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Neutral Zone Wrap: You must make the tough decision

by | Rotowire.com
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Breaking up is hard to do. Just ask the Fantasy owner who can't get rid of a certain player mainly out of devotion. You've given so much to support him but he hasn't recently reciprocated the love. You lose sleep trying to figure out the reason for his pathetic performance. Why is he hurting you when you've stood by him for so long?

So when is it time to say goodbye?

Knowing when to drop is not an exact science and often depends on league structure and available replacement options. First, there's the difference between keeper and one-year formats. They are similar in many ways, but the carryover involves an added decision of whether or not you would retain a player for the following season and beyond. Of course, you would not dump anyone without a suitable fill-in. Can Player X in the free-agent pool do more? Or would Player Y on that other owner's squad be a better fit (provided the asking price isn't too steep)?

Patience is a virtue. But sometimes, it gets in the way of statistics and good old-fashioned common sense. Even if your underperformer has established himself as a mid-level scorer, maybe he's better off gone if he hasn't done anything in 10 games and his ice time is steadily decreasing. The signs are often present, but we often ignore them because we believe in what a player once did - and not what they are failing to do now. If that's the case, then cut the cord. Most likely, he will be happier with someone else.

Maybe you'll discover the perfect mate on one of the following teams. Or a match made in Fantasy hell:

In the continuing love-hate relationship between Leaf fans and the club, the momentum is quickly shifting to the negative side. After a preseason romance and a shotgun fling, the mood has soured of late. Is this typical reactive support behavior? Or is the honeymoon over in Toronto? The goaltending situation is deteriorating without James Reimer (concussion), as neither Jonas Gustavsson (3.78 goals-against average, .880 save percentage in nine) nor Ben Scrivens (4.05 GAA, .870 save percentage in three) can handle #1 duties, let alone serve as an able #2. Tim Connolly (upper-body injury absolutely, positively not related to earlier shoulder problem) has already reverted to fragile form after a promising run (six points in four). And Tyler Bozak (zero in six) isn't the solution as the top-line center, but 6-foot-5 kid Joe Colborne (19 in 12 in the AHL) could be the savior down the road. Maybe Cody Franson (one assist, minus-5, healthy scratch in eight of the last nine) isn't fitting in, but that might have more to do with the depth of blueline competition.

After an early European swoon (listless in two OT defeats), the Rangers are flourishing closer to home (winners of five straight). It's always sweet to tag along with a healthy Marian Gaborik. The latest beneficiaries are Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan (combining for 13 in the last three), but that could easily change with the flick of a head coach's mood. Ruslan Fedotenko (one in seven after five in the first seven) has successfully performed another disappearing act. And hey, Ryan Callahan, you may be up there in goals (six), shots (52), hits (32), and blocks (20) but please try to do more in the points department (only one assist). You too, Brandon Dubinsky (no goals, six assists), although you're a pleasant surprise in the penalty minute category (tied for fourth in the NHL with 47). Ryan McDonagh may not receive much power-play time, but he's the defensive workhorse without Marc Staal (at over 25 minutes a night) and chipping in with the right amount of offense (six).

Not much changed over the summer, so no surprise on Anaheim's terrible beginning following a disappointing playoff exit. When you rely so much on your big guns to carry the load, the deficiencies really show when they - and everyone else - struggle to score (the Ducks sit last averaging 1.83 goals per game). It's unfortunate what happened to Jason Blake (lacerated arm, out another two months), but it is also important to realize he wasn't that important Fantasy-wise (name something relevant he has done since the 63 points of 2008-09). Neither Andrew Cogliano (two) nor Brandon McMillan (three) has earned the open second-line slot, so perhaps it's time to provide rookie Devante Smith-Pelly (first NHL goal Wednesday night, arguably Anaheim's hardest working forward) with more chances to shine. And where in the world is Lubomir Visnovsky (four, minus-9)?

When Mike Richards headed to Hollywood, many believed he was the final piece to place Los Angeles as legitimate Cup contenders. But after the first 15 contests, the Kings do not display any resemblance to hockey royalty, at a mediocre 7-5-3. The eternal Dustin Penner problem may have finally yielded a glimmer of hope (woke up with two points Tuesday). Jarrett Stoll may also be breaking out of a slump (adding two on Tuesday). Scott Parse was looking to be a worthy secondary contributor (two goals), but now he's gone indefinitely with some mystery malady. For someone who showed promise in his first full year (16 in 60), it's amazing it took 14 outings for Alec Martinez to register his first point. No question Jonathan Quick can dominate in net (1.87 goals-against average, .940 save percentage, three shutouts), as Jonathan Bernier (3.37 goals-against average, .870 save percentage in three) hasn't exactly stolen the headlines with his play so far.

This ain't your father's Minnesota Wild. You know, the one that has existed since inception with a defense-first mentality. This version will come at you with, well, moderate offense (still near the bottom of the league in goals for). Remember when many gave up on Pierre-Marc Bouchard (four in four) due to health issues? And others who pigeonholed Guillaume Latendresse (eight) as a shoot-first, power-play specialist (although the last three were goals)? Surprised Matt Cullen (six) is leading the team in goals? Who is waiting for Jared Spurgeon (three) or Marco Scandella (two) to emerge as second-tier D-men? And does anyone really believe Josh Harding (1.18 goals-against average, .965 save percentage, undefeated in five) can surpass stalwart Niklas Backstrom (2.05 goals-against average, .926 save percentage) on the depth chart?

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Player News
Wayne Simmonds
Flyers' Simmonds Notches Goal In Preseason Win
Wayne Simmonds, RW, PHI
5:00 AM
News: Wayne Simmonds scored a goal in Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Rangers.
Analysis: Wayne Simmonds has found himself with two new linemates this season, and this preseason chemistry, albeit against the Rangers' B team, is encouraging. Simmonds' 60 points last season should place in the early rounds of most drafts.

Sean Couturier
Flyers' Couturier Flashes Offense In Preseason Win
Sean Couturier, C, PHI
4:57 AM
News: Sean Couturier scored a goal in Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Rangers.
Analysis: The Flyers are looking for Sean Couturier to expand his offensive game this season. In fact, they've been looking for that for the last few seasons, and it hasn't happened. Last year, the defensively-minded center collected just 39 points. He'll add good depth to most fantasy lineups, but since past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, be careful not to overvalue him.

Travis Moen
Canadiens' Moen Could Be Odd Man Out
Travis Moen, LW, MON
4:46 AM
News: Travis Moen is in danger of losing his spot on the roster, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Travis Moen skated on the fifth line during practice Tuesday, so it's looking like he's headed for a reserve forward role if he makes the team. And the Habs may decide to go with a cheaper option, like Michael Bournival, for a guy that might be a healthy scratch most nights.

Dustin Tokarski
Canadiens' Tokarski Still In Running
Dustin Tokarski, G, MON
4:39 AM
News: Dustin Tokarski is still in the mix to become the backup goalie to Carey Price, the Montreal Gazette reports. He and Peter Budaj are battling for the backup job.
Analysis: Head coach Michel Therrien said the team is still evaluating the two goaltenders heading into the final weekend of the preseason and that "there are a lot of things that come into consideration" when it comes to making a decision like this. One thing to consider is that Dustin Tokarski will have to be exposed to waivers before the Canadiens can assign him to Hamilton of the American Hockey League. A guy like Tokarski, a young goalie with playoff experience and a minimum salary, might be attractive to other teams.

Ryan Miller
Canucks' Miller Makes 31 Saves In Preseason Loss
Ryan Miller, G, VAN
12:59 AM
News: Ryan Miller gave up four goals on 35 shots in Monday's preseason loss to the Coyotes.
Analysis: It was a strong outing for Ryan Miller, who saw his team get largely outplayed for the majority of the game. Miller is now 1-1-0 in the preseason and enters this season as the Canucks' clear-cut starting goaltender.

Al Montoya
Panthers' Montoya Claims Backup Gig
Al Montoya, G, FLA
12:55 AM
News: After Dan Ellis was waived Sunday by the Panthers, Al Montoya appears to have claimed the No. 2 goalie job behind Roberto Luongo, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: Al Montoya had the inside edge for the gig by virtue of his contract being larger than Ellis', but his play in the preseason justified his emergence as the victor in the job battle. The 29-year-old proved highly capable as a backup for the Jets last season, posting a 13-8-3 record, 2.30 GAA and .920 save percentage. However, Luongo is a far better talent in goal than Montoya's chief competition in Winnipeg (Ondrej Pavelec), so the backup might actually notice a decrease in usage in his first season in South Florida.

Roberto Luongo
Panthers' Luongo Sharp In Preseason Debut
Roberto Luongo, G, FLA
12:50 AM
News: Roberto Luongo allowed one goal on 18 shots while working two periods in Saturday's exhibition loss to the Predators.
Analysis: The lone goal Roberto Luongo allowed was somewhat fluky, as the goalie's skate got caught on his uniform to prevent him from blocking the shot with his foot. All in all, Luongo was sharp in his first preseason tune-up. He'll be locked in for a large workload as the Panthers' No. 1 netminder this season.

Greg Zanon
Panthers Waive Zanon
Greg Zanon, D, FLA
12:45 AM
News: Greg Zanon was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: The 34-year-old blueliner never had much of a chance at cracking the Panthers' Opening Night roster. Alex Petrovic, Colby Robak and MacKenzie Weegar remain in a battle for the team's seventh defenseman job.

Bobby Butler
Panthers' Butler Waived
Bobby Butler, RW, FLA
12:43 AM
News: Bobby Butler was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: With Bobby Butler losing out on winning a spot on the Panthers' fourth-line, he'll likely clear waivers and report to AHL San Antonio. He compiled 22 goals and 25 assists in 69 AHL games last season.

Joey Crabb
Panthers Waive Crabb
Joey Crabb, RW, FLA
12:41 AM
News: Joey Crabb was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: Joey Crabb is expected to clear waivers and report to AHL San Antonio, where he totaled 15 goals and 14 assists over 62 games. He appeared in nine games with the Panthers last season and could be up again at some point in 2014-15 if the team is need of depth on the fourth line.

 
 
 
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