Most NHL teams have now completed 20 games of the 2011-12 season, which is the traditional quarter mark of the season. As usual, the so-called "experts" have been wrong about lots of things during this season and will continue to be wrong as the season moves on, but it's time to give out first quarter grades to some NHL players. Have a look.
Phil Kessel - Kessel is showing that he's the most offensively gifted player the Leafs have dressed since... (I'm thinking...wait for it...), okay well I'm not that old! He's the best Leafs player in a long time.
Alex Ovechkin - Alex has not produced at his typical pace this year, in fact, if this continues, Phil Kessel may want to get his camera out for the All-Star Fantasy Draft in Ottawa.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Calling RNH the best Oilers teenager since Wayne Gretzky is a bit pre-mature. I mean, let's wait for this kid to establish himself, such as recording his first hat trick or 5-point game or...oh, I see.
Jonathan Toews - It seems that Toews matures as a player and as a leader every season. This season, he's learned to score goals at a higher rate and how to apply different facial expressions.
Pavel Datsyuk - It took Red Wings management a few extra weeks to change the batteries on the Datsyukian machine, but now it's fixed and working pretty well.
Brad Richards - Interestingly enough, it didn't take Brad Richards as much time to get used to John Tortorella's tactics and rants the way most new acquisitions do.
Sidney Crosby - If you think about it, Crosby is off to a tough start this season. He's only averaging a point per game on the road through one game and if he keeps letting his elbow fly, he'll be on his way to Brendan Shanahan's office.
Eric Staal - The fact that Staal is suddenly on pace for about 40 points this season, while he's usually around 80, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he injured his brother.
Dustin Byfuglien - One thing Byfuglien seems to consistently lack from his game as a defenseman is the ability to play defense.
Ilya Kovalchuk - Kovalchuk loves to be involved with offense when he's on the ice. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily mean he's always helping the Devils do the scoring...
Corey Perry - Perry insisted that he could improve as a player coming into this season, even after scoring 50 goals last season. The problem is, other than in penalty minutes, his numbers are down.
Steven Stamkos - If Stamkos can put up these kinds of offensive numbers under Guy Boucher and the defensive 1-3-1 system, imagine what he could do under Bruce Boudreau...or maybe not.
Nicklas Lidstrom - When defensemen like Lidstrom keep improving every season, you wonder how good he'll be when he reaches the prime of his career.
Wade Redden - Just 5 assists for Redden this season. And he's in the minors.
Grade: F (for FAIL)
Rick DiPietro - The Islanders have an injured goalie not named DiPietro. Jack Capuano's new strategy of only playing him once a month seems to be doing wonders for Rick's health.