This time of the year always cracks me up. Television tells us to spend wads of cash we don't have on trinkets and gadgets for those we love, like and merely tolerate. Scheduling pressures abound with attempts to squeeze in time with friends and family, whether it's feasible or not. Tins of festive cookies and punch bowls lurk at every turn, as food and drink is in nauseating abundance. Overfed, overtired and overdrawn at the bank, we're actually supposed to be enjoying ourselves. Pardon the cynicism, but why do we call this the most wonderful time of the year? Honestly, I'm already eggnogged out.
But before you slam me for not embracing the "yuletide spirit," I'll admit it's not really as bad as all that. The lights are certainly pretty. And most importantly, a great deal of people do make the extra effort to be nicer to others. It's true: Friends, associates, neighbors and strangers act more pleasantly than usual. Peace and good will for all humankind is still far from hand, but at least we're smiling more. And that's worth celebrating, whether you observe Christmas or not. Okay, enough of the schmaltz, let's talk fantasy hockey.
Hey Vicky. I was offered Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara for Jaromir Jagr and Shea Weber. I currently have Daniel Alfredsson and Shane Doan at RW and Steve Sullivan waiting in the IR. I'm bit under-manned at LW with only Jason Blake and Milan Michalek. Parise has center and left wing eligibility. My D is solid, so do you think I should accept this trade?
No name from Newark, N.J.
Absolutely. There's little doubt Jagr will post better numbers in the second half, but Parise already is averaging a point per game, and there's no reason to believe he'll cool off. Blake and Michalek aren't having the best of years (so far); you certainly do need to strengthen your roster at left wing, and Parise fills that gap nicely. But the Weber-Chara exchange is the best part of this deal. Chara is having a great year, and Weber is not. The big man in Boston is surpassing fantasy expectations with 19 points and a respectable plus/minus of plus-5. He looks like his old self: spending loads of time on the power play and in the penalty box (69 PIM). Meanwhile, Weber has two points in the past month and no one is even trying to make excuses anymore. This trade works to your advantage on two fronts.
I do have some bad news, though. There's little optimism in Nashville about Sullivan returning before February at the earliest. His rehabilitation (back spasms) is progressing much slower than originally thought. Leave Sullivan on your IR only until you need the spot for someone else. Regardless of talent, there's no use wasting roster space for someone who might play only 20 games at best.
Zherdev. Other than Rick Nash, Zherdev is the go-to guy in Columbus. Lupul and Sharp are members of stronger, more offensively balanced clubs, but every team needs goal-scorers, and those guys can be fantasy gold. The kings of even the cruddiest of castles remain kings nonetheless. And I don't think Lupul is going to replicate his numbers from the first half of the season in the second. He's exceeding his mediocre talent by too large a margin to maintain. Besides, Zherdev is also, arguably, more talented than the other two. Sometimes you just have to go with the better player, regardless of other factors. Despite his tendency to run hot and cold, he's still your best bet for the duration of the year. Just stay patient during his "chillier" times.
Hey, I traded Mats Sundin and Brian Rafalski for Dany Heatley and Lubomir Visnovsky. Do you think Visnovsky will pick it up and the points will even out, or did I give up too much for Heatley?
Gordon from Kitchener, Ontario
These "after the deal is made" e-mails are quite funny. I often find myself doling out reassurances in the place of advice, but unfortunately, that isn't the case here. No, I don't like this move. Heatley carries a little bit more value than Sundin in terms of goals and plus/minus, but that's about it. He's not getting the attention Henrik Zetterberg, Vincent Lecavalier or Jarome Iginla are receiving, but Sundin is quietly having a bang-up season (12th in scoring). With 40 points, the Leafs' captain trails Heatley's output by just three, and he has more power-play points. The exchange isn't worth the trade-off made on defense. Detroit's Brian Rafalski is a top fantasy defenseman, playing on the best team in the league. Although he has 20 points, Visnovsky has only one goal and carries a wretched plus/minus rating of minus-15. The general consensus is that he has been a disappointment.
As for whether Visnovsky will play better in the new year, that will depend on what changes L.A. makes to become competitive again. Right now, the Kings stink.
Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.
You can send her e-mail for potential use in "The Vicky Files" by clicking here.