(LAST CHANCE Don't forget to send in your audition today if you plan on doing so. Everything must be in before midnight (PST) tonight).
I wanted to write this post yesterday morning, before my buzz from the all-star game wore off into a nice hangover in the form of a Sharks ass-kicking, however real work kept me from writing it. No it's true I actually do some real work from time to time. Honest.
That being said, I'm still going to stay positive and only leave my disillusioned cynicism creep into my thoughts, instead of completely consume my feelings for this team. Besides I've reached the point where I don't think this team is going to get appreciably better until there is a change behind the bench so I might as well try to focus on some second half sub-plots that will allow me to actually enjoy the second half of the season. So here's a guide to making the most of this dreary season.
► The Young Guns: While many fans have turned their frustration in the season towards under performing players (and there are plenty) there have been some bright spots and could even be some more as the season progresses. The Avs have been forced to play some young players because of injuries and they should give Avs fans hope for the future.
David Jones has tantalizing skill and may start to break out, setting him up for a solid '09-'10. Chris Stewert Has already established himself as the Avs power forward of the future and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. TJ Hensick has had an extremely disappointing campaign this season, but he was a points machine in Lake Erie and I fully expect him to start regressing to the mean and playing better over the course of the season. Throw in a dash of Kyle Cumisky and the occasional Pascal Dupuis sighting and there's certainly something for the Avs to build on for next season. Also, Cody McLeod is playing very good this season, and looks to be a good thrid liner for the Avs for years to come.
► Wojtek Wolski the center Every game he plays further convinces me that Baron von Wolski was completely miscast at left wing. Even though moving him to center leaves the Avs painfully shallow on the left wing, there's no possible way he can move back there. He's a center. Period. It's been a joy watching a player that many, myself included, expected to breakout finally do so. Even his worst games at center have been substantially better than his worst games at left wing. His defensive development has been a nice surprise as well.
► Sakic's (probable) final games At some point this season Joe Sakic will return to the lineup. I think those games will be his last. While they will certainly be bittersweet, we should all take the time to watch them with joy and reminisce about his brilliant career.
► The Rise of Stastny Paul Stastny is expected to be the centerpiece of the Avs organization for a long time. Even if Sakic doesn't retire and plays one more season I expect the Avs to transition to Stastny as the focal point for the next generation. The Avs have spent the last few seasons trying to recapture past glory (highlighting Sakic, Foote's return and the Forsberg re-signing last year), but this season has turned into a transition season. Stastny should be the symbol of the Avs new direction and commitment to the future.
► Trade Deadline For the first time the Avs will probably be sellers at the trade deadline, and they have some moderate pieces that could be traded away for prospects. Most of the players on the block are guys I like, but wouldn't shed a tear over if they left. The most rumored are Brett Clark, Jordan Leopold and Ruslan Salei. I think Leopold is the most enticing to other teams because of his low cap number. Trading Clark away would be worth it for the cap space alone next summer.
Other guys who I could see traded away include Marek Svatos, Peter Budaj and Tyler Arnason. Yes I think someone's third line center will go down at the wrong time and they will try squeeze something out of the turnip that is Tyler Arnason.
The Avs main goal of the trade season should be to trade for a goaltending prospect from a team in need of depth and with a goalie situation that is solid in the long term. Jaroslav Halak, Jhonas Enroth, and Al Montoya, and Shawn Matthais should be on the Avs scouts list. Both Buffalo and Montreal are thin at defense and could use the help of some of the Avs blueliners... for a price.
The only possible downside of trade season is that it's a small, minuscule possibility of Milan Hejduk being traded. With another season left at only $4M, and the Avs tendency to stay pretty loyal to old warriors under FG, I don't see much chance in that though.