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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
Ryan Miller
Canucks' Miller Makes 31 Saves In Preseason Loss
Ryan Miller, G, VAN
12:59 AM
News: Ryan Miller gave up four goals on 35 shots in Monday's preseason loss to the Coyotes.
Analysis: It was a strong outing for Ryan Miller, who saw his team get largely outplayed for the majority of the game. Miller is now 1-1-0 in the preseason and enters this season as the Canucks' clear-cut starting goaltender.

Al Montoya
Panthers' Montoya Claims Backup Gig
Al Montoya, G, FLA
12:55 AM
News: After Dan Ellis was waived Sunday by the Panthers, Al Montoya appears to have claimed the No. 2 goalie job behind Roberto Luongo, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: Al Montoya had the inside edge for the gig by virtue of his contract being larger than Ellis', but his play in the preseason justified his emergence as the victor in the job battle. The 29-year-old proved highly capable as a backup for the Jets last season, posting a 13-8-3 record, 2.30 GAA and .920 save percentage. However, Luongo is a far better talent in goal than Montoya's chief competition in Winnipeg (Ondrej Pavelec), so the backup might actually notice a decrease in usage in his first season in South Florida.

Roberto Luongo
Panthers' Luongo Sharp In Preseason Debut
Roberto Luongo, G, FLA
12:50 AM
News: Roberto Luongo allowed one goal on 18 shots while working two periods in Saturday's exhibition loss to the Predators.
Analysis: The lone goal Roberto Luongo allowed was somewhat fluky, as the goalie's skate got caught on his uniform to prevent him from blocking the shot with his foot. All in all, Luongo was sharp in his first preseason tune-up. He'll be locked in for a large workload as the Panthers' No. 1 netminder this season.

Greg Zanon
Panthers Waive Zanon
Greg Zanon, D, FLA
12:45 AM
News: Greg Zanon was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: The 34-year-old blueliner never had much of a chance at cracking the Panthers' Opening Night roster. Alex Petrovic, Colby Robak and MacKenzie Weegar remain in a battle for the team's seventh defenseman job.

Bobby Butler
Panthers' Butler Waived
Bobby Butler, RW, FLA
12:43 AM
News: Bobby Butler was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: With Bobby Butler losing out on winning a spot on the Panthers' fourth-line, he'll likely clear waivers and report to AHL San Antonio. He compiled 22 goals and 25 assists in 69 AHL games last season.

Joey Crabb
Panthers Waive Crabb
Joey Crabb, RW, FLA
12:41 AM
News: Joey Crabb was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: Joey Crabb is expected to clear waivers and report to AHL San Antonio, where he totaled 15 goals and 14 assists over 62 games. He appeared in nine games with the Panthers last season and could be up again at some point in 2014-15 if the team is need of depth on the fourth line.

Luke Gazdic
Oilers' Gazdic Gets In Full-Contact Practice
Luke Gazdic, LW, EDM
12:34 AM
News: Luke Gazdic (shoulder) took part in a full-contact practice Sunday, Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun reports.
Analysis: Luke Gazdic, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, finally seems to be nearing the finish line, though he's still not deemed ready to play. The 25-year-old hopes to get enough practice time in to be ready for Opening Night. He'll be tasked with playing an enforcer role for the Oilers on the checking line, making him a useful source for penalty minutes and little else.

Jakob Silfverberg
Ducks' Silferverg Expected To Land On Second Line
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA
12:27 AM
News: Jakob Silfverberg is expected to serve as a second-line player for the Ducks this season, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: After earning the trust of coach Bruce Boudreau during the postseason, Jakob Silfverberg will have the opportunity to flank Ryan Kesler, which should allow him to surpass last season's totals of 10 goals and 13 assists over 52 games. A former MVP in the Swedish Elite League, the 23-year-old Silfverberg may not fully breakout this season, but a 60-point campaign could eventually be realized in the coming years.

Joshua Morrissey
Jets' Morrissey Jockeying For Roster Spot
Joshua Morrissey, D, WPG
12:22 AM
News: Joshua Morrissey remains in contention for an Opening Night roster spot with the Jets, Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal reports.
Analysis: The 2013 first-rounder paired up with Jacob Trouba in Monday's exhibition against the Oilers, providing Jets fans with a glimpse of their future top pairing. Joshua Morrissey didn't do much in his 17:49 of ice time Monday (minus-2, one hit, one block) and is generally expected to head back to his junior team at the end of camp, but he's probably not far away from making an impact in the NHL.

Evander Kane
Jets' Kane Sits Out Monday's Preseason Contest
Evander Kane, LW, WPG
12:16 AM
News: Though he was generally expected to play in Monday's exhibition against the Oilers, Evander Kane ended up sitting out the contest.
Analysis: It's not believed that Evander Kane is dealing with any sort of injury, so perhaps the Jets just decided the winger could use a little more rest in advance of the regular season. He'll likely return to preseason action Tuesday and for the games thereafter, which should afford the coaching staff plenty of time to determine where he fits best. He's expected to receive an audition with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler on the top line, a combination that could help Kane unlock the 60-point potential that exists within him.

 
 
 
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