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Neutral Zone Wrap: The People's Choice

Evan Berofsky

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

Neutral Zone Wrap
by Evan Berofsky, RotoWire Writer

Life is tough for the average poolie. You spend hours upon hours managing your fantasy team. You check and recheck the boxscores, the stats, and other data. You stay awake at night pondering transaction possibilities. But all your best-laid plans can be derailed by that dastardly eventuality otherwise known as 'real life'. Who can handle the duties involved with imaginary ownership when work, family, and other banal obligations stand in the way?

Imagine this scenario: you've been working on a trade for weeks and after switching some pieces and greasing the wheels, you finally feel ready to pull off the biggest steal since Goldfinger tried to knock off Fort Knox. The other owner has given you an evening deadline since he's leaving the next morning for a two-week vacation. But in the late afternoon, two problems arise. First, one of the players you're offering has gone down with a rather serious injury. You're scrambling to rework the arrangement, but then the second roadblock pops up. You've purposely stricken from memory unexpectedly forgotten dinner with the in-laws. Dude, there's no time to figure out the details. Just insert another forward and send ASAP. Approved.

But wait, that replacement you included is only the leading scorer on his NHL club and has been riding a 10-game point streak. And now he's ... gone. Too bad you only realized this after the league commissioner had officially recognized the trade. The moral of this story? Try to keep fantasy and reality in separate cerebral inboxes. Never confuse the two. And, oh yeah, don't spend weeks devising a deal. You'll probably miss out on many of life's advantages, such as breathing oxygen and thinking clearly.

So after ragging on focusing too much on Roto, the next logical step would be to discuss a few relevant points from around the league. Starting…now:

The roof has finally caved in on the Islanders - and we're not talking about the upper structure of the Nassau Coliseum. Then again, this type of accident wouldn't be shocking considering the calamity the club has created. You'd almost expect a lack of fantasy recommendations from a lineup that hasn't won in 14. And that's where you would be partially correct. Opportunities have opened since Josh Bailey (no points in 13 games) was dispatched to the AHL, but they will be of little concern unless you want to dig through the waiver wire and have the necessary roster space. Both Frans Nielsen (five in four) and Blake Comeau (three in two after zip in nine) were already known commodities in the Islander lineup, but Bailey's loss is their gain. Both of them are now used extensively on the man-advantage, although you wouldn't be able to tell since New York's other club hasn't tallied a PPG in 10. You'll find Michael Grabner (five in four) further down the depth chart, which is where you should probably leave him.

Phoenix aren't just competing; they're excelling in all areas. We all know what Ilya Bryzgalov can do. And the veteran blueline presence speaks for itself. The Coyotes' hidden strength can be found up front, with a nice mix of scoring options. Radim Vrbata (nine in eight) is leading the way and Ray Whitney (11 in nine, including four PPPs) is back on track. Even Scottie Upshall (six in five) and Lauri Korpikoski (eight in nine, plus-7) are proving themselves as viable options. Now if only Martin Hanzal (five in 10) and Lee Stempniak (four in two nights sandwiched between six zeros) could stay consistent.

Marc Savard (concussion) is back, so the Bruins have been forced to make cap moves. Matt Hunwick became the opening casualty in heading to Colorado and Marco Sturm might soon be following suit to LA. Maybe Tyler Seguin (three in 12) receives a bump in minutes (currently averaging around 12) from Sturm's departure. But the #2 overall pick should get a bigger boost in potentially lining up with Savard. Johnny Boychuk (nothing since October) has already seen his ice time (at least 20 minutes) and power-play role (about two minutes) expand in place of Hunwick. Blake Wheeler (five in seven) has finally put a few good games together and should continue to use his 6'5” frame to crash the net and outmuscle opponents.

Predictions really do come true in Calgary. This column - along with many other skeptics - didn't trust the signing of Olli Jokinen (three in 11, minus-6) and cited his past disruptions as a recipe for disaster. Matt Stajan (seven in nine, plus-7) was offered as the better option alongside Jarome Iginla - or with anyone, for that matter. And only a few weeks ago, we mentioned Brendan Morrison's surprising start (seven in the opening month) but also added he'd soon hit a scoring wall (nothing in seven). Check on all counts. Meanwhile, Alex Tanguay (13 in 11) has taken full advantage of his shotgun gig with Iginla. Since defender Anton Babchuk arrived from Carolina, he's seen his production disappear (zero in eight) and his ice time diminish.

The Nashville Predators are a hard team to describe. They're a little bit country, but they're also heavy into swing - as in the momentum caused by erratic performances. 6-3-2 in the last month but a couple victories were fluky, others required Pekka Rinne (all six victories, including two shutouts) to steal the points on his own, and a couple defeats stand out as atrocious (the collapse versus Toronto comes to mind). The Preds are ranked near the bottom in goals scored (at 27th, averaging 2.4 per outing) and need everyone to get going if they are going to vie for a playoff spot. This includes Colin Wilson (three in four), who has been moved up to the top line and is expected to produce as a former first-rounder. Sergei Kostitsyn (only four all season) is climbing the ranks but is nowhere near reliable for consideration. In deeper leagues, take a chance on Marcel Goc (two in three), who centers the second line and sees lots of action (20+) thanks to his fine two-way effort.

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 or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).