As NHL fans, everyone loves to discuss all the amazing talent that has come into the league. The range of talent in the NHL has brought amazing and necessary parity into a league that has never been more exciting. But with all these players to talk about, it’s super fun to discuss more niche topics. Topics like who’s overrated and who’s underrated. So Michael Seitz and I sat down and thought to ourselves, “Who is in the NHL’s most overrated and underrated departments?” Below we each have three very different picks for the categories of overrated and underrated. We tried to keep it limited to one forward, one defenseman, and one goalie. But that may have slipped past us both. Everyone has their dark horse picks and super obvious ones, but that’s what makes these discussions exciting. We tried to use as much data and information as we could to determine these selections so I hope you all enjoy the lists we presented to you.
The Canadiens’ Captain may lead the team with 29 points, but his offensive production is more than meets the eye. Statistically, by the points he’s put up, he’s looking like he’s having a great season so far. But upon further review, his analytics have him playing at an unsustainable rate. Currently, Suzuki has 14 goals on 53 shots on goal for an outrageous 26.4% shooting percentage. Not even the best players in the league can score at that crazy of a rate for a consistent period of time. Then there is the deeper analytics. Nick Suzuki is in the NHL’s 10th percentile in 5v5 offense, which is even lower than last year’s rank where he was placed in the 40th percentile. His scoring has come mostly on the power play where he was in the 17th percentile last year leaping all the way to the 61st percentile this year. That boost has made it seem like he is a much more impactful offensive player overall when that’s not even close to the case. He remains one of the better playmakers and defensive two-way forwards in the NHL for sure, but his offensive output should not last based on his current numbers.
When Jones was traded and signed by the Chicago Blackhawks, many fans believed this was the needle-moving deal that would send the Blackhawks back toward contention with their aging core. Boy were they wrong. Jones was signed to an 8-year deal with an average annual value of $9,500,000 that is starting to look worse by the day. Seth Jones was a big-minute defenseman coming off a catastrophic season with Columbus, before that his numbers were decent, but not enough to defend his reputation as an elite two-way defenseman. Defensively and on the power as a defenseman, Jones has always ranked highly in advanced analytics. But when compared to other defensemen on his supposed tier around similar money, he is nowhere near as good as the competition. In the same offseason, Jones was traded and signed with the Hawks, the New Jersey Devils signed Dougie Hamilton on a seven-year deal with an AAV half a million dollars less than Jones. And for the Devils, Hamilton has become a huge part of their success moving forward. Overall, for a Number 1 defenseman of his caliber, he should be performing a lot better than what he is being paid.
The former Stanley Cup Champion Marc-Andre Fleury has had one amazing career as a goaltender. But at this stage in his career at age 38, Flower just isn’t the goaltender that once lived up to his reputation. Since leaving Vegas, his stats have been dwindling at an accelerated rate with a combined 2.95 GAA and a .903 SV% from his stint in Chicago and his time in Minnesota. If we look at the recent history of 37+ goaltenders, there are only nine goalies since 2007 who posted a positive GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average). Some major names on that list are Roberto Luongo, Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas, and Martin Brodeur. It’s entirely possible Fleury could rebound and play out of his mind again as we’ve seen in years past. But the reality is it probably won’t happen. History suggests that he is capable of producing with a heavy workload but if we look at the last two Vezina trophy winners, one of them being Flower himself, we see that neither starter played over 53 games. A 38-year-old goaltender with a heavy workload doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. And although Fleury has a ton of accomplishments many should be in awe at, his play as he heads toward the end of his career is currently not one to be happy about.
The Calgary Flames
It was hard just to pick one player from the Flames as none stuck out as particularly bad, but a lot have underperformed thus far. Calgary sits 13-11-4 and in fifth place in the Pacific Division. After tearing down and rebuilding in the span of two weeks, the new faces in Western Canada have been underwhelming. Jonathan Huberdeau has only notched 17 points in 25 games after smashing the 100-point plateau in 2021-22. High-profile signing Nazem Kadri has tallied 21 points in 28 games thus far after being a key cog in the Avalanche Stanley Cup run last season. Andrew Mangiapane has only tallied 13 points in 28 games. Calgary currently does not have a go-to scoring threat which was supposed to be either Kadri, Huberdeau, or Mangiapane. One or more of those guys need to step up if the Flames want to go anywhere in the spring.
Campbell signed a 5-year, $25 million contract in the offseason to leave Toronto and head to Edmonton. The 30-year-old is coming off a career year where he posted a 31-9-0 record with a 2.64 goals against average and a .914 save percentage while being in the Vezina Trophy conversation. The signing of Campbell was seen as the move that could finally push the Oilers over the hump and win McDavid and Draisaitl a ring. However, Campbell has been very subpar thus far. In his first 13 games of the season, he has notched a 7-6-0 record with an astronomical 4.12 GAA and a .872 SV%. The veteran has even lost his starting job as he trails Stuart Skinner in appearances and starts as the pair is in a strict platoon system where Skinner is 1A and Campbell is 1B.
The New York Rangers “Kids Line”
Last season’s playoffs saw the emergence of the NYR Kids Line. The third-line trio consisted of Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and Kappo Kakko. While these three are no longer all together, the trio finds themselves scattered across New York’s top-six forward group. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the trio has been underwhelming, to say the least. Chytil has notched only 12 points (5 goals) in 21 games played. Lafreniere has tallied 13 points (5 goals) in 29 games. Kakko has only produced nine points (5 goals) in 29 games played. These numbers are far too low to be in the top-six forward group as the three currently are. After an impressive playoff showing, these players were all expected to have some form of a breakout campaign in 2022-23. This seems less and less likely by the day.