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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
Michael Bournival
Habs' Bournival Reassigned To AHL Hamilton
Michael Bournival, LW, MON
12:58 AM
News: Michael Bournival was reassigned to AHL Hamilton on Monday, TSN's John Lu reports.
Analysis: Forward P.A. Parenteau (concussion) will finally rejoin the lineup, and defenseman Jeff Petry was recently acquired in a trade. The Habs will thus reassign both Michael Bournival and Greg Pateryn, freeing up room for a pair of proven veterans. Bournival only has five points through 29 NHL appearances this season, but he does have eight points in just seven AHL games.

Maxime Talbot
Talbot Traded To Bruins
Maxime Talbot, C, COL
12:57 AM
News: The Avalanche traded Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey to the Bruins on Monday in exchange for Jordan Caron and a 2016 sixth-round draft pick, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Maxime Talbot, who has notched five goals and 10 assists in 63 games with the Avs this season, gives the Bruins some added depth and experience up front, something that will come in handy, with centers Gregory Campbell and David Krejci currently sidelined.

P.A. Parenteau
Canadiens' Parenteau To Rejoin Lineup Monday
P.A. Parenteau, RW, MON
12:53 AM
News: P.A. Parenteau will rejoin the lineup for Monday's game against San Jose, NHL.com's Arpon Basu
Analysis: After missing six weeks of action due to a concussion, P.A. Parenteau was a healthy scratch for Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs. He may be limited to a spot on the fourth line in his first game since Jan. 15.

Jordan Caron
Caron Traded To Avs
Jordan Caron, LW, BOS
12:50 AM
News: The Bruins traded Jordan Caron and a 2016 sixth-round draft pick to the Avs on Monday in exchange for Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Jordan Caron, who has been held without a point in 11 games with the Bruins this season, was a first-round draft pick (25th overall) in 2009. After having recorded just 28 points in 134 career NHL contests with Boston, however, a change of scenery will probably do the 24-year-old winger some good, though a wait-and see approach is in order from a fantasy perspective.

James Wisniewski
Ducks Acquire Wisniewski In Late Deadline Deal
James Wisniewski, D, CLB
12:45 AM
News: James Wisniewski was traded to the Ducks on Monday along with a 2015 third-round draft pick in exchange for forwards William Karlsson and Rene Bourque and a 2015 second-round draft pick, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: James Wisniewski will likely assume a top-four role on defense with his new organization, giving the Ducks an added dose of puck-moving ability on the blue line. The 31-year-old has predictably been unable to replicate last season's 51-point scoring outburst in 2014-15, but he's still been an above-average source of goals and assists for a defenseman. Assuming the foot injury he suffered in Saturday's game against the Penguins doesn't prove too problematic, Wisniewski's fantasy value figures to notice a small uptick with the move, as his placement on a superior Ducks squad should allow his plus/minus mark to recover from its current minus-10 standing.

Alexei Marchenko
Wings' Marchenko Sidelined
Alexei Marchenko, D, DET
12:43 AM
News: Alexei Marchenko is dealing with an oblique strain, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports.
Analysis: The report suggests that Alexei Marchenko will be out for a week or so. The 23-year-old blueliner has two points in 12 games with the Wings to date, including a goal in his last outing, Saturday against the Preds.

Darren Helm
Wings' Helm Dealing With Oblique Injury
Darren Helm, C, DET
12:38 AM
News: Darren Helm is dealing with an oblique strain, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports.
Analysis: Per the report, GM Ken Holland indicated that Darren Helm's injury is not considered serious, but it looks like the forward will be out a week or so.

Sven Baertschi
Flames Deal Baertschi To Canucks For Pick
Sven Baertschi, LW, CGY
12:35 AM
News: Sven Baertschi was traded to the Canucks on Monday in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports.
Analysis: A former first-round selection by the Flames in 2011, Sven Baertschi made the NHL squad out of training camp in 2013-14 but wasn't able to maintain a spot after tallying 11 points over 26 games. He failed to break camp with the Flames this season and didn't make much of his opportunity when injuries resulted in his promotion to the big club. His pedigree still made him intriguing to many organizations, so the Flames decided to part with him before his value completely bottomed out. Still only 22 years old, Baertschi could unlock his full potential with the move to the Canucks, though he'll likely have to prove himself at AHL Utica first.

Simon Despres
Pens Deal Despres To Ducks
Simon Despres, D, PIT
12:21 AM
News: Simon Despres (head) was traded to the Ducks on Monday in exchange for defenseman Ben Lovejoy, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: The Penguins indicated the head injury that Simon Despres suffered in Sunday's win over the Blue Jackets appears to be minor, but that didn't prevent the team from seeking a veteran blueliner on deadline day. While Lovejoy possesses more NHL experience and might offer more present-day value than Despres, it appears the Ducks have added yet another intriguing young blueliner to a corps that also includes three under-25 talents in Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. At 6-foot-4 with a willingness to hit and the ability to score, Despres could become a mainstay on the defense for the Ducks over the next several seasons.

Chris Stewart
Stewart Moves To Playoff Contender With Wild
Chris Stewart, RW, BUF
12:17 AM
News: Chris Stewart has been traded to the Wild in exchange for what is expected to be a 2017 second-rounder, WGR550.com reports.
Analysis: Even though this deal was snuck in just ahead of the deadline, Chris Stewart was as good of a bet as any player in hockey to get dealt Monday. He'll head to a playoff contender, which should immediately boost his plus-minus prospects. And Minnesota might start to be considered Buffalo West, with four former Sabres on the roster once Stewart gets settled. Stewart has a disappointing 25 points in 61 games this season, but he's been playing better lately with the potential to do more with better talent around him. Keep an eye on his line assignment, though it's worth noting that inconsistency has always been a part of his game.

 
 
 
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