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Neutral Zone Wrap: Blackhawks Up

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When heís not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble(TM). If you have anything to say about Evanís work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at eberofsky@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).


Many of life's activities are pure and simple. We go from Point A to Point B to do Task C. We are able to see and process objects. We breathe oxygen. So why are some fantasy hockey trades so complicated? Or require as much logistics as one would imagine for a fleet of trucks? And is there some inherent quality in this game that causes people to temporarily lose their ability to use common sense and/or decency? While all these questions may be relevant, let's focus on the last example as it may be the key to understanding the overall situation.

In one of my leagues, someone recently offered me such an awful deal that I calculated the smartest course of action would be to ignore it. Yup, no response. If you decide to disregard what someone wants, who is available, and what constitutes a fair exchange, then you don't deserve any return acknowledgment. Just because one may occupy a less-than-desirable position in the standings, that's no reason to assume that owner will suddenly abandon reality and release above-average material for cents on the dollar. Hey, if you want to lowball someone, maybe slo-pitch would be a better alternative.

And why did this individual choose to take this course and present an unfavorable scenario? Two factors come into play: laziness and confidence. He/she thought I'd take any deal if I netted anything and truly believed there was no problem sending it. In a position of strength, you want to improve your lineup and climb the standings. That's cool. But there's no reason to make the other person feel like a fantasy idiot. Trade fair and treat your adversary with enough respect. Then communicating with others becomes simpler and less antagonistic, where everyone ends up winning.

On that note, let's see what teams have encouraged their fan base and which ones have left their supporters feel like innocent bystanders:

(Stats as of Thursday February 28th)

Beyond their on-ice achievements (still undefeated in regulation), the Blackhawks have continued to excel thanks to not enduring any notable injuries. Chicago's top guns are household names, so let's introduce you to Andrew Shaw (two goals in three, uptick in minutes) and Marcus Kruger (two game winners), who look to be helping in secondary roles. The time isn't really now for Brandon Saad (four). And Michael Frolik's (three) best years look to be long gone. With all their blueline talent, many forget about Johhny Oduya (seven assists). And for his limited action, Michal Roszival (seven in 10) is making an impact. Corey Crawford (9-0-3 with two shutouts) stays as the lead in net, but Ray Emery (perfect 8-0) should steal some starts from here on in.

Losing the reigning MVP for an indeterminate period shouldn't prevent Pittsburgh from continuing to score at will (third in the league at 3.29 for). Whether they can stop their opponents from doing so (right in the middle at 2.76 against) remains to be seen. Don't look shocked Chris Kunitz (24, plus-11, nine power-play points) ranks second in scoring. Without Evgeny Malkin, Brandon Sutter (16+ minutes in the last four) is picking up reps as the #2 center. Other forwards should be able to capitalize, whether it be veteran Tyler Kennedy (stuck at four) or young hotshot Beau Bennett (two in three since the promotion). Matt Niskanen is looking solid (six) while Simon Despres (healthy scratch four of the last six) can't earn a full-time gig.

The reviews are mixed in Dallas but recent trends point towards an upward swing. Trading Michael Ryder (14) for Erik Cole (six) may look puzzling at first glance, but it will hopefully make sense after a few contests. Loui Eriksson isn't as super as usual (six in nine) but it's still respectable. Way to go, Cody Eakin (seven in eight). France hasn't been able to claim a decent forward since Phillipe Bozon, but Antoine Roussel (seven in 12 after 19 in 42 plus 107 PIM in the AHL) might fit the bill. And if you're feeling the crunch on D, then either Brenden Dillon (six, 24PIM in February) or Jordie Benn (three in five) can add some offensive kick.

If you're searching for a bleak hockey destination, look no further than Long Island. The top power-play unit seems to be a nice fit for Brad Boyes (seven of his 15 are PPPs). Most of the others up front have proved to be less than stellar. Frans Nielsen began hot (seven in seven) but has cooled off considerably (one in nine). Perhaps no one is more disappointing than former first-rounder Kyle Okposo (although the three-spot Thursday night helps). Another early pick, Josh Bailey (first goal of the season, clocking in at 21:31), might be ready to become an everyday contributor. The minutes may be plentiful for both Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald but neither has performed their duties well in their own end (combined minus-25).

How many more months or years have to elapse before we can finally dub the Oilers a team of the present? Leading point getter Sam Gagner (19 in 19!) is finally the consistent producer we all remember from junior. Tough to watch Nail Yakupov continues to trudge through weak minutes, although the haul is way better than nothing (11, but a minus-9). Don't fret about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (a paltry seven, including nothing in five). If you're in the market for a sneaky acquisition and can wait, take a chance on Teemu Hartikainen (27 in 37 at OKC where he lined up on the top PP unit) who may eventually jump into a more favorable position once the pain goes away. It's tough to single out a #2 defender in Edmonton, as no one - including Ryan Whitney or Jeff Petry (both at three, the former a press box tenant the last four) - has exactly staked a claim for the role.

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