Neutral Zone Wrap
by Evan Berofsky, RotoWire Writer
When it comes to wheeling and dealing in fantasy play, there are basically two classifications of owners. You've got the type who hits it off with the other competitors, studies the stats, and methodically plans out each step of the trade process. Then there is the alpha personality, who will stop at nothing to make their lineup the best - no matter whose fingers get stepped on.
While the more silent method often works, there's something to be said for an aggressive approach. The art of trading is generally devoid of friendship or geniality. You need to gain the upper hand in negotiations, which rarely happens through nicety. After all, it's just business. And business will improve if the right personnel can be acquired for the price you dictate in the atmosphere you control.
Just remember not to be a jerk when contacting others. Don't start claiming Player X is better than Player Y without any valid reason. And even if this is really is the case, then why harass someone with this information? If you're following the latest figures, then you'll have your own basic player ranking system. The best thing to do if the other guy begins to pontificate nonsense is to heed these three simple words: Do. Not. Engage.
While the club may be without a true star, Nashville sure is used to winning (six-game streak snapped on Thursday). After a tentative start to the season, Patric Hornqvist has come out flying in the New Year (seven points in six games). The same can be said for Colin Wilson (six so far in January) and David Legwand (five this month). New arrival Marek Svatos is making the most of his fresh start (three in four since jumping up the depth chart). Most of the blueline consideration rightly goes to Shea Weber, but Ryan Suter (a team-leading plus-17 and 10 power-play points) can claim superior numbers in various offensive categories.
Toronto's turnaround comes from the realization that playing as a unit and building on others' momentum actually works. Just ask the line of Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, and Nikolai Kulemin (each with 14 points since December 14th), who are easily outperforming the other 'marquee' forwards. Even Colby Armstrong (eight in seven) has received more attention. And while Francois Beauchemin (four in five) has awoken from his scoring slumber, Carl Gunnarsson (only two in three, but slowly building the ice time) could prove to be an equally worthy fantasy defenseman. Since his call-up from the AHL, James Reimer (4-2, 2.35 GAA, .933 SV%) has looked outstanding more often than not.
Phoenix doesn't understand the meaning of 'small market'. Or successful hockey promotions. Even though they dealt underachiever Wojtek Wolski and allowed Petr Prucha to walk to the KHL, the Coyotes can still regularly fill the net (25 goals in seven unbeaten January contests). Eric Belanger (five in eight) and Scottie Upshall (10 in nine, plus-6) are taking advantage of this recent boon. And who would've thought skaters with marginal track records like Taylor Pyatt (five in six) and Lauri Korpikoski (five in three) would be worth owning? Just don't count too much on either Martin Hanzal (four in 12) or Lee Stempniak (three in 16, dwindling ice time).
Based on Rick DiPietro's (strained groin, career) continuing fragility, perhaps the Islanders traded Dwayne Roloson to Tampa one week too soon. Put on a blindfold and take your pick of the remaining goalies, although Kevin Poulin is already head-and-kneecaps ahead of Nathan Lawson. Welcome back, Josh Bailey (six in 12); just continue to progress and there's no way you're returning to the minors. And did you miss the memo on Andrew MacDonald (12 in 13, including nine PPAs and over 21 minutes per game)? I'm afraid you won't be catching that train. Maybe you can latch onto Milan Jurcina (four in four) before his value skyrockets to mediocre proportions.
The Wild would have been rendered tame if Niklas Backstrom (hip flexor) was forced to miss significant time, although it looks like he'll be back in a week. That's positive news since Jose Theodore (also battling hip problems) has looked ordinary after a few stellar efforts (four consecutive victories to start 2011) and Anton Khudobin (at 24 with only three NHL appearances) is not battle-tested. Marek Zidlicky (separated shoulder) will be gone for at least another month, so Brent Burns (nothing in five) will need to pick up his offensive game. Maybe Marco Scandella (a former point-per-game scorer in junior) will now matter after his power-play promotion, seeing how Cam Barker (one in 11, with only five all year) isn't cutting it.
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 email@example.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).