So after a week in which it was learned that Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth will be out for extended periods, the Avs are kinda hosed. Losing Smitty is going to hurt them much worse than losing Sakic because now they are without any true leadership. And outside of Hejduk, they are lacking in established world class skill in their top 6.
Wolski moves to the top line with Hedgie and Stats, and a bunch of pressure falls on Svatos and Hlinka to start kicking in with some scoring from the 2nd line (which looks do-able lately). (Oddly enough the Avs 3rd line of McCormick, Guite and Laperierre has been outstanding and has turned into the kind of support line that the Avs have been searching for since the days of Mike Keane and Shjon Podein)
Be prepared, all of the Avs problems will be exposed in the foreseeable future. They are now VERY young, Stats has been thrown into the role of captain sooner than anyone wanted, they are still lacking a true #1 shutdown defenseman, and Budaj and Theo are going to have to come up with some big games.
The latter is their biggest problem. Although both goalies will have their moments, the Avs are still lacking a respected shutdown keeper. Budaj is athletic, but after watching him develop he is still having issues squaring to the shooter on crossing passes, and is occasionally resorting to throwing himself at shots. He is leaky, and his lack of size is killing him. Right now I would compare him to a young CUJO, who had his moments but was ultimately killed by his lack of size.
As far as Theo is concerned, the jury is in, and he is guilty of being a crappy, overpriced goaltender. Some nights he is serviceable. Other nights he looks like a left handed goalie playing in a right handed world. One thing is for sure; the Avs MUST find a way to win some games until Smitty comes back. The Northwest Division is far too tight for a team like the Avs to go into a midseason slide, and for this team to progress it MUST find a way to get into the playoffs.
I have heard some rumors around, but as per usual I have no idea what the Avs are going to do until they actually do it. In fact the only prediction I ever got right in the Avs trade department was Abby for Theo, and that was pure luck. So we must go off of what we know. As it stands the Avs have about 5 mil in cap room, plus any additional cap money from Sakic's contract assuming he is out the rest of the regular season.
If we go off of just the 5 mil, that is plenty of money for them to take a shot at say, an underperforming Marian Hossa or Patrick Marleau. But I still don't think that offense (outside of a miserable power play) is their problem. If anything, it gives players like T.J. Hensick an opportunity to show their stuff and gain NHL experience.
What they need, and what has been lacking since Rob Blake left, is a powerhouse on the blueline. Scott Hannan is good, but not good enough. Remember, this is the West, scoring is good but shutting down the other team and preying on their mistakes is the way to win. This is why, by my estimation, the Avs will want to take a long look at either an up and coming stud d-man, like Matt Carle, or throw the kitchen sink at a guy like Jovo.
But even then, considering the spotty goaltending and Theo's 6 million-dollar dead weight contract this season, this is going to be a difficult couple months for the Avalanche unless something changes.
Now if they could just find a way to make Theo "ahem" go away for a while and pry Brad Richards away from Tampa...