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Neutral Zone Wrap: Managing disappointment

by | Rotowire.com
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Disappointment just happens. Face it. You just can't be perfect all the time. There's no way to live up to unrealistic expectations when reality ends up blocking the way.

The same principles apply to Fantasy hockey. The history of a player could tell a story of awesome achievements and incredible intangibles, but certain factors may currently exist to diminish their value – whether it be a deteriorating body, decreased opportunities, or the unwanted appearance of Father Time.

You may be able to spot a few trends from the early returns, but we're way too early to base players' worth from these over a full season. I will use every attempt to leave out obvious statistics, but may be forced to do so if the numbers explain the insight. Look over the following fellows and try to hold back your hopes on their 2013-14 prospects:

(For related material on the same subject, check out Jan Levine's busts column.

Niklas Backstrom, G, Wild: Not to be confused with the Washington star forward of the extra 'c', this Finnish netminder has served as the Wild's backbone the last seven-plus seasons. At 35 and with a new three-year deal, Backstrom looks ready to continue his legacy. That may become difficult with backup Josh Harding waiting for his full-time break and prospects Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson excelling in other leagues. Even if the incumbent can hold on to No. 1, his stats could suffer as Minnesota seems to be built around an offense that looks like it will be regularly involved in high-scoring shootouts.

Daniel Briere, F, Canadiens: The Habs presumably signed Briere for his French Canadian heritage and/or his ability to seamlessly adapt to their vertically challenged lineup. The 36-year old was once known for his scoring touch but has lately been more associated with injuries. Philly deemed Briere buyout-worthy, but his arrival in Montreal looks to be leadership-based. He may be skating on the first line and earning significant power-play minutes, but try to be like the Flyers and stay away.

Jarome Iginla, F, Bruins: Yes, Iginla is really on the Bruins this time. No online trickery, no last-minute destination changes. Like Briere, he is 36. But unlike the diminutive winger, Iginla appears to have at least something left in the tank. The key issue to remember about the Edmonton native is that he isn't the power forward he used to be (although he did drop the gloves in Game 1). Teaming up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic may be one thing; keeping up with them (and other younger scorers) over the long haul is the problem.

Jaromir Jagr, F, Devils: By now, we're betting you can spot the trend. If you didn't notice 'ancient, past prime, and advance hospital reservations', then you can go ahead and skip to the next player. Jagr's career credentials are impressive and lengthy, so they need not be mentioned. As active players go, only Teemu Selanne (at 43!) is older. Recent point totals (35 points in 45 regular-season games split between Dallas and Boston) may suggest the Silver Mullet can still provide a significant offensive contribution. And especially since the Devils lost Ilya Kovalchuk to defection, it would seem as if Jagr would be the perfect fill-in to offset some of the missing production. But anyone who witnessed his struggles skating last postseason will easily be able to resist owning him.

Erik Johnson, D, Avalanche: How dare we include someone here who is only 25?! Well, if you were selected first overall in the 2005 draft and haven't lived up to the hype, then it's probably no surprise to be listed amongst these fossils well-preserved examples. Johnson topped out at 33 and 39 points in his first two years but the decline since has proved painfully obvious. The USNTDP alumnus still logs mega minutes (at least 20 a night, including top power-play billing), but the output has been lacking. So with Tyson Barrie in the background, Ryan Wilson soon to return from injury, and blueline bluechippers like Duncan Siemens and Chris Bigras next in line, there's enough talent to eventually supplant Johnson in the pecking order.

Honorable mention: Derick Brassard, F, NY Rangers; Troy Brouwer, F, Washington; Erik Cole, F, Dallas; Christian Ehrhoff, D, Buffalo; Kari Lehtonen, G, Dallas

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Player News
Patrick Holland
Habs' Holland Working On Strength, Foot Speed
Patrick Holland, RW, MON
6:59 AM
News: Patrick Holland, who took part in Montreal's recently completed development camp, has been working to add strength and foot speed, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Patrick Holland scored a couple of goals in the development camp's scrimmage as he looks to alter perceptions following a disappointing season with Hamilton of the American Hockey League. The Canadiens are thin at the right wing position, so Holland, who played five games with the Canadiens early last season, could get a close look in training camp.

Ryan O'Reilly
Avs, O'Reilly: No Contract In Sight
Ryan O'Reilly, C, COL
7/12/2014
News: Ryan O'Reilly and the Avalanche appear destined for arbitration, reports the Denver Post.
Analysis: The two sides haven't had a substantive discussion on a new deal since the Avs filed for arbitration last month. The team made the move to try to save itself some cash, but Ryan O'Reilly and his agent aren't happy. Then again, this same scenario happened the last time they tried to ink a deal. This probably means a short-term deal for the center and then he'll walk away in two years when he is eligible to be a UFA. This could be ugly ... again.

Chad LaRose
LaRose Wants To Return To NHL: Carolina Possible?
Chad LaRose, RW, CAR
7/12/2014
News: Chad LaRose is interested in returning to the NHL after sitting out last season, reports the Raleigh News Observer, and may be signed to a professional tryout by Carolina.
Analysis: "I'd like to talk to him," said general manager Ron Francis. "He took a year off and obviously he'd need to earn his way back. There are some options. We could get him to camp on a tryout. He could start the season in Charlotte (AHL), show that he could still do it." Chad LaRose is a high-energy player whose petulant end to the 2012-13 saw him fail to get a contract from any team for last season. But he seems to have perhaps figured out what he needs to do to continue his career. Unfortunately, his fantasy value will be limited.

Alexander Semin
Canes' Semin (Wrist) "Progressing As Expected"
Alexander Semin, RW, CAR
7/12/2014
News: Alexander Semin is "progressing as expected" following wrist surgery, according to Hurricanes' general manager Ron Francis, and is on schedule for the start of training camp.
Analysis: He had 20 goals and 42 points in 65 games last season, but that was a far cry from his best production. And he has never played more than 77 games in any regular season. He'll need better luck to return to the point-per-game plateau, but a healthy wrist to start the season is better than we expected.

Cameron Gaunce
Stars Re-Sign Gaunce
Cameron Gaunce, D, DAL
7/12/2014
News: The Stars signed Cameron Gaunce to a one-year, two-way contract on Friday.
Analysis: The 24-year-old defenseman appeared in nine NHL games last season, totaling nine shots, seven penalty minutes, and a plus-1 rating. He spent most of the season with the AHL Stars where he led the team with a plus-15 rating to go along with three goals and 15 assists through 65 games.

Richard Panik
Lightning Sign Panik To One-Year, Two-Way Contract
Richard Panik, RW, TB
7/12/2014
News: Richard Panik inked a one-year, two-way deal with the Lightning on Friday, Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Richard Panik will rejoin the team that he tallied three goals and 10 assists for last season over 50 games. His level of production dipped from the previous season where he tallied nine points in half the games, but the Lightning likely believe they can get more out of the 23-year-old winger.

David Moss
Coyotes Sign Moss To One-Year Deal
David Moss, RW, PHO
7/12/2014
News: David Moss signed a one-year deal with the Coyotes on Friday, Sarah McLellan of The Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: David Moss had a week to sign with a NHL team after signing with a Swiss team on July 10, and it didn't take long to find one. The 32-year-old winger re-signed with the team he tallied 22 points (eight goals and 14 assists) over 79 games last season.

Jamie Devane
Leafs Ink Devane To Two-Year Contract
Jamie Devane, LW, TOR
7/12/2014
News: Jamie Devane signed a two-year contract with the Maple Leafs on Friday.
Analysis: Jamie Devane played in two games for the Maple Leafs, failing to record a point in either game. The 23-year-old spent a majority of the season with AHL Toronto and tallied four goals and four assists over 55 games while racking up a team-high 146 penalty minutes.

Brian Boyle
Bolts' Boyle Admits Leafs Offered More Money
Brian Boyle, C, TB
7/11/2014
News: Brian Boyle acknowledged he passed up more money from the Maple Leafs to sign his three-year, $6 million deal with the Lightning, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Analysis: Part of the decision was the raving former -- and now current -- teammate Ryan Callahan had done about the Bolts, and part was the fact that his brand-new wife is from Orlando. But clearly, the Leafs have had yet another snub from an NHLer -- money isn't enough to draw them to the so-called center of the hockey universe. Wow.

Philippe Paradis
Bolts Re-Up AHLer Paradis
Philippe Paradis, C, TB
7/11/2014
News: The Lightning have re-signed Philippe Paradis to a one-year deal, reports TSN.ca. Terms were not released.
Analysis: He had six goals and 15 points in 56 AHL games last season and is expected to provide complementary scoring depth at that level in 2014-15.

 
 
 
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