playing on the Wild’s top line with Zach Parise and Eric Staal, but has put up just 11 goals and 6 assists this season.
Nashville Predators: James Neal
The 29-year-old winger was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling during the 2014 NHL Draft. Las year, in his first full season as a Predator, Neal had the second most goals of his career with 31. This season, through 52 games, Neal has 18 goals with 15 assists. While this production is quite serviceable, it should be noted he is being paid $5 million a year.
St. Louis Blues: Jori Lehtera
Blues fan u/VladyTarasenkshow91 summed up the hate for Jori Lehtera by saying “He is being paid 4.7 million dollars to have Tarasenko make him look good, but Lehtera is so painfully below average that even Vladimir can’t do that. Lehtera is currently on pace for under 40 points.” This season, Lehtera, who is in his first season of a 3-year/$14.1 million contract, has only 6 goals and 13 assists while playing many games with one of the top scorers in the league, Vladimir Tarasenko.
Winnipeg Jets: Mark Stuart
Acquired by the Atlanta Thrashers from the Boston Bruins in 2011 in a trade that also included forward Blake Wheeler in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik. Stuart is in the third year of a 4-year/$10.5 million deal.
I found an interesting stat posted on Reddit by u/zed_zed_top that read “Out of the 171 defenders in the NHL to play 200 or more minutes (so 5.7 defenders per team), no team does worse with the defender on the ice versus on the bench than the Jets do with Mark Stuart in terms of shots, possession, and chances. Only 4 defenders do worse in HDSC, those four being Brad Stuart, Toni Lydman, Dalton Prout, and Filip Kuba.”
Dean Snock is a writer for Good Night, Good Hockey and a Hershey Bears reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @DSnock97.