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Neutral Zone Wrap: Major room for improvement

by | Rotowire.com
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Hope you've enjoyed the holiday season, but please don't tell me you've taken your eye off the game. Now I'm not discouraging people from avoiding others; in fact, I believe you should be spending time with loved ones. But you can always sneak out and devise your next plan of attack. After all, this time of year doesn't have to be a total separation of family and Fantasy.

You've probably ate your weight in cookies by now, so there's some lingering regret. The same feeling may hold true toward some of your players. You expected so much from so few and yet they haven't adequately performed their job. There's always the chance they can turn it around. But then they also might loom one step away from becoming untradeable.

The following NHLers are examples of those who still haven't been brought up to speed. Maybe they were never point-per-game producers, but people expected a lot more from them so far. (See if you can spot your players! And please note I couldn't select more than two listings per team, so don't complain about Jonas Hiller's omission).

Top 5 Fantasy Disappointments Who Can Get Back on Track

These guys have definitely underperformed, but it isn't for a lack of trying…well, maybe not for one of them. Most have received plenty of opportunities to shine, but something just hasn't been clicking. But hope is on the horizon, either in the form of a coaching change, an incentive, or just plain talent kicking in. Maybe a little hope wouldn't hurt either:

Mike Cammalleri, F, Montreal

Cammalleri's current haul (20 points in 32 games) doesn't amount to much of a drop-off (compared to 97 in 132 during the rest of his Habs career), but it is definitely noticeable with Montreal in trouble. The absence of Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez has forced Cammalleri into a greater leadership role up front, something in which he has excelled. Not much room for concern, as the little winger is still being heavily employed in all situations and the stats aren't too shabby (nine in December).

Bobby Ryan, F, Anaheim

If everyone received a nickel for every time a Bobby Ryan trade rumor was announced, then we'd need new pants from all the coinage that would rip the material. But seriously, the numbers don't look awful (18 in 35). The problem becomes evident when you notice he averaged 0.85 points per game and just over 33 goals a season in his first three full Anaheim campaigns. Another worrisome sign is the fact Ryan had been knocked off the top line, including the power-play. As much as this reasoning is cliché, there's simply way too much talent for him to struggle across an entire season.

Alexander Semin, F, Washington

Everybody's favorite slacker has been known to take off a shift or three, but no one truly cares about that. It's only now that he is lagging behind the pack in points (17 in 32) that all this attention -- and, gulp, pressure -- is being placed on Semin. The good news is his success is significantly tied to Alexander Ovechkin, and the Great Eight has had enough of his own on-ice issues. Following the captain's lead, Semin is slowly approaching his usual productive self (six in five) and should be temporarily good to go until the next lapse.

Semyon Varlamov, G, Colorado

The Avs donated a king's ransom (2012 1st rounder, 2012/2013 2nd rounder) to acquire Varlamov, so the up-and-coming Russian was immediately asked to play a major role. And while he hasn't fared too poorly (3.09 goals-against average, .896 save percentage in 25 appearances), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (1.95 goals-against average, .928 save percentage in 15) has served as Colorado's better option between the pipes. A nice comeback performance on Monday helped his cause, not only to regain the #1 spot but also to restore his confidence.

Lubomir Visnovsky, D, Anaheim

The Ducks are quacking their way towards the bottom. Upon first glance, it would seem Visnovsky would be one of the major reasons why. Last season's leading blueliner started off ice cold (four in 16), succumbed to a broken hand (sidelined a month), and now has found himself back on a struggling lineup. However, since returning a couple weeks ago, the Czech D-man has morphed closer to Norris Trophy form (five in six). Another encouraging indication comes from him continuing to log mega minutes (over 23 a game of late) and operating as a fearsome power-play quarterback.

Honorable mention: Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey; Brent Burns, D, San Jose; Drew Doughty/Jack Johnson, D, Los Angeles; Patric Hornqvist, F, Nashville; Chris Stewart, F, St. Louis

Top 5 Fantasy Disappointments You Might As Well Forget

You know people who can't perform a task even after you repeatedly provide instructions? Well, these skaters are similar in that they keep being sent on the ice and somehow can't get it going. Don't know if they're hiding injuries, some sort of flaw, or merely their age. Send these duds to the curb; they will not be recovering any time soon:

Steve Mason, G, Columbus

Columbus appeared to have turned the corner this past offseason after grabbing both Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski. Naturally, Mason was looked upon to recover from two rather mediocre seasons (combined 3.05 goals-against average, .901 save percentage). Little did we realize neither Mason nor the Blue Jackets were equipped to compete in the NHL on a nightly basis. The top freshman in 2008-09 resides near or at the basement in almost every goaltending category (2nd-last with 3.41 goals-against average and worst at .881 save percentage). And in the off chance Mason were to recover his Calder caliber, he probably couldn't catch a break since Columbus sucks.

Andrej Meszaros, D, Philadelphia

With Chris Pronger out for the season, it was believed most of the available work would be handed to Meszaros based on experience. Unfortunately, Matt Carle (eight in nine) has vaulted ahead of the big Slovak in both minutes and special-teams shifts. And while Meszaros has upped his game the last few weeks (six in nine), he still stands with subpar stats (adding in six from the first 23). Based on history, he's not going above the 30-point mark. In other words, try and stay away from Meszaros unless you are desperate on defense.

Kyle Okposo, F, NY Islanders

Another member of the Islanders' youth revolution, but not the one who has been making news - unless you count missing most of 2010-11 after shoulder surgery. While Okposo was able to fully recover from the injury (and post 20 in 38), he may not have completely regained his grip on a solid roster position. This season has been a disaster and has been characterized by scoring slumps (currently three in seven, three in all of November), a perceived lack of effort, and a short stint in the press box. While Okposo should resume racking up points, his totals will not approach his peak (52 from two years ago).

Magnus Paajarvi, F, Edmonton

The 10th overall pick from 2009 took a little while to get going, but eventually found his confidence by the end of his rookie campaign (including scoring in five of the last six contests). Unfortunately, Paajarvi began this season by stalling out of the gates (didn't point until Game 13) and hasn't shown much improvement (only two since). You might think the Swedish forward can pick up his pace based on skills and pedigree, but Edmonton has found success rolling out other young studs ahead of him on the depth chart.

Marek Zidlicky, D, Minnesota

When you are 34, struggling, and fresh off an injury, then your prospects will probably look bleak. The outlook won't appear any brighter if you factor in teammates who are passing you in the pecking order. Such is the case for Zidlicky, a once-proud defenseman who boasted six straight seasons of 25-plus assists. Reality has set in for the Czech veteran (six in 25 tells the story), who knows his time is running out. Newcomers like Jared Spurgeon (15) and Marco Scandella (six) are being given more chances to shine offensively, thereby relegating Zidlicky to third fiddle at best.

Honorable mention: Mikael Backlund, F, Calgary; Andrew Brunette, F, Chicago; Marc-Andre Gragnani, D, Buffalo; Jarret Stoll, F, Los Angeles; Cam Ward, G, Carolina.

Sorry, but once again there will be no column next week. Not going to explain why, but I'll accept guesses (hint: it's not hockey-related, although it could be). Try to fill your time effectively in the meantime. Maybe by counting down the hours until the Wrap returns.

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Player News
Marek Mazanec
Predators Recall Mazanec
Marek Mazanec, G, NSH
1/27/2015
News: The Predators have recalled Marek Mazanec from AHL Milwaukee, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Marek Mazanec, who got some AHL work in during the NHL All-Star break, returns to the big club to combo with Carter Hutton, with fellow goalie Pekka Rinne still sidelined.

Andrew Ebbett
Pens Recall Ebbett
Andrew Ebbett, C, PIT
1/27/2015
News: Andrew Ebbett was recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday.
Analysis: Andrew Ebbett was reassigned just before the All-Star break to get some extra work in, and has now been recalled along with two other forwards to provide depth with both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby expected to miss the first game of the second half. In his last game with the club Jan. 21, Ebbett managed to add another point to his total, giving him six on the season in 18 games.

Dion Phaneuf
Leafs' Phaneuf Week-To-Week
Dion Phaneuf, D, TOR
1/27/2015
News: Dion Phaneuf is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Analysis: Per the report, Dion Phaneuf sustained his injury prior to the NHL All-Star break, with the week-to-week tag suggesting that the blueliner will miss multiple games, starting with Wednesday's tilt against New Jersey. Another report indicates the injury may be an aggravation of a prior hand issue that was again bothered in last Wednesday's game against the Senators.

Matt Ellis
Ellis Recalled By Sabres
Matt Ellis, LW, BUF
1/27/2015
News: The Sabres have recalled Matt Ellis from AHL Rochester, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Matt Ellis, who has recorded 13 points in 38 games AHL games to date, adds experience and depth up front, but he's off the fantasy radar in his depth role with the Sabres.

Matt Hackett
Sabres Recall Hackett
Matt Hackett, G, BUF
1/27/2015
News: The Sabres have recalled Matt Hackett from AHL Rochester, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Matt Hackett will combo with Jhonas Enroth for the Sabres in the coming days, with fellow goaltender Michal Neuvirth currently sidelined by a lower-body injury.

Michal Neuvirth
Sabres' Neuvirth Sidelined
Michal Neuvirth, G, BUF
1/27/2015
News: Michal Neuvirth is dealing with a lower-body injury, the Sabres' official site reports.
Analysis: Michal Neuvirth suffered his injury "while working out during the All-Star break and will miss some time," GM Tim Murray relayed Monday. "He will not join the team for our trip out west this week," Murray added. With Neuvirth ailing, the Sabres have recalled fellow goalie Matt Hackett.

Kyle Okposo
Isles' Okposo Out 6-8 Weeks
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI
1/27/2015
News: Kyle Okposo will miss 6-8 weeks with an upper-body injury.
Analysis: Coach Jack Capuano delivered the news Monday, and Kyle Okposo's loss represents a major hit to the Isles' offense. The winger has recorded 14 goals and 44 points through 46 games to date, while working on the team's top line.

Nikita Jevpalovs
Sharks Sign Free Agent Jevpalovs
Nikita Jevpalovs, RW, PHI
1/27/2015
News: The Sharks signed Nikita Jevpalovs to an entry-level deal on Monday.
Analysis: Nikita Jevpalovs is having a great year in junior, playing for Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the QMJHL. He has 38 goals and 71 points in 45 games for the Armada.

Nikita Zadorov
Zadorov Suspended By Sabres
Nikita Zadorov, D, BUF
1/27/2015
News: The Sabres have suspended Nikita Zadorov for failing to report to the team on time following the NHL All-Star break, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Nikita Zadorov, who has eight points in 34 games to date, shouldn't be out of commission too long, though. GM Tim Murray indicated that he expects the blueliner (who missed Monday's practice) to rejoin the team "at some point during this week's western road trip."

Blake Comeau
Pens' Comeau (Wrist) Likely Out Another Week
Blake Comeau, LW, PIT
5:31 PM
News: Blake Comeau (wrist) skated prior to Monday's session but remains 5-to-7 days away from returning to practice.
Analysis: Blake Comeau has missed the last 13 games with a wrist injury. It appears as though he'll miss at least another week of practice, and he's without a timetable to return to game action.

 
 
 
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