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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
Taylor Hall
Oilers' Hall In Midst Of Cold Spell
Taylor Hall, LW, EDM
12/18/2014
News: Taylor Hall has tallied just one point in the Oilers' last seven games.
Analysis: Taylor Hall hasn't seen his shot attempts take a dramatic dip during the scoring drought, but if he's not finding the back of the net with regularity, the Oilers are in a serious trouble. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that with Hall slumping, the Oilers haven't mustered more than two goals in any match during that seven-game stretch. The burden of carrying the Oilers for the past five seasons clearly seems to be weighing down Hall, whose name has been starting to show up in trade rumors more frequently of late.

Reilly Smith
Bruins' Smith Producing Steadily
Reilly Smith, RW, BOS
12/18/2014
News: Reilly Smith netted a goal in Tuesday's shootout loss to the Predators.
Analysis: After a meager start to the season, Reilly Smith has really clicked since joining Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the top trio, tallying four goals and two assists over the last five games. Smith's recent surge in production could make it tough on coach Claude Julien to break up the trio once David Krejci (groin) returns, which could happen as soon as Wednesday's game against the Wild.

Chris Thorburn
Jets' Thorburn Scores Goal In Win
Chris Thorburn, RW, WPG
12/18/2014
News: Chris Thorburn scored his second goal of the season in Tuesday's victory over the Sabres.
Analysis: As his two points in 31 games would suggest, Chris Thorburn isn't someone the Jets are looking to for offense most nights. Instead, he'll carry most of his value as a grinder on the checking line and a leader in the locker room.

Carl Hagelin
Rangers' Hagelin Bags Goal Tuesday
Carl Hagelin, LW, NYR
12/18/2014
News: Carl Hagelin tallied his seventh goal of the season in Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Oilers.
Analysis: Carl Hagelin has notched goals in back-to-back contests, giving him 13 points in 29 contests this season. However, he's currently skating on the third line with Kevin Hayes and Lee Stempniak, a role that won't afford him much more than 15 minutes per night. He's a solid depth scorer for the Rangers, but fantasy owners can likely do better.

Josh Harding
No Timetable For Harding's Return From MS Setback
Josh Harding, G, MIN
12/18/2014
News: Josh Harding has yet to return to practice with Iowa teammates since being hospitalized for dehydration after playing two periods for AHL Iowa on Dec. 6, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The dehydration episode was related to his multiple sclerosis.
Analysis: There's no timetable for his return and it sounds like this could be a significant setback to his multiple sclerosis issues.

Kari Lehtonen
Stars' Lehtonen In Line To Start Wednesday
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
12/18/2014
News: Kari Lehtonen was the first goalie off the ice at the Stars' gameday skate and is slated to start Wednesday against the Canucks, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Kari Lehtonen has alternated wins in losses in his previous four December starts, continuing a trend of rather inconsistent play this season. He'll catch a bit of a break in matching up against Canucks backup goalie Eddie Lack on Tuesday, but it's still difficult to trust him at this point. The last time Lehtonen played Vancouver, he came away with a 6-3 victory during which he faced 46 shots. It wouldn't be shocking if another barnburner broke out again Wednesday.

Bryce Salvador
Devils' Salvador Still Not Skating
Bryce Salvador, D, NJ
12/18/2014
News: Bryce Salvador (lower body) has yet to resume skating since landing on injured reserve Nov. 17, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Bryce Salvador suggested that he's making progress, but he has yet to show anything tangible that would indicate as much. The 38-year-old is in the final year of his contract with the Devils and could be headed for retirement once the season concludes.

Carl Soderberg
Bruins' Soderberg Adds Goal, Assist In Win
Carl Soderberg, C, BOS
8:17 PM
News: Carl Soderberg picked up a goal and an assist in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win over the Wild.
Analysis: Carl Soderberg kicked off the scoring with a wrist shot just five minutes into the game, and eventually picked up an assist on the overtime game-winner as well. He now has six goals and 15 assists on the season to go along with a plus-6 rating.

Niklas Svedberg
Bruins' Svedberg Stops 35 In Win
Niklas Svedberg, G, BOS
8:15 PM
News: Niklas Svedberg allowed two goals on 37 shots in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win over the Wild.
Analysis: Niklas Svedberg improved to 4-4-0 on the year with the victory, and has played his best hockey of the year in his last two starts. He's worth keeping an eye on if Tuukka Rask ever goes down with an injury, but he's definitely still the backup for now.

Kyle Turris
Sens' Turris Scores Twice In Win
Kyle Turris, C, OTT
7:32 PM
News: Kyle Turris collected two goals in Wednesday's 2-0 win over the Devils.
Analysis: With one goal coming on the power play, and the second being an empty-netter, Kyle Turris now has five points in his last four games. He has six goals and 15 assists on the season, and should continue to play the role of top-line center in Ottawa.

 
 
 
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