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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
Jay Rosehill
Rosehill Stays With Flyers On AHL Contract
Jay Rosehill, LW, PHI
8/31/2015
News: Jay Rosehill signed a one-year, AHL-only contract with the Flyers' affiliate in Lehigh Valley, Dave Isaac of the South Jersey Courier-Post reports.
Analysis: Jay Rosehill will stick around in the Flyers organization for a fourth straight season, but expect him to skate exclusively with Lehigh Valley, as was the case for all of 2013-14. As an enforcer with limited offensive ability, Rosehill is becoming an increasingly poor fit in the modern NHL, and could very well have played his last minute in the league.

Cody Eakin
Eakin Agrees To Four-Year Extension With Stars
Cody Eakin, C, DAL
8/28/2015
News: Cody Eakin agreed to a four-year, $15.4 million contract extension with the Stars on Friday, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: The 24-year-old was a solid producer for the Stars in 2014-15, registering 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 78 games with the team. He will likely return to his role centering the Stars' third line this season, and should produce similarly barring significant injury.

Elias Lindholm
Lindholm Signs Two-Year Extension With Hurricanes
Elias Lindholm, C, CAR
8/27/2015
News: Elias Lindholm signed a two-year, $5.4 million contract extension with the Hurricanes on Thursday.
Analysis: Elias Lindholm was a solid contributor in his first full NHL season in 2014-15, registering 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 81 games with the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Carolina this season, and should have a great shot at improving upon his offensive numbers from a year ago as he continues his development as an NHL forward.

Patrik Berglund
Blues' Berglund To Require Shoulder Surgery
Patrik Berglund, C, STL
8/27/2015
News: Patrik Berglund aggravated a dislocated right shoulder while working out and is set to undergo surgery Friday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. He'll require at least four months of recovery time.
Analysis: Patrik Berglund first dislocated the shoulder in 2013-14, and required surgery last offseason to address the issue. The center was able to recover in time from that procedure to play on Opening Night last season, but given how late in the offseason calendar the setback occurred this time around, it looks like Berglund won't take the ice again until the calendar flips to 2016. His extended absence could allow prospect Robby Fabbri to claim third-line center duties out of training camp, with veteran Scott Gomez also in the mix if coach Ken Hitchcock prefers a more experienced option for that role.

Scott Gomez
Gomez Signs PTO With Blues
Scott Gomez, C, NJ
8/27/2015
News: Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer with the Blues on Thursday, Andy Strickland of FOX Sports Midwest reports.
Analysis: After failing to garner a contract in free agency for the second straight offseason, Scott Gomez will again head to training camp on a PTO, as he did last season in New Jersey. Though he wasn't able to crack the Devils' Opening Night roster, he continued to work out with the team after the tryout period ended and was eventually signed to the team when injuries opened up an opportunity in late November. Gomez would end the season as one of the more productive contributors on the offensively challenged Devils, finishing third on the team with 34 points. The Blues boast a far deeper roster of forward talent, but with the news surfacing after Gomez's signing that Patrik Berglund would miss at least four months following shoulder surgery, an opening on the third line could exist for the 35-year-old.

Max Pacioretty
Habs' Pacioretty Still On Schedule With Rehab
Max Pacioretty, LW, MON
8/27/2015
News: Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said recently that Max Pacioretty (knee) remains on schedule in the rehabilitation process, Arpon Basu of LNH.com reports.
Analysis: Max Pacioretty sustained the knee injury while working out in Florida in early July, and was given a projected recovery timetable of 10-to-12 weeks. Given the length of the timetable, Pacioretty is expected to sit out all of training camp, and while his availability for the Oct. 7 regular-season opener in Toronto remains possible, he'd likely be subjected to limited minutes in the early going as he looks to build endurance. Once back to full health, Pacioretty should reemerge as the Habs' most dangerous offensive option after he potted 37 goals and a career-high 67 points in 2014-15.

Ladislav Smid
Flames Expecting Smid Back For Training Camp
Ladislav Smid, D, CGY
8/27/2015
News: The Flames' front office believes Ladislav Smid (neck) will be ready to skate during the team's first on-ice session at training camp in September, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ladislav Smid's season came to an end last January when he required surgery on his neck, but his communication with the Flames to this point in the offseason suggests he has recovered well from the procedure. If healthy, Smid will compete in camp with Deryk Engelland for a spot as Calgary's sixth defenseman.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Likely To Play Next To Kessel
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
8/27/2015
News: Coach Mike Johnston said earlier this week that Sidney Crosby is expected to play next to Phil Kessel to begin training camp, CBS Sports reports.
Analysis: The Penguins have cycled in a number of right wingers next to Sidney Crosby throughout his career, and while Patric Hornqvist proved capable in that capacity last season, he's not nearly as prolific at finding twine as Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer. With his health concerns beginning to fade away after missing only seven games over the last two seasons, Crosby once again looks like a reasonable choice at No. 1 overall in fantasy drafts, even after scoring only 28 goals in 2014-15, his lowest total in any year he's suited up for at least 60 contests. Crosby probably won't come close to approaching the 51-goal peak he reached in 2009-10, but a slight uptick in his anomalous 11.8 shooting percentage coupled with the likely increase in assist opportunities with Kessel blitzing the net could make a return to 100 points conceivable.

Mike Richards
Charges Announced For Ex-King Richards
Mike Richards, C, LA
8/27/2015
News: Mike Richards was formally charged with possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada stemming from a June 17 border stop by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports reports.
Analysis: The Kings determined the incident gave them just cause to release Mike Richards for a "material breach" of his 12-year contract, a decision that prompted the NHL Players Association to file a grievance. The nature of the border stop likely won't affect the outcome of that legal battle, as both the NHLPA and the Kings were aware of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Currently a free agent, Richards is able to sign with any team while the grievance remains underway, but his steep decline in performance over the last few seasons coupled with this ongoing dispute probably has few organizations interested in his services.

Kyle Okposo
Isles Begin Contract Talks With Okposo
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI
8/26/2015
News: Kyle Okposo and the Islanders have begun talks on a new contract, according to Islanders Point Blank.
Analysis: Both sides are hoping to get an agreement done before the start of the season but the parameters on a new deal could be difficult to negotiate. Kyle Okposo will make $4.5 million this season and could command a deal north of $6 million per year on the open market, a figure the Islanders may not be willing to approach at this time. If the two sides can't come to an agreement before the start of the season then Okposo's name will be one we will hear quite often in trade rumors.

 
 
 
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