<
>

The Vicky Files: Slumpers

12/29/2007

When it comes to festive decor, allow me to share my pet peeve with you. Oversized, bloated, gaudy -- there is nothing I dread more than inflatable Santa Clauses and snowmen on front lawns during the holidays. An otherwise-classy residence instantly becomes the kitschiest of dwellings when one of those wretched, nylon behemoths takes over. They look tacky, cheap and completely out of place. Large inflated figures belong at fairs and carnivals, not in residential neighborhoods. Admittedly, the dingiest of shacks can take on a magical "Dickensian" spirit with properly installed lights -- not so much with large cartoon-like figures. Besides, we don't anchor gargantuan balloons on our lawns at any other time of year (thank goodness), so why now? Even kids don't like them. My 3-year-old niece thinks they are "scary." And she's right; the lack of taste shown by such homeowners is frightening indeed. If you want Santa, Frosty or whomever hanging around outside, go for the ceramic or wooden look instead. And, for the love of proportion, keep the size reasonable.

Now, since we're on the subject of massive, unsubstantial, ineffective hulks, what's Nik Antropov up to these days?

I have Scott Gomez and Nik Antropov on my team right now, but I'm trying to move them for a stronger defenseman. Do you think Gomez will keep up his recent output? What type of player should I look for in return for either of these guys?
Mike from Chicago

Now, you just leave Gomez alone. He finally is playing up to his talent (13 points in his past 10 games) and should be enjoyed by all those who own him. Seriously, he could really light it up in the second half.

However, feel free to move the Toronto forward. He is point-less in his past five games and goal-less since Dec. 10; we finally are seeing the disappointing Nik Antropov whom Leafs fans know and love (cough). And, as history dictates, it's still just a matter of time before he gets hurt. I'm shocked he's lasted this long. You really should have dealt him about three weeks ago, when he still was producing, but there's nothing to be done about that now. Hopefully, whomever you approach with a trade offer will see the 35 points and little else.

As for whom you could get in return, there's no point in targeting Brian Rafalski or Scott Niedermayer, because that won't fly. Instead, have a go at Adrian Aucoin. He's on a tear right now and surpassing expectations in Calgary. Many are concerned he won't maintain such a pace. Don't worry, he will. Lubomir Visnovsky is another option, if you're willing to take the hit plus/minus-wise.

I have Henrik Lundqvist, Marty Turco and Chris Osgood as my goalies. Ilya Bryzgalov is available; should I drop one of my guys for him?

Paul from Camden, Del.

This is a difficult issue to tackle without more details. Are you weak on offense? If so, try to swing a two-for-one deal involving Lundqvist to bolster your scoring power. Someone in your league might be desperate enough for a starting netminder to give up a couple of decent players in return. In that case, make the trade and pick up Bryzgalov to fill the gap.

However, if your team is in relatively good shape otherwise, just leave it be. Lundqvist hasn't had the best December, but he's good enough to return to his early season form. The Rangers as a whole are due to improve in the second half as well, and that will help. After early season struggles, Turco is back to his fine-playing ways with six wins in his past seven games. Backup Mike Smith isn't getting too much action anymore. And Dominik Hasek is too fragile to endure another three months. Look for Osgood (who's performing fabulously) to take over full-time once the old man crumples again.

As for Bryzgalov, as good as he is, please remember: He still plays for Phoenix. Don't be fooled by the Coyotes' recent respectable record (6-3-1). They are performing beyond their collective talent, and the wins won't last. All in all, your goaltending corps is more than adequate as is.

Vicky, two questions for you: First off, I recently traded Martin Gerber and Martin Straka for Manny Legace and Milan Hejduk. I've been getting some flak for acquiring Legace, even though he's an everyday goalie. Did I give up too much to get him? And secondly, I'm in a league that counts goals and game-winning goals; I'm leading the pool in assists, largely due to Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton and Paul Stastny. Is it worth sacrificing one of these top-tier centers in an attempt to trade for an elite goal-scorer, or will goals eventually come for the likes of Spezza and Thornton? Thanks for your help.
Brodie from Vancouver, British Columbia

The flak is undeserved because your trade was fairly even. I feel like a broken record on this subject, but mark my words: Gerber will not finish the season as the everyday starting goaltender for the Senators. That role will go to Ray Emery. I don't care that Gerber's numbers are better, and it doesn't matter that he is No. 1 at the moment. Despite recent hissy fits, Emery is simply a superior goaltender and, more importantly, holds a competitive edge. Once the team nears the playoffs, it will have to anoint someone as "the guy" to carry it through, and the job won't fall to Gerber. That's all there is to it. You're better off with Legace on your roster for the long haul.

As for the Hejduk/Straka element, you took a risk, but only a slight one. As mentioned above, the Rangers are due for improvement, and Straka will play a large part in the resurrection. Look for his numbers to rise. Hejduk, on the other hand, has a tendency to slack a bit midseason. He registered only 13 points in 24 games in December and January of 2006-07, but he finished the year with a lot of oomph. So stay patient with him. Furthermore, with Joe Sakic out for hernia surgery, Hejduk will have carry more of the scoring load alongside line mates Stastny and Ryan Smyth. Hopefully, for your sake, he consistently rises to the occasion.

As for pursuing a goal-scorer, there's no reason you can't offer up Spezza, Thornton or Stastny for an elite individual, but he has to be top-notch. If you can't grab someone in the ranks of Alexander Ovechkin or Dany Heatley, don't bother. Your trio is far too valuable.

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