A week from Christmas, and we bring you the holiday edition of "Are You for Real?" I know that we are all busy picking up last-minute presents, attending parties, recovering from said parties and generally being more stressed than we should be at this time of year. So why not sit down with some eggnog, kick up your feet and relax, because you now have something to take your mind off all of it. Happy holidays.
Joffrey Lupul, RW, Philadelphia
Lupul could be the perfect Christmas gift found on your waiver wire on Dec. 25, providing the ideal boost to your team through the holidays. He has certainly shown the spirit of the season of late, scoring a surprising six goals in his past four games. But even with 27 points overall, he is still available in some ESPN leagues. Is his latest outburst indicative of what he's capable of, or will he find a way to sink back to last year's level of play in Edmonton?
Victoria: Here's the deal: With 27 points so far, Lupul is only one shy of his 81-game output last season. What does that tell you? He's performing a little out of character, to say the least. You could argue he's benefiting from his release from Edmonton, and playing with Mike Richards in Philadelphia certainly helps, but I don't quite buy that, either. Most thought Lupul had an excellent year the season before in Anaheim with 53 points in 81 games; a solid showing, but hardly outstanding. In all reality, he's not that quick or agile by NHL standards, and that's a concern. Lupul does carry some value as a right winger in certain leagues, but even so, I would try to sell high immediately. This guy could cool down severely at any moment. Don't rely on him too heavily for the duration of the season.
John: I would have to disagree. Lupul does indeed look like he has returned and once again has become the productive player we saw in Anaheim two years ago. And while that wasn't a great season, it was pretty good considering the players ahead of him on the depth chart at the time. He's not just a player who floats around the ice waiting for someone to get him the puck, either. He leads the team in hits and shots this season, meaning he's looking to create his own offense, which is something you always want in a player. Lupul is a key player to the Flyers' turnaround this season and is integral to their success. I'm confident in saying you should pick him up in any league.
Jagr owners must feel like it's been Boxing Day for the past month. We're talking bloated, tired and generally sick of their families. OK, the situation might not be that bad, but it's far from good. He's managed to register just three points since the beginning of December, certainly not something you want to see from your first-round draft choice. Has the Rangers' lackluster offense finally dragged him down its level? Should owners consider trading him away for the second half of the season? Or will he be a new man in the New Year?
Victoria: Something is definitely wrong, offensively, with those New York Rangers. With players like Jagr, Scott Gomez, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Drury, they should really rank higher than dead last in scoring. And unfortunately, there's no clear indication that the situation will reverse itself anytime soon. Having said that, I expect an offensive explosion from Jagr in the second half of the season, if not from the team collectively. He's simply too good. Even as a member of the Washington Capitals he managed over a point per game for two and a half years. Let's say he garners only 80 points this season (disappointing, Jagr-wise); that still translates into more than 50 points in the second half. If you've dealt with owning him this long, now is the time to be patient.
John: Once again I guess we just don't see eye to eye. Take it from me: Jagr is a frustrating player to own. At times he can look like the best player in the world; other times he doesn't even look like the best player on his own line. We've seen before that he is not overly motivated and has a tendency to lose focus. Jagr has been hampered overall by the Rangers' lack of offense and seems to really be missing Michael Nylander at center. The team brought in both Scott Gomez and Chris Drury with big contracts, but neither has seemed to connect with Jagr the same way that Nylander did. I'd be looking to trade him away for someone who doesn't quite have as much name value but could very well out produce him over the course of the second half.
If head coach John Paddock has one New Years resolution for 2008, he should promise fantasy owners to stick with one goalie and end this constant madness. Gerber has been fantastic at times but can also look like an amateur attempting to play against professionals. Emery, meanwhile, has battled injuries and inconsistent play all season but currently looks like the front-runner for the job once he returns. So tell us, Mr. Paddock, which goaltender is for real?
Victoria: But why should Paddock go with one guy when using two seems to be working? Many argue there has to be a No. 1 so the starter has the "confidence of the team" behind him, but I don't quite buy that. The Senators are winning a heck of a lot more games than they're losing, and utilizing both goaltenders, in tandem, is part of the reason why. It's unfortunate from a fantasy perspective, but unless Paddock has either Emery or Gerber in his own ESPN league, why should he care?
John: He should care, because I do ... and isn't that enough for him? All kidding aside, as far as I can remember there have been very few teams that have ever won a Stanley Cup with a rotation situation in net. Sure, one could argue we've seen Ilya Bryzgalov/ Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Martin Gerber/Cam Ward share starts for successful teams in recent years. But that's different. That's just playing the hotter goalie at the right time. In the end, a successful team always chooses one man for the job.
Victoria: But yes, when push comes to shove, the Senators will likely go with one goaltender in their surge toward the playoffs. Barring injury to either, it'll be Emery. He's consistently better. Look for Emery to take over (at least to a degree) by the end of January. Oh, and Johnny? Happy holidays.
John: And a happy new year to you, Vicky.
Victoria Matiash and John Pereira are fantasy hockey analysts for ESPN.com.