The Vicky Files: Trade advice

It hasn't been a good week for clowns. Recent economic antics of the Bush administration aside (OK, OK; Georgie II gets enough flak without fantasy hockey columnists weighing in), the genuine Bozos and Buttons of the world took an immense hit with the release of a study out of the U.K. The University of Sheffield discovered that "Clowns are universally disliked by children, (in fact) some find them quite frightening and unknowable." Therefore, it's official: Kids think clowns are creepy. So much for being in touch with your target audience.

For those of us who never appreciated those with the painted faces and oversized shoes, this comes as no surprise. But clown lovers around the globe (all 17 of them) are gobsmacked. Stephen King's publication of "It" in 1986 (scariest clown ever) certainly didn't do much for PR, and perhaps it's even simpler than that. The hard reality remains that water-spewing flowers and tooting noses stopped being amusing back in 1954. And if these alleged entertainers aren't funny, what purpose do they serve? Unless, of course, you want to scare your children; "Go to sleep Timmy, or Mommy will call in Blinko!" Perhaps those unlovable jokers just need a change in strategy.

So while we're on the subject of clowns, let's scrutinize the members of a fantasy roster out of Montreal. Just kidding, Alex; it isn't as bad as all that. And although my attempts at humor might not be uproariously successful, at least I'm not "clown unfunny."

Hello Vicky. I'm in a 12-team league and managed to put together a fantastic roster, in theory. Unfortunately, in reality, my entire team is injured or underachieving. I have Joe Sakic, Jason Blake, Jonathan Cheechoo, Chris Clark, Martin Havlat and Ryan Smyth, Sidney Crosby, Jiri Hudler, Pavel Datsyuk, Nik Antropov, David Legwand, Milan Michalek, Antti Miettinen, Keith Tkachuk, and Brendan Morrow. My defense consists of Scott Niedermayer, Dan Boyle, Bryan McCabe, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Mathieu Schneider. My goalies are Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, J.S. Giguere and Ryan Miller. Tolling in sixth place, barely clinging to a playoff spot, you can see why I'm frustrated. But as the three-time defending champ, I don't want to go down without a fight. Should I blow things up or stay the course and hope for a return to form by my players?
Alex from Montreal

Are you running a fantasy hockey team or an infirmary? Considering how injury-depleted this roster is, your hold on sixth place is mind-blowing (who the heck is in 12th?) There's a ton of dead (broken) weight you need to offload. Right now. Kiss Sakic and Smyth goodbye immediately. Neither will be back until March, and in your case, that's far too long a wait. Keep an eye on Clark the next few days. His re-strained groin could be minor or major, and if it smells even slightly serious, dump him with nary a thought. The most worrisome news, however, pertains to Crosby. At the time of this writing, the Penguins remain hush-hushy regarding the severity of his high ankle sprain. But there are murmurings that he could be out a month. If so, he'll need a comfy IR spot and you need to make one available.

The prognosis is far more positive on defense. Boyle is (finally) due back after the All-Star break, maybe even sooner. McCabe is skating again and should return in the next couple of weeks. With those two comebacks on the horizon, your chunkiest piece of trade fodder lies on the blue line. As much as you won't want to, dish off Niedermayer. He'll attract the most bang for your buck, and you need players on offense. Don't accept anything less than a two-for-one deal. Hit the free-agency list for whatever else you require to plug the holes. In a league of your size, there will be some reasonable options. And as I always say, those who play produce more than those who sit on the couch. As for Blake, Antropov and Cheechoo, you might as well hold on to them for now. They're worthless tradewise, and a jump in production is not completely out of the question.

I'm very reluctant to drop Joffrey Lupul from my team (on the IR), since he had some great numbers before his injury. Should I? Also, there are some good players available, such as Michael Nylander, Mike Fisher, and Mike Comrie, but I already have four players that fit at center. They are Joe Thornton, Daymond Langkow, Keith Tkachuk and Brad Boyes. Should I drop any of these to pick up those available centers?
Adriel from Danville, Calif.

Throw your reluctance aside and let Lupul go. He isn't slated to return for another month or so, and it could be even longer than that. Spinal cord/concussion injuries require sensitive and cautious handling. The Flyers won't bring him back unless his health is at 100 percent. Some players you'd wait for, but Lupul doesn't quite fit in that category.

As for your issue at center, replace Tkachuk with Fisher before someone else grabs him. The spirited Senator has been on a tear of late, with 14 points in his past 12 games. And most of that production came before Dany Heatley fell to injury. With Heatley out, Fisher carries an even bigger role on offense now. Whereas, with only three points in his past eight games, Tkachuk has simply been plodding along.

I have depth at forward with Vincent Lecavalier, Daniel Alfredsson, Joe Thornton, Marian Hossa, Daniel Briere, Corey Perry, Anze Kopitar and Pavol Demitra. My goalies are Roberto Luongo, Kari Lehtonen and Cam Ward. I just picked up Mathieu Garon because Lehtonen and Ward have been playing poorly. I've been offered the following two deals to upgrade in goal: Henrik Lundqvist for Alfredsson or Martin Brodeur for Hossa and Briere. Would you make one of these trades?
Matt from Maine

The "Lundqvist for Alfredsson" deal is a fairly decent proposition. There's a good chance Alfie's production could wane slightly with Heatley injured. The Senators, in general, will have to play more conservatively with their second-highest goal scorer out for the next few weeks. Should this transaction go through, dispose of Ward immediately through trade. The Carolina goaltender is having a shaky year with no positive turnaround in sight. Target a leaguemate with a weakness in net and demand a decent winger in return. If he or she is desperate enough, you might be able to acquire a gem. This move would bolster your goalie squad without too much of a loss on offense.

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.