Today, Puck Daddy named their Midseason Goats for all 30 NHL teams - the players who they felt were the biggest disappointment compared to expectations.
Not surprisingly, they had a wealth of candidates for the Blue Jackets, but went with Anton Stralman, with this explanation:
Stralman, whose 34-point season in 2009-10 is looking more and more like a free agent singing for his supper. He has 10 points in 33 games, playing to a minus-4. The Jackets' power play is second-to-last in the NHL. Injuries were a factor in the first half; but he was a healthy scratch last night.
I don't entirely disagree with the choice, but I have to wonder if Stralman is really THE biggest disappointment for the Jackets this season. Let's take a look at a few other options.
After an impressive rookie year and a good sophomore campaign, despite a bit of a slow start, a lot of people expected Jake to really explode this season. Though his current stats of 8 G, 17 A have him on pace for another 50 point season, a lot of people expected him to use his big frame and good hands around the net to better effect in Scott Arniel's system.
After the questions around Filatov's return to the NHL, and the way he lit up the pre-season like a Christmas tree, a lot of people expected Nikita Filatov to thrive in Columbus this season - at one point predictions of a 20 goal season were pretty regular - but instead the Russian winger has been unable to find the back of the net in the NHL, and is now trying to work his way back up to the big club from Springfield, where he's gotten 3 goals and 5 assists in his last 11 games.
Was anyone, outside of Rick Nash, supposed to benefit from a more up-tempo, aggressive style of hockey as much as Kris Russell? Hampered by a knee injury at the start of training camp, and having spent more time covering for the defensive miscues of his partners than anything else (how many 2 on 1 rushes was Kris left having to defend this year after a Stralman turnover?), he is currently on pace to score 4 goals and 14 assists - his worst totals since his rookie season. He's also currently at -8, and if he should finish below -12, it would be his worst finish in his pro career.
Despite getting a new deal and avoiding restricted free agency over the summer, Steve Mason came in with a lot to prove. Despite some good early outings (and a few early stinkers), he appeared to be settling down and getting some better performances before a disastrous swing through Western Canada, but the young, confident goaltender who was such a thrill to watch in 08-09 has disappeared, and he's yet to really show back up.
This may be a case of kicking someone when he's down, but Commodore was expected to return from a bad season to come back and serve as one of the team's strong defensive anchors. Instead, he started the year with a series of healthy scratches, more injuries, and finally a long battle with the coaching staff over playing time that eventually lead to his request for a trade. While Commodore's performance cannot be blamed for the team's overall failings (if he wasn't playing, he wasn't responsible for losses, right?), the situation has certainly been a distraction to the team, and his 3.75 million dollar contract increasingly looks like one of the worst busts in franchise history. It also doesn't help that he's apparently decided to deal with his frustrations by picking fights with fans on Twitter.
So, there you have it. Is Stralman the man who gets the cone of shame, or would you hand it to another Blue Jacket? Feel free to nominate others (and provide reasons) in the comments!