Neutral Zone Wrap
by Evan Berofsky, RotoWire Writer
So you didn't receive what you really wanted for the holidays. Don't feel too bad; not many people ever do. The 12-pack of socks or that hand-knitted sweater didn't quite fall under the category of must-have gifts. And no one asked for the large slice of fruitcake, but there it was on your dessert plate staring back at you in similar disbelief.
Last year, we only covered non-specific player resolutions. You know, what they could do to help you in even the smallest ways. But asking these paid athletes to solve all our Roto problems is a bit greedy, not to mention misleading. So this time around, we'll be adding in a few wishes from the fantasy owner's perspective. Now, you can bask in the glow that comes with their successful implementation. Or you can be completely disappointed when none of them materialize come April.
Top Player Resolutions
"I will help my team in any way possible, even if it means forgoing personal glory"
Now that Sidney Crosby's point streak has ended, the focus on individual achievement should also decline. Yes, it is great to see a few stars dominate on the ice. But the excitement is raised another notch when teammates combine as a unit to create some magic behind-the-back wraparound three-way pass leading to a one-time shot in the top-right corner.
Boston is one team who has taken advantage of combined skill. None of their skaters sit in the top 50 in league scoring, but six forwards have notched at least 20 points. Not many would have expected Milan Lucic (27) to be the leader. Soon-to-be-43 Mark Recchi is surprising folks (12 of his 21 points have been on the power-play). And just wait until Marc Savard (four in 13) fully recaptures his stick skills.
Same goes for St. Louis. Nothing more than David Backes (28), but a nice balance among the first three lines even without T.J. Oshie (broken ankle) and Andy McDonald (concussion). Patrik Berglund (only two in seven) may finally be ready to translate his immense talent to the scoresheet while Vladimir Sobotka (eight in seven) has chipped in with a few nice efforts.
"I will fight through injuries and hope major ones don't reoccur"
The tough part about getting hurt comes from the fact you really can't predict when it will happen. One day, you could be playing floor hockey in Sweden and suddenly your Achilles tendon snaps. Or you might be on the golf course and tear knee ligaments after having the bright idea to try and stop the cart under your own power.
Injuries sometimes linger past expectation or morph into another ailment. Just ask Jordan Staal, who endured two summer foot surgeries and then promptly fractured his right hand in practice right before he was slated to see action in early November. Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) had been away for over a year, but has looked like his old self since returning (six in 13, including three PPAs).
Of course, when someone goes down, opportunities are created for others. The absence of Pavel Datsyuk (broken hand/wrist) hasn't seemed to matter much in Motown, as Patrick Eaves (six goals in seven) and Jiri Hudler (a pair of multi-point nights) are sharing the rewards. Without Jonathan Toews (shoulder) for a couple weeks, Troy Brouwer (seven in eight, with four coming on the man-advantage) and Dave Bolland (five in five) earn a boost. Milan Hejduk's loss served as T.J. Galiardi (five in six) and Tomas Fleischmann's (13 in 13) gain, but the Czech's reappearance may halt others' progress.
"I will provide fantasy worth in other categories"
Face it; there are a few NHLers that aren't the sharpest tool on the bench. Some will never hit the 80-point plateau. Others will be lucky if they score twice in one game. But a number of these so-called â€˜inferior' individuals can help in non-traditional areas. An agitator such as Steve Ott or David Clarkson can give you just the right amount of scoring to balance the PIM. If your league counts shots on goal as a category, then guys like Radim Vrbata and Tyler Kennedy can help. And if the stats go even deeper, then maybe hits or blocked shots are the solution for success. In that case, league leaders Cal Clutterbuck and Tuomo Ruutu (for the hits) along with Daniel Girardi and Toni Lydman (for the blocks) could be worthy.
Top Owner Resolutions
"I will focus on reaching the playoffs/top position without jeopardizing too much"
The goal in many formats is to reach the postseason. The monetary incentive may be meager, but it's really about the glory. You scratch and claw your way into contention and then try to hold off the competition as the schedule thins out. Making a few moves is necessary during the pre-playoff stretch, but there usually is a limit as to how much wheeling and dealing should be carried out.
If you stand as one of the contenders, then you have to decide who you want from others and what you're willing to trade. If your league includes a minor league component, then it may become a question of whether you want to relinquish long-term assets to go for the top prize. The same can be said for those in a carryover auction format, where expiring and expensive contracts are the objects of the fortunate. Are you willing to give up part of the future to make a deep run? To properly answer this question, you must evaluate your lineup in relation to everyone else's. If the playoffs started today, could you realistically compete with any other team? And do you possess enough depth to withstand an injury or two?
"I will admit my team is going nowhere and will gladly sell parts for future considerations"
Losing is hard to do. Accepting your failure and building for next season is even more difficult. Of course, if you're participating in a one-year configuration, then you can sit back and ponder alternate hobbies for the remainder of the hockey season. But first, you should probably liquidate your stars to the highest bidder(s).
So what can you expect to receive in exchange for your prized products? If the player is in the upper tier and is locked into a long-term deal, then you're probably not giving him up unless the other owner is willing to relinquish all his/her worldly possessions and sacrifices a live animal to the gods. However, if the player carries a hefty price tag or is in his last year, then the bounty will be considerably less and depends on how desperate the other participant needs to fill a certain position.
"I will keep an eye out for the next hot commodity"
Whether you're on top or scratching out that hole in the basement, the waiver wire is still the best resource for researching new talent. And be sure to check the underperforming NHL rosters as we approach springtime, since those clubs will give more opportunities to youngsters and others who are less of an injury risk.
Perennial early dropout Florida usually provides poolies with hidden gems - and this season is no different. Mike Santorelli (tied for team lead with 10 goals) and Evgeny Dadonov (already eight in nine since being called up) are getting prolonged looks and both should be available. Montreal have been hit hard on the blueline, but rising forwards like Max Pacioretty (four in eight) and Mathieu Darche (five of 12 on the PP) could be the next to catch fire based on their offensive pedigrees.
Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When he's not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble. If you have anything to say about Evan's work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).