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Neutral Zone Wrap: Managing the disappointments

by | Rotowire.com
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When life brings you down, convention dictates one of two responses: lie down and get run over or fight back and reclaim your dignity. If the first path is your preference, then inertia is your friend. Don't bother getting up, as it'll only make you tired again. However, should redemption be your goal, there are several ways to achieve this. C'mon, fight back. Your ego may be bruised repeatedly but that shouldn't stop your spirit from rising above the negativity.

NHLers with above-average skill sets who underperform pose a problem for Fantasy owners. Should you dump them immediately or wait a bit and trust in their abilities to recover based on stats and history? Banking on a name will work up to the point where frustration sets in because the numbers clearly don't match.

A few readers have asked me the same question over the last week, so I will provide the following answer: Have faith in Claude Giroux. Or any of the higher profile Flyers (but not the team itself) who have returned far less on investment than expected. And that means the likes of Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, and yes, even Kimmo Timonen can be trusted upon for at least a minor upsurge. Try trading for one or more of them, but only as long as the asking price is within reason.

Let's move on and talk about the other skaters who have angered us with their slow starts. But these ones are poised to start increasing their production, either due to pedigree, some sort of change, or the Law of Averages kicking in:

(Stats as of Monday November 11)

Dustin Brown, F, Kings: The summer of 2012 was a special time for Brown. Not only did the Kings win the Stanley Cup but he also became the second American captain to hoist the Holy Grail. And while his current haul (seven points in 17 contests) may not be atrocious, there is room for improvement. Consider the last six full seasons, where 46 was his lowest point total (way back in 2006-07). You'll also notice how Brown seems to step up his effort during the stretch drive (including 23 in 21 to finish the 2011-12 campaign). Remember he missed most of training camp with an injury, so perhaps all the inactivity hasn't fully been shaken off.

Michael Del Zotto, D, Rangers: For someone with a history of questionable defensive skills, it's tough to see Del Zotto struggle offensively (one goal, three assists). While labeling him a power-play specialist may be misleading, this turns out to be the strongest area of his game (eight of 21 points last year). The York Region native may never earn big even-strength minutes (sitting at 16) but he is adept at moving the puck and finding open teammates in the opponent's end. Be patient with DZ; the opportunities will come.

Jonathan Huberdeau, F, Panthers: Blink and you may forget Huberdeau serves as the reigning Rookie of the Year. While his freshman tour consisted of highlight goals and nifty moves, there also existed maturity – one from probably having stayed an extra year in junior. With the QMJHL standout facing his first full professional schedule and the pressure of avoiding a sophomore slump, it is entirely understandable if he felt discouraged during a recent five-game point drought (on the same homestand, no less). The good news is that Huberdeau has regained a bit (three in five), while retaining his top forward status (first with 17:51 a night) on a relatively weak Panthers attack.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: It is inevitable. The prognosticators have said it will take place soon. Based on the way the Sabres are sliding and for his long-standing service to the organization, it is only deserving Miller should earn a first-class ticket to a more favorable situation. The 33-year old has been asked to stand on his head (3.40 GAA, .912 SV% facing an average of nearly 38 shots) behind a shoddy Buffalo D and, well, you see how awesome that has worked out in the standings. If a contender is ready to shell out the resources to acquire Miller, then that would surely boost his Fantasy value.

Alexander Semin, F, Hurricanes: Once regarded as one of the best snipers in the league, Semin has gone on to develop a better overall game. The occasional brain freeze or sudden lack of interest still happens but less frequently. Carolina haven't exactly endeared themselves as a scoring machine this season (third worst at 1.84 goals per game), thereby justifying why any of their top players could have been listed in this column. But let's concentrate on the speedy Russian, what he hasn't been doing lately (one in five), and why he is bound to rediscover his touch (first PP duty, second among Canes forwards averaging over 20 minutes).

(Honorable mention: Craig Anderson, G, Senators; Sergei Gonchar, D, Stars; Dany Heatley, F, Wild; Brad Marchand, F, Bruins; Nail Yakupov, F, Oilers)

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Player News
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.

Sami Aittokallio
Avs Re-Sign Aittokallio
Sami Aittokallio, G, COL
8/26/2015
News: Sami Aittokallio has re-signed with the Avalanche on a one-year, two-way contract, General Fanager reports.
Analysis: Sami Aittokallio appears to be the clear No. 4 goalie in the Colorado organization behind Semyon Varlamov, Calvin Pickard, and Reto Berra, so it's somewhat surprising he elected to commit for another year rather than bolt for Europe. Even so, Aittokallio's contract does at least include a clause for him to play overseas if he isn't guaranteed a roster spot with the Avalanche, potentially opening the door for him to leave the club if he's assigned to the AHL out of training camp, as expected.

Adam Cracknell
Canucks Ink Cracknell To Two-Way Deal
Adam Cracknell, RW, VAN
8/26/2015
News: Adam Cracknell signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Canucks on Tuesday.
Analysis: Mostly due to the Blue Jackets' array of injuries last season, Adam Cracknell saw 17 games at the NHL level, producing no goals and one assist. He'll function as an organizational depth piece for the Canucks, but will once again require several players to go down before skating in the NHL. Even if that materializes, he'd likely be limited to a bottom-six role with limited ice time.

 
 
 
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