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12 marquee players seeking second-half turnarounds

by Arpon Basu

It happens every NHL season, and sometime around mid-November people start to notice to star players who are off to slow starts.

By the time December rolls around, those slow starts begin to become slow seasons.

As we move through the early stages of the second half of the 2015-16 season, there are a number of players around the League who are attempting to overcome a poor first half and prove it was just an anomaly and that their production is not starting to decline.

In the world of enhanced statistics, an unusually strong or weak stretch by a player or a team is often expected to go back to normal levels over time. If they weren't before, these players are likely big believers in that theory and hope it gets started soon, if it hasn't already.

Here is's list of 12 first-half underachievers who hope to turn things around in the second half.

Jonathan Bernier, G, Toronto Maple Leafs

Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Bernier
Goalie - TOR
RECORD: 6-11-3
GAA: 3.14 | SVP: .896
Bernier had a horrific first half, one that included a trip to the American Hockey League to build up his confidence. With James Reimer fighting injuries most of the time, the timing for Bernier's struggles couldn't have been worse for team or player. He didn't win a game until Dec. 19 and has allowed four or more goals in eight of his 20 starts. Bernier appeared to be coming out of it, winning three straight starts from Dec. 30 to Jan. 6 with 117 saves on 120 shots, but he then allowed seven goals on 31 shots in his next start.

Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Crosby has picked it up with six goals and eight assists in his past 11 games. He has 33 points in 41 games, but that leaves him in a tie for 34rd place in NHL scoring entering play Friday, which even he would likely agree is not very Crosby-like. As he trudged through his first 30 games with 19 points, some began to openly wonder if, at age 28, Crosby was beginning to decline. His recent play has quieted that talk, but now he needs to maintain that production.

Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim Ducks

Many of Getzlaf's teammates could easily find themselves on this list, but as the captain and offensive engine of the Ducks, he gets the nod with 26 points in 38 games. Getzlaf has scored one even-strength goal all season, and it was into an empty net on Nov. 16. Enough said.

Jiri Hudler, C, Calgary Flames

Jiri Hudler
Jiri Hudler
Center - CGY
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 22
SOG: 53 | +/-: -6
Hudler is coming off a career season with the Flames, scoring 31 goals and 76 points in 78 games. He had a 19.6 shooting percentage last season, and had two other seasons in which he had a 19.7 and 17.9 percentage, so it did not appear to be an aberration. But it hasn't happened this season for Hudler, who has five goals and 22 points in 36 games. He's had to battle some injuries, and is shooting 9.4 percent. As unlikely as he was to reproduce the shooting percentage from last season, it's just as improbable Hudler stays below 10 percent all season.

Ryan Johansen, C, Nashville Predators

Johansen began the season with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a five-game point streak, collecting one goal and five assists. Two games later, Todd Richards was fired as coach and replaced by John Tortorella. A little more than two months later, Johansen was traded to Nashville for defenseman Seth Jones. Playing for Predators coach Peter Laviolette and with talented linemates James Neal and Filip Forsberg should help, but as of now Johansen's on pace to fall 10 points short of his 71-point output from last season.

Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

Johnson finished last season No. 14 in the NHL in scoring with 72 points in 77 games. This season, he has 13 points in 30 games, tied for 271st in League scoring. He's missed time with injuries, but the center of "The Triplets" line has not reached the bar he set for himself last season, much like his team.

Nazem Kadri, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

Speaking of unsustainably low shooting percentages, Kadri might be the poster child for that statistic this season. He entered play Thursday 11th in the NHL with 147 shots on goal, but had scored on 5.4 percent of those shots. That is nearly half as efficient as last season, when Kadri scored on 10.2 percent of his shots. If Kadri fails to reach 10.2 percent, it will mark the fourth straight season his shooting percentage declined. If Kadri keeps putting pucks on net, more should start going in.

Evander Kane, LW, Buffalo Sabres

Evander Kane
Evander Kane
Left Wing - BUF
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 15
SOG: 121 | +/-: -8
The Sabres paid a big price to acquire Kane from the Winnipeg Jets while he was injured last season, in the hopes he would be a big part of the resurgence this season. It hasn't happened yet, with Kane scoring eight goals and 15 points in 33 games to sit tied for 239th in the NHL in scoring.

Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers

This was supposed to be a breakout season for Kreider, coming off the first 20-goal season of his career. Coach Alain Vigneault spoke openly of the heightened expectations he had for Kreider, who appears to have all the tools to be a dominant power forward and is in his third full season in the League. But 41 games into the season Kreider has six goals, 19 points and is averaging two shots on goal per game with 82.

Phil Kessel, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins

Kessel scored 25 goals in 82 games with the Maple Leafs last season, his lowest total in a complete season since 2007-08, his second in the NHL. Getting traded to a team with as much firepower as the Penguins led many to believe Kessel would thrive, starting with Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford. Nope. With 12 goals in 42 games, Kessel is on pace to fall two goals short of his total last season.

John Tavares, C, New York Islanders

John Tavares
John Tavares
Center - NYI
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 31
SOG: 126 | +/-: -7
Tavares has 31 points in 41 games, which is a perfectly fine output for about 95 percent of the NHL. It's not perfectly fine for a player who lost out on the NHL scoring title on the final day of last season and who, at age 25, should be in the middle of his prime.

Jakub Voracek, RW, Philadelphia Flyers

After a horrific start to the season, Voracek is on the road back toward his elite self. He had one goal and 14 assists in his first 29 games this season, but has put up four goals and 10 assists in his past 12 games. The Flyers are 7-4-1 during that dozen-game run, including a current four-game winning streak, to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

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