The Vicky Files: Understanding slumps


Even jolly old Saint Nick can't escape the desperate clutches of over-zealous political correctness. A recruitment firm in Sydney, Australia told it's Santa Clauses to refrain from using the traditional "ho ho ho" this holiday season. They were encouraged to bellow "ha ha ha" instead. You see, Santa's traditional laugh is being perceived as derogatory towards women since it involves an American slang term for prostitute (no word yet from those who represent the rights of gardening apparatus). A spokeswoman for a prominent social activist group responded to the move with "gimme a break" and "leave Santa alone". The firm has since stepped back and is now leaving the issue up to the discretion of the individual Santa himself. Seriously. I can't make this stuff up.

Nothing against good intentions, but this is a simple case of blowing things way out of proportion. An affliction also affecting Craig in Naperville, Illinois.

Vicky, hopefully you can help me. I'm in real danger of my season being washed already as my team has gone from first to eighth. I was proposed a trade that may help, but I'm gun shy. I was offered (Martin) Biron and either (Keith) Tkachuk or (Alexei) Kovalev for (Martin) St. Louis and (Brian) Rolston. Here is my team, starting with goalies: Tellqvist, Toskala, Fernandez, Luongo. Forwards: Drury, Rolston, Kovalchuk, St. Louis, Hemsky, Fisher, Datsyuk, Kunitz, Roy, Holmstrom and Ouellet. On defense: Corvo, Campbell, Enstrom, Souray, Niedermayer. Not much there. I need some help! What do you think?
Craig from Naperville, IL

First of all Craig, relax, your team is fairly solid. Don't worry about fluctuations in the standings this early in the season, there's a long way to go. You're in fine shape forward-wise, and your defensive corps stands to improve significantly with Sheldon Souray's impending return from injury. Since your biggest weakness lies in net, this proposed trade is a good move on your end. Having only one regular starter, Roberto Luongo, is simply not enough. Martin Biron has been an exceptional goalie for some time; it's not a surprise to see him stand out as a No. 1 with a much-improved Flyers' team. Alexei Kovalev (never mind Tkachuk) is maintaining a decent attitude and playing up to his talent on the hottest line in Montreal. Expect 75-80 points out of him this year if he doesn't descend into one of his trademarked sulks. Losing Martin St. Louis is a shame, but it's a decent price to pay for acquiring a top-tier goaltender.

So take a deep breath, make the trade, drop Manny Fernandez (hurt and irrelevant otherwise) and pick up another forward off waivers. I'll bet you don't stay in eighth place for long.

Tomas Vanek is freaking me out. Coach (Lindy) Ruff says he's pressing, but at what point do I let my patience run out with him? I'm in a league with a bunch of Sabres fans, so I had to take him early. I don't think I'd get full boat for him in a trade right now, because we all watch the games and we've all seen him struggle. Do I sell for what I can get or do I ride this out?
Jeff from Amherst, NY

You have every right to be annoyed Jeff, but along with Craig, there's no need for serious alarm. The Sabres are better than current statistics (7-10-1), and so is Thomas Vanek himself (12 points in 18 games). He's a young guy dealing with the pressure of a hefty, inflated contract and it's messing with his head. Fifty million dollars can do that to a young lad. Some young stars respond well to high expectations and some do not. Fortunately, Vanek is still getting opportunities and taking shots frequently. Once he's no longer under the microscope and perceived as Buffalo's lone "superstar", the puck will start finding the back of the net with more regularity. He won't score 43 goals like last year, but a 75-point season is not out of the question. And you're right, you won't get much for him at this point anyway, especially from disgruntled Sabres' fans. All you can really do is be patient.

Hi Vicky, I have a question about a potential trade. Right now, I have three goalies (Cam Ward, Marty Biron, and Chris Osgood). I picked up Osgood when Hasek went down to fill up some starts. A guy in my league has since offered me Marty Turco straight up for Chris Osgood. I know Osgood is on fire right now, but with Hasek back, I question how many starts he will get. I would rather have a No. 1 goalie instead of a time share. Marty Turco is a solid goaltender, but I am a bit wary about pulling the trigger on this deal due to his recent slump. However, it is Marty Turco and he has been very consistent over his career. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Andrew from Toronto, ON

This trade is a great move for you and an excellent indication of why some excel at fantasy sports as opposed to others. Congratulations on being on the ball and grabbing Osgood before anyone else. Now you can snag an everyday guy for someone left un-drafted at the start of the year. There's an expression that applies here, something about turning potatoes into potato salad, but I digress. Anyway, even during this "rough" patch, Marty Turco's numbers are still decent. He's sporting an unspectacular, but solid, 5-4 record with a 2.76 goals against average and .902 save percentage. Not fantastic, but not horrible. And you can count on him to play almost every game. Chris Osgood is hot but with Hasek back, he's only good for about a start a week. Turco is a safer bet for the duration of the season.

Until next week, keep that mail coming.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.
You can send her Email for potential use in "The Vicky Files" by clicking here.