Taking a foray into the world of professional football for a moment, there's no escaping the hoopla surrounding the New England Patriots' quest to make history. Fans and non-fans alike are reminded, hourly, that the Pats could be the greatest team to play any sport, anywhere, ever. And the truth is, with the clinically coldest coach in history, they really are revoltingly good. Now my question is: How does it feel to be a player on the other side of the ball? Can you truly pump yourself up, knowing full well you're in for the biggest behind-kicking of your life? And what if your own team is in worse shape than most (Jets/Dolphins)? Inspirational pregame speeches aside, is it really possible to fool yourself into thinking there's any chance of victory? If not, what a horribly, hopeless feeling of resignation that must be.
Fortunately, for us fantasy hockey players, it's still too early in the season to entertain such unpleasant sentiments. No matter how dire the situation might appear at the moment, there's still plenty of time to make amendments and perhaps, eventually emerge victorious. So buck up.
And if either New York or Miami somehow manages to beat New England, I'll put money on Jeremy Roenick to win the scoring title. As anything will be possible in our brand new parallel universe.
Hey Vicky; greetings from an expat down under. I just traded Martin Biron and Markus Naslund for Sergei Gonchar and Saku Koivu. I still have Miikka Kiprusoff, Marty Turco and Marc-Andre Fleury in net. Did I sell high on Naslund and Biron? Am I still strong enough in net for the rest of the season?
Rich from Brisbane, Australia
Unsurprisingly, I don't have good news for you, Rich. First of all, yes, you gave up too much for Gonchar and Koivu. Starting goaltenders are hot commodities and Biron is having a consistently good year. Naslund and Koivu aside, even as an elite fantasy defenseman, Gonchar is still not goalie-worthy on his own. And of course, adding insult to injury, we all know now that Marc-Andre Fleury is out until the end of January with a high ankle sprain. You can't be faulted for that lack of foresight; everyone, inside fantasy hockey and out, was caught off guard by Fleury's relegation to the injured list. Especially because he was playing exceptionally well before going down. But, as I always say, there's no use in crying over broken netminders. Now is the time to be proactive. Even though both are playing a lot better of late, you need more than Kiprusoff and Turco.
Unfortunately, there's no use in pursuing a top-tier starter. Those who own Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo won't be willing to part with them. You need to target a secondary goalie who has the potential to perform solidly, on a semiregular basis. A nice, steady once-a-week-or-so type guy. How about Montreal's Carey Price or Edmonton's Mathieu Garon? Sure, they're backups, but the starts and positive stats are there. And the upside with those fellows is you won't have to sell the farm to get them.
Another option, because you already have Turco, is Dallas' Mike Smith. The Stars are decent defensively (11th in the league) and own a winning record. With both goaltenders, you can rest assured that no matter what, your guy is playing. Furthermore, Smith has only one outing this month, so he could be a huge bargain.
Hi Vicky! I'm in a league in which we can start three right wingers and I think I have a strong set: Martin Havlat, Mike Knuble, Nathan Horton, and Patrick Sharp. In free agency, I could pick up Brad Boyes, Nikolai Zherdev, Glen Murray or Daniel Cleary. Are any of these current free agents worth picking up over the four right wingers I have now? Thanks for the help.
James from Erie, Pa.
I want to play in one of these leagues in which Zherdev or Boyes is available in free agency. No offense to the Colorado winger, but Ian Laperriere is as good as it gets in my fantasy world. Anyway, drop Knuble immediately and grab Zherdev as quick as you can. After a sluggish start, the Blue Jacket has 13 points in his last 13 games. He's on fire with nary a foreseeable cooling factor in sight. There's no reason this guy should remain unowned.
Now ask yourself: Will Havlat remain healthy for the rest of the season? If you respond in the affirmative, leave your roster as is. If there's any doubt in your mind (as there should be), trade Havlat for someone who fills a need at another position. Pick up Boyes to replace Havlat. The offensively-mediocre Blues still score goals, and Boyes is in on a good portion of them. The very recent acquisition of centerman Andy McDonald adds to the winger's value as well.
Hey Vicky. I just traded James Wisniewski and Alexei Kovalev for Sergei Zubov. Do you think this trade is going to benefit me in the long run? Also, I have Tim Thomas as a No. 2 goalie behind Nabokov. Boston recently signed Alex Auld, Manny Fernandez is returning at some point, and rookie Tuukka Rask is in the mix. Should I get rid of Thomas?
Josh from London, ON
First off, a confession: A little while ago, I stated that Auld would not play another game in the NHL this season. He was with Phoenix at the time, playing with the organization's AHL team behind big leaguers Ilya Bryzgalov and Mikael Tellqvist. Then Thomas gets hurt, the Bruins acquire Auld in a trade, and he goes 3-1 in four starts. A humbling situation on my end, to be sure. Regardless, Auld still isn't worth a lick fantasy-wise. He's been floating around the league since 2001, and outside of 67 games with Vancouver in 2005, has never started more than 27 in a full season. Simply put, Alex Auld just isn't that good.
As for the others, Fernandez is done for the year following knee surgery and Rask ("The Future") will only start sporadically. He's too young to overexploit at this point. Thomas is the go-to guy. He's back skating in practice already and should return to the squad in the next couple of weeks. Auld will spend most of his time on the bench thereafter.
With all of that said, however, I wouldn't rely on Thomas as my No. 2 for the bulk of the season. He has a colorful history of performance volatility. Let him get a couple of solid showings once he returns and quickly dish him off to someone for another starter. Someone will gladly bite, and you'll save yourself a ton of stress in the long run.
As for the trade, you did alright. Alexei Kovalev's production is more balanced, but Sergei Zubov will guarantee you numbers in the assists category, week in and week out.
Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.
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