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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
Cam Talbot
Rangers' Talbot Silences Flyers
Cam Talbot, G, NYR
11/29/2014
News: Cam Talbot stopped all 26 shots he faced to blank the Flyers on Friday.
Analysis: That gives Cam Talbot back-to-back shutouts against the Flyers, who failed to get one by the netminder when the two teams met last week. Despite his extraordinary success against Philadelphia, coach Alain Vigneault will resist the temptation to go back to him in Saturday's rematch, as Henrik Lundqvist has already been announced as that game's starter. In any case, the back-to-back positive turns amount to a nice confidence boost for Talbot, who had mostly struggled in his other outings this season.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks To Start Andersen On Friday
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
11/29/2014
News: Frederik Andersen led the Ducks on to the ice and will make the start in goal Friday versus the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen has reeled off three straight wins on the heels of a five-game losing streak, but he'll face a stiff test at home against Chicago. Friday's game will mark the first of a back-to-back set for the Ducks, so it's possible coach Bruce Boudreau will turn to backup Jason LaBarbera on Saturday.

Jesse Blacker
Ducks Recall Prospect Blacker
Jesse Blacker, D, ANA
11/29/2014
News: Jesse Blacker was recalled from AHL Norfolk on Friday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Clayton Stoner was officially diagnosed with the mumps virus and ruled out of Friday's game against the Blackhawks, forcing the Ducks to bring up Jesse Blacker for his NHL debut. The 23-year-old, who is considered one of the organization's better blue line prospects, has four points in 14 games with Norfolk.

Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Has Mumps, Out Saturday
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
11/29/2014
News: Clayton Stoner (illness) has been officially diagnosed with the mumps virus and will not play Friday against the Blackhawks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Clayton Stoner practiced Thursday and seemed well on his way to returning to action, but apparently some late-emerging symptoms of the mumps will knock him out of action. The setback has to be concerning for the Ducks, who now might have to worry about further players potentially being infected by Stoner. Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin previously missed multiple games with the illness.

Mike Green
Caps' Green To Sit Again Friday
Mike Green, D, WAS
11/29/2014
News: Mike Green (upper body) will not play Friday against the Islanders, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Jack Hillen will spell him in the Capitals' lineup for the second straight game. It hasn't been reported that Mike Green has resumed skating since suffering the injury, so it's not clear when he might rejoin the lineup.

Johnny Boychuk
Isles' Boychuk Ruled Out Friday
Johnny Boychuk, D, NYI
11/29/2014
News: Johnny Boychuk will miss Friday's game against the Capitals with an upper-body injury.
Analysis: Johnny Boychuk had been missing practices recently with a suspected knee issue, so the fact that he'll sit out Friday with an upper-body injury comes as a surprise. The blueliner, who has been highly productive since coming over in a trade with the Bruins late in training camp, will be considered day-to-day for the time being. Brian Strait takes his spot in the lineup Friday.

Chad Johnson
Isles To Go With Johnson
Chad Johnson, G, NYI
11/29/2014
News: Chad Johnson will be in the crease Friday against the Capitals.
Analysis: Chad Johnson will spell the red-hot Jaroslav Halak in goal, but only because the Islanders are playing the first game of a back-to-back set. The move from Boston to Long Island hasn't proven overly kind for Johnson, despite the 5-2 record he carries into Friday's contest. His 3.33 GAA and .876 save percentage rank 38th and 42nd, respectively, among the 42 qualifying goaltenders.

Justin Schultz
Oilers' Schultz Returns To The Lineup
Justin Schultz, D, EDM
5:19 PM
News: Justin Schultz returned to the lineup for the Oilers on Friday, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: Justin Schultz has been struggling mightily for most of the season and was a healthy scratch Thursday versus Nashville. Schultz has never been the player most thought he could be since coming to Edmonton which could lead one to ask, is that the players fault, or the organizations?

Jonathan Quick
Kings' Quick Expected To Start Saturday
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
5:18 PM
News: Jonathan Quick is expected to get the start in net on Saturday when the Kings take on the Blackhawks, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: After backing up Martin Jones for the Kings' previous two games, Jonathan Quick is expected to start in net on Saturday. Quick struggled in his last start, making just 18 saves in a 5-4 loss to the Stars. The extra rest could very well lead to a bounce back performance for the King's star goaltender.

Duncan Keith
Blackhawks' Keith Named First Star In Friday's Win
Duncan Keith, D, CHI
5:09 PM
News: Duncan Keith contributed an assist and was a plus-3 Friday, earning first star honors in a win over Anaheim.
Analysis: Another solid outing for Duncan Keith, who is now riding a four-game point streak, putting him at five goals and 15 points in 23 games on the season. He is an absolute workhorse and one of the most consistent fantasy defensemen around. Keep him rolling.

 
 
 
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