Rather than come up with a list of midseason award-winners like everyone does, how about a mid-season shit list? This is hardly scientific - any/all suggestions welcome - here's my list of players from complete busts to merely disappointing...
Mark Bell - San Jose Sharks. Could this year be any worse for him? I have no sympathy for this so-called Man of the Year. Schmuck. He ruined me in my "experts" league (of course I'm in last place SOLELY because of him. yeah.). Seriously though, his trade to SJ looked to be the perfect move for him to ascend to star status - having buried 25 goals on a crappy Chicago team last year, putting him on a line with either Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton should have placed him in 30 goal plus territory. Instead a terrible off-season incident followed by a thus-far six-goal output that has found him stuck in more of a plugger-role (whereas whizkid Ryane Clowe has become the new hot Sharks winger).
Dan Cloutier - Los Angeles Kings. Coming off a lucrative off-season deal that brought him to Los Angeles, Cloutier perhaps singlehandedly put the Kings out of playoff contention in the first half. With an .860 save percentage and 3.98 goals-against (40th and worst among all qualifying goaltenders in the entire league), it looks even worse when put up against teammate Matthew Garon's numbers (.904, 2.80), showing that it's not just the team in front of him. With merely league-average goaltending the Kings could be in the thick of the playoff hunt rather than a likely seller by the trade deadline; Cloutier's hip surgery which will likely keep him out for the season is a merciful ending to a year he'd rather forget.
Kyle Calder - Philadelphia Flyers. On paper this looked like it could be a good move for the Flyers; while giving up the reliable Michael Handzus, Calder had been trapped in a bad organization yet managed 26 goals last year and is two years younger than Handzus. Instead it took him until December 13th to score his first goal and is currently 788th in the league (dead last) in +/- at a horrible -27.
Joni Pitkanen - Philadelphia Flyers. Only a year ago he was in the mix of those ready to join the elite class of 2-way defencemen in the league. Instead this year with only 1 goal and a -23 rating (second-worst of 788 players) he is yet another Flyer having a season to forget.
Joffrey Lupul - The Oilers' primary take from the Chris Pronger deal, he was supposed to be a perfect addition to the Oilers stable of young fast snipers. 13 goals has to be a bit of a disappointment off the 28 last year and his -16 is rough.
Paul Mara - I thought this was going to be a great move by Boston, jettisoning the overmatched and sluggish Nick Boynton for the quicker 2-way play of Mara. Boynton has been plodding for the 'Yotes but Mara has not been the big improvement hoped for. 16 points and a terrible -12 rating sound more like Boynton numbers.
Petr Nedved - Philadelphia/Edmonton. Why there was an apparent controversy in trying to claim the once-dangerous sniper is beyond me; Nedved compiled a -20 rating in only 21 games for the Flyers this season, which was too much even for them. At least the Senators and Oilers were competing for his services, which Edmonton "won" to the tune of four points in eight games thus far. It has been at least four years since he was anything approaching an offensive threat, and barring a surprising turnaround his career appears on its last legs.
Petr Prucha - New York Rangers. Coming off a 30-goal rookie season, Prucha needs to do a lot to prove he wasn't a first-season wonder, only tallying ten goals to date for a .500 club in desparate need of depth scoring.
Jose Theodore - Colorado Avalanche. File this under two-time bust, as over the past year he has lost his starting job on not one but two NHL clubs - first to Cristobal Huet in Montreal and now apparently to Peter Budaj in Colorado. The "we-must-rebuild-him" experiment should be over in Denver, $5 million contract or not.
Sergei Samsonov –
The next list of players can't necessarily be considered as busts, but based on last year's output they've definitely taken a step backwards rather than ascending to - or remaining at - star status.
Simon Gagne - Philadelphia Flyers. All-Star my ass. Was +31 last year and -15 this year. +/- is unfair and deceptive, particularly on the defence-and-goaltending-challenged Flyers, but that's one big swing. Gagne has yet to prove he's anything more than a good winger who appears great when a wingman to a superstar.
Eric Staal - Carolina Hurricanes. See also Gagne. Staal is still very young (22) but last year's breakout gave the impression that he was here to stay. With 20 goals he is on pace for a decent output, but just four of those have come in the past 21 games. He's not a superstar yet.
Jonathan Cheechoo - San Jose Sharks. Yet another undeserving All-Star, Cheechoo hasn't come close to his Rocket Richard Trophy winning pace of last season, with only 16 goals thus far and is one of a small handful of minus players on a team winning at a 68% clip and giving up the second-least goals in the league.
Henrik Zetterberg - Detroit Red Wings. At first glance, he's way off his production from a year ago. However since reuniting with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom his productivity is up and with 12 points in his last six games and points in 14 of his last 15 games, Zetterberg could end up approaching last year's numbers come April.
Anson Carter - Columbus Blue Jackets. He needs to prove that he can produce reliably on his own - playing with the Sedin brothers last year he potted 33. This year's seven goals - after his agent demanding he be paid like a 30-goal scorer should - are a hit to whatever offensive reputation he may have had.
Marek Svatos - Colorado Avalanche. With 32 goals in just 61 games last year, his middling output this year (ten goals) needs to improve for Colorado to even make the playoffs.
Rick Nash - Columbus Blue Jackets. Even though the numbers say he's way off (13 goals), new head coach Ken Hitchcock has been implementing a long-range plan to make Nash a more complete two-way player, putting him on the PK. A solid idea considering his offensive totals are far below expectations for the former first-overall pick.
Mike Comrie - Phoenix/Ottawa. Comrie has gone from 30 goals on a below-average team to a giveaway in a mid-season deal for a player who may never set foot in North America. Comrie has a reputation to repair and if it's not done in Ottawa he may find himself playing out his days bouncing from club to club. Bobby Clarke will take a chance on him some day.
Gilbert Brule - Columbus Blue Jackets. It is completely unfair to label the 20-year old rookie a "bust" but it seems clear he wasn't ready for the NHL this year, as evidenced by his eight points and -20. He may have been better off playing one more season with the Vancouver Giants (WHL) trying to help them win the Memorial Cup.