By Ricky Dimon
It is only Dec. 13, but we are not too far away from the halfway point in the NHL regular season. Five teams have already played 34 games out of their 82; every team has played at least 30. In other words, it’s time to get going for anyone who has started slow. And there are plenty of squads that fit that description at the moment.
Let’s take a look at the four most disappointing NHL teams so far.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are 9-16-5 and in last place in the Metropolitan Division heading into Friday’s date with Colorado. Our free NHL predictions have you covered for that game and every game throughout the 2019-20 campaign. Only Detroit is worse in the entire NHL, and Detroit was expected to be terrible. New Jersey, on the other hand, went into the season with a decent 90.5 over/under point total according to the odds. P.K. Subban and company are looking like they won’t come close to that number—and won’t come close to the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
For various reasons, NHL head coaches are dropping like flies in the relatively early stages of the season. The first one to go was Toronto’s Mike Babcock, who got the boot in mid-November with his team mired in a 0-5-1 slump and an overall record of 9-10-4. The Leafs promptly won three games in a row under interim Sheldon Keefe, but momentum has stalled. They have four regulation losses in their past seven contests and would miss the playoffs if they began today—despite having played the most games (tied) in the Eastern Conference.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks gave their head coach his marching orders on Thursday. Peter DeBoer took over in 2015-16 and immediately led San Jose to the Stanley Cup Finals, beginning a stretch of four straight postseason appearances. A fifth does not appear to be in the cards for this franchise—and it certainly isn’t for DeBoer since he is no longer on the bench. San Jose is 15-17-2 and nowhere near the playoff cut line in the Western Conference (seven points behind) despite having played 34 games.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto, San Jose and Tampa Bay were supposed to be playoff teams with projected point totals of 101.5, 95.5, and 108.5, respectively. That’s right; the Lightning were expected to finish with 108 or 109 points. That is a big number, but keep in mind this team racked up 128 in 2018-19. With this roster, 108 is—or was—easily doable. Instead, the Bolts are struggling to the tune of a 16-11-3 record that would have them missing the playoffs right now (but they have played just 30 games). Sixth-year goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.78 goals-against average, .910 save percentage) has compiled the worst numbers of his career so far.