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The Puck Stops Here

Worst Regular So Far This Season

I try to track the worst player who is regularly playing in the NHL.  I think it is instructive to see what kind of player continues to get ice time in the NHL despite failing to play well. Just before Christmas, I picked Rod Pelley of the New Jersey Devils for this dishonor

It is hard to remain the worst regular in the NHL.  If you play well, you won’t remain the worst regular in the league.  If you play too poorly, you usually find yourself unable to remain an NHL regular.  In Pelley’s case, he has played too well.  He has scored two of his three points this season in the past two weeks.  Thus he is no longer the worst regular in the league.  My new choice is Brett Lebda of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lebda is in his first year with the Leafs.  He signed a two year deal with a $1.45 million salary cap hit last summer.  Prior to that he spent five years as a Detroit Red Wing, where he was a sixth or seventh defenceman.  He is no stranger to being named the NHL’s worst regular.  I picked him for this dishonor early in the 2008/09 season.  Lebda has a history of prolonged slumps where he does not look like an NHL capable player.  When he is between them he is a capable depth defenceman, but he is lucky that these slumps have not yet ended his NHL career.

So far this season, Lebda has played in 20 games.  He has one assist and a team worst -18 +/- rating.  He has the worst rate adjusted +/- among defencemen in the NHL this season.

Toronto had high praise for Lebda when they signed him this summer.  He hasn’t lived up to it yet.  It looks unlikely that he will. So far, he has been worse than a replacement player this season.  He missed the first four games this season with a shoulder injury and has been a relatively frequent healthy scratch.  His lack of regular playing time kept him out of the running for this dishonor earlier in the season.  I think he has played frequently enough to qualify now, but he is in danger of losing the position with future healthy scratches.  He hasn’t played well at all so far this season

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It’s too bad Lebda hasn’t worked out in Toronto.

He was never a great—or even particularly good—player for the Red Wings, and he was TERRIBLE early last season, but I enjoyed watching him during the lockout (he played in my hometown for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins) and I always liked him—even though I never expected him to ever become an everyday NHL player.

For as below-average as he was, the one thing I’ll always remember about Lebda is that, for a period of three games 2008 (February 22, 23, 26) he was the Red Wings’ top defenseman. Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall and Chelios were all out at the same time, leaving Lebda and Derek Meech to form the No. 1 unit. In those three games, Lebda played 26:52, 28:17 and 27:41. Fortunately, by the next game Kronwall was back and Stuart had just come over from LA, giving the Red Wings some actual NHL blueliners to play on their blueline.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/08/11 at 11:52 PM ET


How about Brodeur??,finally being exposed as just a decent goalie after all these years playing behind a defene first team and he’s showing he’s DONE as a Thanksgiving Turkey

Posted by nyr3439 on 01/09/11 at 01:53 AM ET

inferno31's avatar

Anyone who has seen Lebda play this season will agree with this assessment. What isn’t explained here is that he takes ill timed penalties that cost the team goals, he misses his assignment (he is now playing forward) regularly, and is often sloppy during the change. Horrible season for him, by far the worst player I’ve seen in a long long time.

Posted by inferno31 on 01/09/11 at 06:30 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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