Commentary

Buddy, can you spare a quarter?

Updated: February 12, 2013, 1:58 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

In a flash, a quarter of the NHL season is behind us. Things won't slow down as we race pell-mell to the end of the season, on April 27.

And so, without further ado, some first-quarter superlatives and, well, whatever the opposite of a superlative might be:

Dominating Performance By A Non-Star Player
David Clarkson, New Jersey Devils

Clarkson might have played in the shadows of Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur as the Devils went to the Stanley Cup finals in June, but he's proved he's no flash in the pan through the first quarter. He has nine goals, tied for second in the NHL as of Monday night, to pace the surprising Devils, who roared to the top of the Eastern Conference standings with an 8-1-3 record.
Honorable mentions: Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg Jets; Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Dominating Performance By A Star Who Was In Danger Of Losing His Star Status
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks are by any measure the best team in the NHL at the quarter mark, and one of the main reasons is the return to form of former rookie of the year, former (?) party boy, Patrick Kane. Whatever he's doing or not doing off the ice, on the ice he's on fire with 19 points and nine goals, both good for second in the league. If the Blackhawks are looking a lot like the team that won a Stanley Cup in 2010, it's because Kane is at the peak of his powers.
Honorable mentions: Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres

Disappointing Performance By A Bona Fide Star Player
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Lots of potential candidates in this category with the offensively challenged Kings, who began the week tied for last in the Western Conference, but Doughty's start is reflective of the entire team's inability to get out of the gate. After shouldering his way into Conn Smythe Trophy discussion during the Kings' run to the Cup in June (netminder Jonathan Quick ultimately earned MVP honors) Doughty appears to be slumbering, with zero goals, four assists and a whopper minus-10, dead last in the NHL. Now we know plus/minus isn't necessarily a reflection of a players' level of play, and we know Doughty shook off a slow start last season to be a dominant player, but for a guy many predicted would be a Norris Trophy candidate, it hasn't been a pretty start.
Honorable mentions: Shea Weber, Nashville Predators; Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

Biggest Injury Loss
Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators

Unfortunately, there are lots of candidates in this category, but the Senators are going to have scrape and scrounge for offense with their top pivot out for what looks like most if not all of the regular season with a back injury. Kudos to head coach Paul MacLean for keeping his squad in the Eastern Conference playoff mix in the early going after Spezza went out of the lineup after just five games -- but is it sustainable without Spezza?
Honorable mentions: Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia; Steve Downie, Colorado Avalanche

Out-Of-Nowhere Goaltending Performance
Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers

If there was one question mark about the talented, young Oilers it was whether someone would put his mark on the No. 1 goaltending job. It's early, but credit goes to Dubnyk, who has stood tall when the Oil have struggled to score, rolling to a 5-3-3 record, including a 39-save performance against Columbus in a 3-1 win Sunday night.
Honorable mentions: Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks; James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs

Nowhere Goaltending Performance
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

It's been a forgettable quarter for many No. 1 netminders this winter but the disappointing play of last year's playoff sensation, Braden Holtby, he of the 3.87 GAA and .879 save percentage, has been one of the key factors in the slow (OK, "slow" doesn't really cover it) start for a Washington team that was ranked dead last in the NHL as of Monday.
Honorable mentions: Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues; Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

Tight Around The Collar Coaching Performance
Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild

In spite of the addition of the $200 million men Zach Parise and Ryan Suter ($196 million, technically), it's more of the same for the Minnesota Wild as they find themselves outside the Western Conference playoff bubble with a .500 record and a popgun offense that ranked 27th in goals per game and the 19th-ranked power play as of Monday night. After last season's collapse that saw the Wild go from the top of the NHL standings to the nether regions, the team's play thus far is just a little too familiar for the restless fans in the State of Hockey.
Honorable mentions: Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres; Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche

Surprisingly Loose Around The Collar Coaching Performance
Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks

Lots of discussion about Joel Quenneville's future with the Blackhawks after two straight one-and-done playoff performances. Well, how about a Jack Adams Award in Quenneville's future as coach of the year? The Blackhawks' superlative start, one that includes an 8-0-2 record on the road, should put to rest any questions about Quenneville's standing in Chi-Town.
Honorable mentions: Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks; Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks

Big Signing Payoff
P.A. Parenteau, Colorado Avalanche

Still not sure why the New York Islanders let the emerging winger escape their clutches -- oh, yeah, it was because Parenteau wanted to be paid in real dollars, not Charles Wang Meal Vouchers -- but the Avs have to be happy with Parenteau's seven goals after inking him to a four-year deal in the offseason. Now, if the Avs would just get Ryan O'Reilly signed, they might actually have a shot at the playoffs.
Honorable mentions: Damien Brunner, Detroit Red Wings; Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

Big Signing Question Mark
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

A personnel director recently spoke about the special chemistry/relationship that Ryan Suter had with long-time defense partner Shea Weber in Nashville. Now Suter is "the man" in Minnesota and it's not really his style (Weber, by the way is missing Suter just a bit, coming up with just one assist in the Preds' first 12 games). It's not that Suter has been terrible but zero goals, six assists and a minus-7 is just middle of the road -- and for a guy who signed a contract worth just shy of $100 million last summer, middle of the road isn't going to cut it.
Honorable mentions: Filip Kuba, Florida Panthers; Olli Jokinen, Winnipeg Jets

Best Performance By A Graybeard
Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

The 42-year-old marvel recorded his second four-point night in 22 days on Saturday night against St. Louis. Only Gordie Howe and Tim Horton have had four-point efforts after the age of 42, Elias Sports Bureau reports (courtesy of the Ducks' crack PR staff). And, oh yeah, Selanne is leading the Ducks with 14 points. Last time he had this many points through 11 games? The 1995-96 season, when he was 25.
Honorable mentions: Saku Koivu, Anaheim Ducks; Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

Lunchbag Letdown (Team Category)
Washington Capitals

We still figure the Caps to get back in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference but, wow, talk about a big hole. Problems: Alex Ovechkin adjusting to a new position on the right wing, some of the team's best players not ready to play post-lockout, mediocre goaltending and rookie head coach Adam Oates trying to make sense of it all.
Honorable mentions: Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings

Worst Attempt To Buy A Hockey Team
Greg Jamison

Greg Jamison led people around the hockey world to believe he had the goods to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and end the misery of the Yotes' ownership saga. Uhm. Not even close. The Coyotes might yet get sold and they might yet end up staying in the desert but don't count on Jamison on being part of that if it happens. By the way, fans at Jobing.com Arena have quickly gone from rabid supporters during the Coyotes' playoff run last spring to nonexistent as the ownership debacle heads toward its four-year anniversary.
Honorable mention: Not applicable.

Player Whose Name Is Often Mentioned As Trade Bait
Henrik Lundqvist -- OK, just kidding; Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

The ongoing goaltending saga in Vancouver might be interesting to the water-cooler set but the bottom line is that the Canucks hit the quarter mark on fire and with the best one-two punch in goal of any team. Both Cory Schneider, anointed the Canucks' goalie of the future after last season, and Luongo, who will at some point be traded out of Vancouver, and GM Mike Gillis have all played this above-board and the two netminders actually seem to like each other. Credit to Gillis for apologizing to Washington GM George McPhee for showing up in Washington and setting off a three-alarm rumor blaze that Luongo was about to become a Cap. So, what comes first: a Luongo trade or a Cup parade through Vancouver's beautiful downtown?
Honorable mentions: Corey Perry/Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks; Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs