There are many ways to define the “worst” player in hockey — whether that’s by the player with the dirtiest hits or the goalie with the worst save percentage. While it’s true that regardless of the title of being the worst player in the NHL, they’re still playing hockey at the highest level, so there’s something to be said for that!
Depending on how you’re measuring the worst hockey player, whether through just an overall disappointing career compared to the expectations fans had of them or just the guys who consistently seem to make terrible plays — the answer may differ. However, there are several players who come up time and time again, such as William Mikkelson, Jimmy Howard, and Andre Deveaux.
Is There a “Worst” NHL Player of All Time?
During the 1970s, there was a player by the name of William Bill Mikkelson. Mikkelson played for the Washington Capitals during the 1974-1975 season when he posted the worst ever plus/minus rating that has ever been recorded in the league. The rating was -82 and this is still a record that hasn’t been beaten — though certainly, nobody is actively trying to.
This isn’t necessarily an accomplishment one wants to tarnish their legacy upon being in the National Hockey League. However, many may point to Mikkelson as being the worst player in NHL history due to this statistic. Others may point to just generally disappointing careers from players who were once top-rated as being the “worst” in the league.
Who Are the Worst NHL Goaltenders?
The job of an ice hockey goalie can feel like an incredibly solitary one. It’s a position that can make or break a team and they’re often the first player that fans begin to turn on when the game goes south. There is a lot of goaltender turnover in the NHL, with teams constantly cycling out who’s between the pipes during play.
If a goalie doesn’t end up getting it together and consistently fails to make necessary saves, they probably won’t be in the NHL for an extended period. However, sometimes there are talented goalies who’ve been around for a while and who have multiple seasons of NHL experience who just have one off-season.
Jimmy Howard ended his NHL career spanning 14 years with a less than a desirable season — with 27 games played but only two wins to his name. This can be the difficult realization for a goalie that retirement is impending and it’s best to get out before their career is marked by such tenuous play.
Throwing it back to the 1974-1975 season, Ron Low was starting for Washington and recorded the worst GSAA (goals saved above average) record of -57.1. However, he continued to play for another eight seasons in the NHL. Unfortunately, he didn’t resume as a starting goalie upon his move from Washington.
Who Are the Dirtiest NHL Players?
If your definition of the worst hockey player is based on how dirty their play is — such as trying to purposefully injure an opponent, then you’re likely to find a few familiar names on this list. These players tend to be most hated by their opponents as well as the fans themselves, who don’t want to see a player’s career ended by a dirty and unnecessary hit.
One of the names that often come up when people discuss the cheapest playing NHL guys is Matt Cooke. He arguably ended the career of fellow player Marc Savard by taking a cheap shot and suffered a severe concussion from the blow.
Chris Pronger is another name that is commonly cited when running through the dirty players in the NHL. Though he has considerable defensive talent, he has a long rap sheet of checking opponents from behind and connecting his elbows to the face and head of other players.
While defensemen are supposed to be tough and dish out big hits, it shouldn’t be done in such a way that an opposing player is likely to suffer from a potential season or career-ending injury. This is sometimes a divisive topic in the NHL but it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the game safe and enjoyable for years to come.
Honorable Mentions for the Worst NHL Player
There certainly isn’t a shortage of hated players when you ask any hockey fan. However, that doesn’t necessarily make them the worst or even make them particularly bad hockey players in general. Some of the names that you perhaps haven’t heard mentioned before are collected below.
- Andre Deveaux – Deveaux had a bit of a lackluster career in the NHL that lasted only 31 games. During this time, he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens and collected 2 assists and over 100 penalty minutes.
- Ken McAuley – This goaltender is best known for giving up a whopping 8 goals during a single period in 1943. Over a span of 96 games played, he collected only 17 victories. Unsurprisingly, he only made it in the NHL for two seasons.
- Gord Kluzak – Kluzak was the first overall pick during the 1982 NHL Draft — which set the expectations for him high. This skilled defenseman was unproductive during his time in the NHL, though he managed it for nine seasons with the Boston Bruins. He later went on to attend Harvard.
- Tanner Glass – Glass is a player who often misses the puck and when he has it, may handle it poorly. Some have theorized that he should be solely an AHL player, as he doesn’t quite have that NHL skill and he isn’t a solid player compared to his teammates.
- Rick Jodzio – Rick played one single season in 1978 before leaving the league entirely after his lackluster performance. He did some time in the minors for a while before moving onto a different career path entirely — trucking.
- Keith Yandle – Yandle has the worst plus/minus rating in the 2021-2022 season, clocking in at -39. While this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a bad player who won’t bounce back, he’s certainly in a less than desirable spot at the moment.
“Worst” Can Be Defined in Different Ways
However, you decide to define what the “worst” player in the NHL player means — whether it’s dishing out dirty hits or simply not always being a smart player on the ice, the players mentioned above fit the mold.
Of course, all of these guys have considerable talent as they did end up in the NHL, though perhaps not for long if they can’t keep up.
Truly bad players often can’t stick around in a league as competitive as the NHL is, especially if their salary is taking up a large portion of a team’s cap space. Naturally, teams don’t want to keep players who can’t hold their weight and add to the team’s potential to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs at the end of the season.
Dirty players who are also incredibly talented can be a tricky subject and many teams give them a slap on the wrist instead of imposing serious consequences for their actions.
Hockey is a rough game, no doubt, but there are still rules in place for a reason and no one should have to worry about an opponent who’s out to get them and to cause an injury.