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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
Eric Staal
Canes' E. Staal (Abdomen) Back On Ice
Eric Staal, C, CAR
8/30/2014
News: Eric Staal (abdominal surgery) was back on the ice Friday at an informal skate with the Hurricanes, reports the Raleigh News Observer
Analysis: He had surgery in late July for a core-muscle issue that was described more as an abdominal wall injury rather than a sports hernia. He had changed his offseason training approach after delivering his lowest offensive numbers in a full season since his rookie year. The injury was characterized as a training injury, but it's behind him now and he's been on the ice for 10 days. "It was frustrating," he said. "At the time of the injury I thought I was in the best shape I've ever been in." If that's the case and if he can get out of the blocks strong, Eric Staal could be in line for a fantasy rebound. But he's going to turn 30 in October, so don't expect his output to recover to his previous best.

Kimmo Timonen
Flyers Planning On Season Without Timonen (Clots)
Kimmo Timonen, D, PHI
8/30/2014
News: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) is back in the U.S. after undergoing treatment in Finland, but the Flyers are planning as though he won't be contributing to the squad this season, reports the Courier-Post.
Analysis: "We haven't had a chance to look at him yet," general manager Ron Hextall said, "but there's something going on there" when asked if Kimmo Timonen was on a regimen of blood thinners like warfarin or herparin. Both drugs are used to prevent clots from developing in the future, but put the patient at risk of bruising and make it hard to get bleeding wounds to clot. Hockey would definitely be off-limits because of the body contact, but Timonen is making good progress.

Nicklas Grossmann
Flyers' Grossmann (Ankle) Will Be Ready For Camp
Nicklas Grossmann, D, PHI
8/30/2014
News: Nicklas Grossmann (ankle) was on the ice this week and will be ready for training camp, reports the Courier-Post. "It's a matter of just getting better and better, but I'm feeling pretty good," said the defender.
Analysis: The surgery to repair tendons in his right ankle required six-to-eight weeks of rehab. The big Swede delivered one goal, 13 assists and 55 PIMs in 78 games with the Flyers last season and should replicated those totals this season. Unfortunately, that won't make him much of a fantasy play.

Sean Couturier
Flyers' Couturier (Ankle): Ready For Training Camp
Sean Couturier, C, PHI
8/30/2014
News: Sean Couturier (ankle) has been skating since July and will be ready by training camp, reports the Courier-Post. "I feel great," said the center who had surgery in June. "I feel stronger than last year."
Analysis: He had a month of rehabilitation and then hit the training hard in July and August. Consider him good to go -- slot him onto your cheat sheet where you expected him to be pre-surgery.

Scott Gomez
Gomez Gets Tryout With Devils
Scott Gomez, C, NJ
8/30/2014
News: Scott Gomez will attend Devils' training camp on a tryout basis, reports Tom Gulitti of The Record. He hopes to follow a path similar to that of Petr Sykora who attended Devils' camp on a tryout in 2011 and ended up making the team.
Analysis: Scott Gomez played sparingly last season in Florida, recording two goals and 10 assists in 46 games. He admitted to Gulitti that he'd thought about retiring at points last season, but realized he still had something to give when he did see playing time late in the season. "I've still got a lot to prove," said Gomez. "I still want to play. There's a lot of hockey left." He's working with Vladimir Bure, the Devils' former fitness consultant and the man who helped him prepare for his Calder-winning rookie season. Still, that alone won't win him a job. "There's nothing guaranteed," continued Gomez. "I've got to make them keep me."

Justin Schultz
Oilers Sign Schultz To One-Year Deal
Justin Schultz, D, EDM
8/29/2014
News: Justin Schultz signed a one-year, $3.8 million deal with the Oilers on Friday, Ryan Rishaug of TSN reports.
Analysis: The restricted free agent defenseman averaged 23:21 of ice time per game last season, registering 11 goals and 22 assists. His production has still been somewhat disappointing, though, as he hasn't quite shown the consistent offensive game that vaulted him to college stardom. Still, he's been a consistent contributor and should return in a similar role in 2014-15.

Ryan White
Flyers' White Undergoes Surgery On Chest Muscle
Ryan White, C, MON
8/28/2014
News: Ryan White underwent surgery Wednesday to repair his left pectoral muscle.
Analysis: The Flyers haven't provided a timetable for a return for Ryan White, who signed with the organization on a one-year, two-way contract on Aug. 7. White, 26, totaled six points and 50 PIM in 52 games with the Canadiens last season. He was slated to compete for a fourth-line role with the Flyers in training camp, but those hopes could be dashed as a result of the procedure.

Lance Bouma
Flames' Bouma Inks One-Year Deal
Lance Bouma, LW, CGY
8/27/2014
News: Lance Bouma signed a one-year contract with the Flames on Wednesday.
Analysis: Lance Bouma is coming off his first full season in the NHL, in which the center supplied five goals and 10 assists over 78 games. The 24-year-old probably has room to grow as a scorer given his relative youth, but he may not amount to more than a second- or third-line center at his peak.

Brandon Manning
Flyers, Manning Agree On One-Year Deal
Brandon Manning, D, PHI
8/27/2014
News: Brandon Manning signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Flyers on Wednesday, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports.
Analysis: Brandon Manning was one of the more productive offensive rearguards in the AHL last season, scoring eight goals and 23 assists over 73 games for Adirondack. He earned a late-season promotion to the Flyers and appeared in six games, totaling two assists. He'll be given the opportunity to compete for a role on the blue line with the parent club in training camp, but more likely than not, he'll head back to the AHL to begin the 2014-15 campaign.

Brett Hextall
AHLer Hextall Signs With Flyers
Brett Hextall, C, PHO
8/25/2014
News: Brett Hextall signed a contract with AHL Lehigh Valley on Monday, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
Analysis: Brett Hextall's connections with the Flyers' front office (his dad, Ron, is the GM) was likely a major factor in his landing with the new organization. The 26-year-old Hextall spent the past three seasons with AHL Portland, totaling 53 points and 221 penalty minutes in 197 games.

 
 
 
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