by PuckStopsHere on 11/17/09 at 02:48 PM ET
I try to track the player who is the worst player who is playing a regular shift in the NHL. It is interesting to see what kind of player will continue to be played despite playing poorly. Early in the season it is usually a better known player, who was expected to produce and is failing. Earlier this season I picked Vesa Toskala as the worst player in the league. At that point he had a horrid 5.56 GAA and an .812 saves percentage. Those numbers are clearly well below NHL calibre. From that point, Toskala has not played much. He suffered a knee injury and gave up the Toronto goaltending job to rookie Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson has done a pretty solid job with a .903 saves percentage and a 3.06 GAA, though he was pulled very early in a poor outing versus Calgary in his last game. Toskala has had three further appearances since I picked him as the worst player in the league and he is doing better. Toskala’s season numbers are still bad, but they are significantly improved to a .853 saves percentage and a 4.44 GAA. That drops him from the worst player position because he is not playing as regularly and because he is playing better.
My current selection for the worst regular in the NHL is Brad Richardson of the Los Angeles Kings.
Richardson has dressed in every Los Angeles game so far this season. He is yet to score a point. No points in 21 games played is the biggest scoring drought for any player in the league so far this season. Richardson is played almost nine minutes per game by the Los Angeles Kings. There are many situations that he is protected from. He plays against very low quality opposition. Yet Richardson has not been able to score. Worse, he has been scored upon relatively frequently. He has a -7 +/- rating, which is the worst among Los Angeles Kings forwards. This gives him an on/off ice adjusted +/-, which is among the worst in the league. The only player who has played every game for his team who ranks worse in this adjusted +/- is Marek Svatos of the Colorado Avalanche - but Svatos plays against higher levels of opposition and has had some offensive success - particularly on the power play.
Brad Richardson has not scored, he plays against weak opposition and he allows opposition goals at a high rate. This makes him the worst player in the NHL so far this season.
Richardson has never been an NHL star, but he is a hard working player who once scored 22 points for the Colorado Avalanche in 2006/07. This makes him a prototype example of a player chosen as the worst regular in the league. With 188 NHL games played he is more or less an established NHL player. He is a hard working guy who is well liked by teammates and coaching staff. When he works hard and has been around the league for a few years, he is less likely to be benched than those who are newcomers or are not hard working. The problem is that Brad Richardson is not producing. He is playing quite poorly for the Kings. Richardson is willing to put his body on the line for his team. Probably the most memorable thing he has done so far this year is lose a fight on November 13th against Jim Slater of the Atlanta Thrashers. Richardson is not a particularly good fighter, but he is willing. He is not a particularly good checker, but he is willing. He is not particularly good offensively, but he tries hard. That is the story of his game. It is hard to bench somebody who is clearly trying very hard, but he is failing. It would be in Los Angeles’s best interests to get Richardson out of their everyday lineup.
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