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Neutral Zone Wrap: Setting realistic goals

by | Rotowire.com
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Anyone familiar with New Year's resolutions knows this process is confusing and often disappointing. Let's face it: you can't fulfill all your goals if you list the first things that come to mind or take suggestions from the hottest Twitter trends. So instead of wishing for several things to change, your best bet is to focus on improving one specific area and setting realistic goals to do so.

As average citizens strive for something better in 2014, so do professional athletes. No matter how successful a player may be, there is always room for improvement -- no matter how minor it is. NHLers are no different, since they've worked hard for years to refine their game and then maintain their position in the top flight. So as a Fantasy owner, you need to decide which slackers you can trust and which ones don't deserve your time and effort.

Using indicators such as underperformance and relative health, who can step up immediately? We've assembled the top candidates below, based mainly on previous results and current opportunities. As was the case last week, no players from the November edition of this topic will be repeated here.

(Stats as of Monday December 30)

Patrik Berglund, F, Blues: When he was selected in the first round back in 2006, Berglund had been touted as a future No. 1 center. The size, the hands, the vision. For one reason (former defensive liability) or another (perceived lack of effort), the anointing never materialized. A few flashes of brilliance here and there (like the 47 points in his rookie year) but nothing consistent over a significant period. Now that a couple of Blues forwards are dinged up (most notably, Alexander Steen), the supine Swede has the chance to provide more in all situations (and five in his last five is a good start).

Tyler Ennis, F, Sabres: Pick a Sabre forward, any Sabre forward. Heck, we could've included Marcus Foligno, Drew Stafford or even (shudder) Ville Leino here. But Ennis has been selected since he skates on the top unit (whatever that would qualify as on Buffalo), has underachieved to date (15 in 39), and owns the moves to break out at any moment. The speedy sniper has proved this in his first three full seasons in the Queen City (114 in 177, 45 of them goals). You may want to lower your expectations based on the complementary offense, but you could pick worse.

Tobias Enstrom, D, Jets: One may be frustrated by Enstrom's performance this season (12 in 40) but it isn't as if he is being prevented from doing well. Check his overall minutes (just under 24 a night) and pay special attention to his solid stint on the power-play (averages 3:30). So the Nordingra native isn't clicking at his normal 0.6 (or higher) points per game rate but at least he notched his first PPP since October 11th (a gap of 32 (!) games). Be patient with this blueliner and you should be rewarded.

Adam Henrique, F, Devils: Ever since his junior days in Windsor with Taylor Hall, Henrique has played second fiddle to some other talented scorer. The 82nd pick in the 2008 draft began his pro career in good company, usually centering a line that included Ilya Kovalchuk. Following an outstanding opening campaign (Calder finalist with 51 in 72), Henrique dropped off considerably in his second spell (16 in 42). And when the Russian superstar opted to retire from North American duty this past summer, it was assumed his numbers would stay low. And while the total isn't awesome (eight goals and eight assists), there is recent hope (tallies in consecutive outings).

Mike Smith, G, Coyotes: Many will remember Smith as that goalie who almost led the Coyotes to the Western Conference Final in 2012. Since then, nothing of note. His record is encouraging (15 wins versus eight losses) but the other indicators would never be categorized as elite (2.83 GAA places him near the bottom, .914 SV% gets him in the middle of the pack). The good news is the lack of competition for the starting job in Phoenix (he ain't afraid of no Greiss), meaning Smith doesn't really have to worry about being replaced unless he really, really sucks.

Honorable mention: Erik Cole, F, Stars; Cory Conacher, F, Senators; David Desharnais, F, Canadiens; Dmitry Kulikov, D, Panthers; Cam Ward, G, Hurricanes

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Eddie Pasquale
Caps Sign Pasquale
Eddie Pasquale, G, WAS
12:15 AM
News: Eddie Pasquale has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Capitals, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Eddie Pasquale, who was acquired from the Jets on June 28, slots in as a depth goalie for the Caps behind Braden Holtby and Justin Peters. Out of the gate this season, look for Pasquale to split time at AHL Hershey with Philipp Grubauer.

Tomas Hertl
Sharks' Hertl Fine After Knee Scare
Tomas Hertl, C, SJ
12:14 AM
News: Tomas Hertl said the tenderness in his knee that he first experienced in Tuesday's practice isn't anything to worry about, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Tomas Hertl said that he only felt the sensation in his knee because he had been off the ice for more than a month. He'll likely take the next couple days off to rest before continuing his offseason workouts again.

Dany Heatley
Heatley Signs With Ducks
Dany Heatley, LW, ANA
7/9/2014
News: Dany Heatley has signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Ducks, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: The 33-year-old Dany Heatley -- who notched 12 goals and 28 points in 76 games with the Wild this past season -- isn't the elite goal-scorer he once was, but he'll provide the Ducks with an experienced option at left wing. Keep an eye on who he ends up skating with in training camp, as Heatley could see increased production with Anaheim if he ends up on a scoring trio.

Sidney Crosby
Crosby Dealing With Wrist Issue
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
7/9/2014
News: GM Jim Rutherford acknowledged Wednesday that Crosby is dealing with a right wrist injury, but indicated that it has yet to be determined whether the star center will require a procedure to address the issue, the team's official site reports. "Sidney Crosby has been undergoing treatment on a right wrist injury that he suffered during the season," Rutherford noted Wednesday. "Sid is continuing to get medical advice to determine the best path moving forward, including the possibility of arthroscopic surgery."
Analysis: While there had been reports that Sidney Crosby was slated to have arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist in the next few days, Rutherford indicated that a final decision on that front has yet to be made. With that in mind, Rutherford added that the team expects to have a decision on how to handle Crosby's injury "by early next week."

Cory Schneider
Devils, Schneider Come To Terms On Seven-Year Deal
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
7/9/2014
News: Cory Schneider signed a seven-year, $42 million extension with the Devils on Wednesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: After entering his first season in a timeshare in goal with franchise icon Martin Brodeur, Cory Schneider quickly established himself as the Devils' No. 1 netminder of the present and future. He finished with elite ratios (1.97 GAA, .921) and likely would have garnered more Vezina buzz had a middling Devils attack not stuck him with a so-so 16-15-12 record. With Schneider set to enter his age-29 season, the Devils will likely have him for the peak years of his goaltending abilities during the life of his contract.

Patrick Kane
Kane Signs 8-Year Extension With Chicago
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
7/9/2014
News: Patrick Kane has signed an eight-year contract extension with the Blackhawks that runs through the 2022-23 season, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Along with Patrick Kane, the Hawks inked teammate Jonathan Toews to a deal with the same terms, with TSN.ca reporting that the duo's contracts carry an average annual value of $10.5 million, starting next season. The 25-year-old Kane, who is coming off a season in which he recorded 29 goals and 69 points in 69 regular season games, remains one of the league's most dynamic wingers and Wednesday's signings ensure that the Hawks' organization will continue to roster one of the league's top forward duos for the long haul.

Jonathan Toews
Toews Inks Extension With Chicago
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
7/9/2014
News: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have both signed eight-year contract extensions with the Blackhawks that run through the 2022-23 season, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: TSN.ca reports that the duo's contracts carry an average annual value of $10.5 million, starting next season. While that represents a big chunk of the team's salary cap, the deals ensure that the Hawks' two franchise cornerstones up front will remain with the organization for the long haul. The 26-year-old Jonathan Toews is coming off a season in which he scored 28 goals and added 40 helpers in 76 games, while maintaining his status as one of the league's top two-way pivots.

Richard Bachman
Bachman Signs With Oilers
Richard Bachman, G, EDM
7/9/2014
News: Richard Bachman has signed a one-year contract with the Oilers, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Richard Bachman, who saw action in three games with the Oilers last season, will reprise his role as a depth goalie for the team. The 26-year-old is coming off a 2013-14 campaign in which he recorded a 26-19-6 record, with a .908 save percentage and 2.99 GAA for AHL Oklahoma City.

Mattias Ekholm
Ekholm Signs Two-Year Deal With Preds
Mattias Ekholm, D, NSH
7/9/2014
News: Mattias Ekholm has signed a two-year, $2.075 million contract with the Predators, the Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Mattias Ekholm, who was a restricted free agent, will thus avoid arbitration by inking the one-way deal with Nashville. He's coming off a rookie campaign in which he recorded nine points in 62 games for the Preds.

Mac Bennett
Montreal's Bennett Ticketed For Hamilton
Mac Bennett, D, MON
7/9/2014
News: Mac Bennett, who is participating in Montreal's development camp, is expected to play for Hamilton of the American Hockey League this season, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Mac Bennett is a 2009 draft pick who decided to play a full four-year collegiate career at the University of Michigan. The four years gave Bennett time to add strength and weight to his frame.

 
 
 
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