Time to get Real Clear on the Avs' season. I had predicted that what we had here was another transitional-type rebuilding year: get the kids some experience, continue to evaluate and improve, make a move towards contention over the next two seasons. This scenario did assume no work stoppage and a CBA bearing a resemblance to the current one, right or wrong.
But this prediction was incorrect. What we actually have is the team's four best players having career years. Stastny, Duchene, Chris Stewart and John-Michael Liles are all playing better than they ever have--Stastny perhaps not as impressive as the others--Milan Hejduk is having an unexpectedly great year for a man of 88, putting up a point a game, and when your four best players are having career years? When you're the highest-scoring team in the league? You're not rebuilding. That's your year.
There's two clusters of problems. (1) The defense is still small, though bigger and better than at the beginning of the season. And the team, partly as a result of this, still gives up a lot of shots. And when you give up a lot of shots, you need a goalie who stops a lot of shots.1
That's the problem. (2) Craig Anderson has, after a sterling start last season, shown himself to be less than a franchise goalie. He and Budaj ended with the same save percentage and goals-against average even last year, remember, and nobody was calling for the team to be turned over to Boods at that point. Anderson has been consistently inconsistent: three great months last year, oft-injured and completely out of rhythm all this year.
I'm far from blaming all the team's woes on him--when Stewart and McLeod are on the shelf, the forwards are small and not hard enough to play against2, the team starts slowly, and they're not great at maintaining leads or extending them. None of that is Anderson's fault.
So there's options. The team could stay the course, re-up with both Anderson and Budaj, who are both free agents again after this year, and hope the defense matures and that the goaltending combo puts up more of a 09-10 2.64/.917 than this year's more-than-three/under .900. There's a bit of merit to this plan, I concede, but I don't think it's reasonable--or safe--to assume that this year's level of offensive production is just always going to be there. My plan? Go big. Plug the hole in goal and try for the deep playoff run this year.
True, the last few cup champs have had average goalies and superior defenses, but that's not an option for this club, not this year. This year, what we need is a high-level goalie who can steal some big games, a goalie who can face a lot of rubber and keep that ol' save percentage nice and high. Like say .919 or better the last six seasons.
Greg Sherman, don't waste this year. Go get Thomas Vokoun.
-Collision, staying late after practice to work on his world-historically bad slap shot
Girl hugging horse courtesy of http://hillsborough4h.ifas.ufl.edu/Event%20Websites/images/GirlHuggingHorse.jpg
Fill in the dots horse courtesy of http://www.printactivities.com/ConnectTheDots/Horse_Dot-to-Dot.gif
Thomas Vokoun picture courtesy of the internet.
1You probably think this is stinking obvious, but I assure you that it is a matter of subtle brilliance; it is just that I am a truly superior teacher, capable of making the obscurely difficult transparently simple.
2Last night, the Avs gave up a 3-0 first-period lead and had to win in a shootout against the young, talented, but bottom-of-the-standings Edmonton Oilers. If David Koci--who I actually like and respect--is dressed for any reason at all, that reason is to hospitalize Zack "Huggy Bear" Stortini, get his team fired up, and stanch the goddamned fucking bleeding already. I therefore conclude that coach Joe Sacco is even less interested in heavyweight fighters than I am.