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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
Mike Green
Red Wings, Green Reach Three-Year Deal
Mike Green, D, WAS
12:57 AM
News: Mike Green signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Red Wings on Thursday, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: In need of some more offensive ability from the right side of their defense, the Red Wings decided to make a run at Mike Green, who is perhaps the most accomplished scorer of all the free-agent blueliners. Though injuries have slowed his production in recent years, Green stayed relatively healthy with the Capitals in 2014-15, playing 72 games and tallying 10 goals and 45 points. He saw his ice time decline in Washington as a result of last summer's signing of Matt Niskanen, but the Red Wings should have no trouble clearing out a regular role for Green on their second pairing. He's also a candidate to see time on the second-unit power play, which should help aid him to another 40-point season.

Richard Bachman
Canucks Sign Bachman
Richard Bachman, G, EDM
12:56 AM
News: The Canucks signed Richard Bachman to a two-year deal on Wednesday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Richard Bachman, who went 3-2-0 with a 2.84 GAA and .911 save percentage in seven games with the Oilers last season, gives the Canucks some added netminding depth (to go along with Jacob Markstrom ) behind starter Ryan Miller.

Alex Burmistrov
Former First-Rounder Burmistrov Returning To Jets
Alex Burmistrov, C, WPG
12:46 AM
News: Alex Burmistrov signed a two-year, $3.1 million contract with the Jets on Wednesday, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Alex Burmistrov, the former No. 8 overall pick by the Jets in 2010 when the franchise was still located in Atlanta, will make his return to North America after spending the past two seasons with Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL. The 23-year-old bolted for Russia in the summer of 2013 due in part to his lack of harmony with coach Claude Noel, but with Paul Maurice since taking over the helm for the Jets, it appears any discord has dissipated. Burmistrov never turned in outstanding production during his previous time in the minors or in the NHL, but now that's a little older, he could be a potential second- or third-line asset for the Jets.

Viktor Tikhonov
Tikhonov Leaves KHL For Blackhawks
Viktor Tikhonov, LW, ARI
12:38 AM
News: Viktor Tikhonov signed a one-year, $1.04 million contract with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, The Hockey News reports.
Analysis: After suiting up for St. Petersburg in the KHL for the last four seasons, Viktor Tikhonov was apparently quite eager to test himself in North America, as he reportedly took a $2 million pay cut to leave Russia. With the Blackhawks desperate to create cap room for the start of the coming season, the low-cost signing Tikhonov could be exactly what they need to create salary relief. Despite his minimal price, Tikhonov isn't completely bereft of value, as he was a former first-round selection by the Coyotes in 2008 and showed some scoring ability with St. Petersburg last season, supplying eight goals and 16 assists in 49 games. The Blackhawks will take a long look at him during training camp and see where he fits in best.

Matt Lindblad
Rangers Sign Lindblad
Matt Lindblad, C, BOS
12:27 AM
News: The Rangers signed Matt Lindblad on Wednesday, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: The 25-year-old Matt Lindblad, who notched 22 points in 47 games for AHL Providence last season, gives the Rangers' organization added forward depth, but he remains a break or two from the fantasy radar in his new playing context.

David Warsofsky
Warsofsky Signs With Pittsburgh
David Warsofsky, D, BOS
12:22 AM
News: David Warsofsky signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Penguins on Wednesday, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: The smallish David Warsofsky, who recorded 15 points in 40 games for AHL Providence this past season, brings good mobility to the table, though ultimately his fantasy utility hinges on whether or not he sees power play duty if/when he sees action with the Penguins. If so, he carries some sleeper value in deeper formats.

John Moore
Devils Give Moore Three-Year Deal
John Moore, D, ARI
12:17 AM
News: John Moore signed a three-year, $5 million contract with the Devils on Wednesday, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Analysis: After he was surprisingly non-tendered by the Coyotes on Monday, John Moore didn't take long to latch on with a new team in unrestricted free agency. The 24-year-old Moore offers a left-handed shot and ideal size (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) for a Devils defense that already has a good young core in place. The blueliner tallied two goals and 11 points across 57 games with the Rangers and Coyotes last season.

Greg Pateryn
Habs Extend Pateryn
Greg Pateryn, D, MON
12:16 AM
News: Greg Pateryn signed a two-year contract extension with the Canadiens on Wednesday, CTV Montreal reports.
Analysis: "Greg is a young defenceman who has developed very well. He enjoys the physical play and brings more depth to our defensive group," GM Marc Bergevin noted of the blueliner. In 17 regular season games with the Canadiens this past season, Greg Pateryn did not record a point, though the 25-year-old defender did manage three helpers in seven playoff games.

Barret Jackman
Preds Sign Jackman To Two-Year Deal
Barret Jackman, D, STL
12:13 AM
News: Barret Jackman signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Predators on Wednesday, Adam Vingan of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: After 12 years in St. Louis, Barret Jackman will join another franchise for the first time in his career. As was the case during his final few seasons with the Blues, Jackman will be suiting up for one of the league's deeper defensemen ranks, as he'll join a Predators roster that includes All-Stars Shea Weber and Roman Josi and promising youngsters Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones. Those four players figure to shoulder most of the offensive burden from the blue line, leaving Jackman to do what he does best -- agitating opposing forwards and providing sound decision-making in front of his own net.

P.A. Parenteau
Parenteau Signs With Leafs
P.A. Parenteau, RW, MON
12:08 AM
News: The Maple Leafs signed P.A. Parenteau to a one-year deal on Wednesday, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: P.A. Parenteau, whose contract was bought out by the Habs, notched 22 points in 56 games for Montreal last season. He'll look to bounce back with the Leafs and if he secures a more prominent role with his new team -- a plausible outcome -- the 32-year-old forward is capable of a rebound in 2015-16.

 
 
 
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