The Avalanche were handed a crushing defeat by the Blue Jackets last night, scoring first but then surrendering 6 unanswered goals. The defeat shouldn't come as any surprise to Avs fans (I'm sure it didn't) as Budaj continues to prove exactly how inconsistent he can be. One of the many fan irritants on the team, Budaj's play has resembled both ends of the spectrum, spectacular one night, terrible the next. One can only place the blame on the whole team so many times (as Granato has done) but eventually you have to start looking between the pipes. Unfortunately Budaj's not our franchise goalie, no matter how much the team has prepped him for the job, it counts for nothing if he can't at least be consistent.
If only Budaj were the sole problem, the team may have been able to salvage the season, but truth be told the team lacks drive. A hand full of players give it their all game in and game out, Laperriere, for instance, however this in my opinion is the downfall of the Avalanche. This trend of lackadaisical hockey has enamored this team for several years now. The Avalanche play the game usually 2 ways:
1) Come out fighting and grab the lead in the 1st or 2nd period. Dominate play and shoot the lights out while the goalie on the other end fights through waves of attack. In the 2nd half of the game they decide that their lead is comfortable enough that they no longer need to fore-check and then essentially coast along in the 3rd period and hope to hold on for a win. Usually the opponent capitalizes on a powerplay or odd man break, tie up the game and usually either win or come very close.
2) Come out of the gate with no emotion. Start chasing the other team around the ice while being peppered with shots. Down 2 or 3 goals in the second period, they start to show some resemblance of a team that wants to win and have a scoring chance at the end of the 2nd showing something for the 3rd period. In the 3rd they dominate most of the game and sometimes even make it a 1 or 2 goal game, pulling the goalie for the 6th man, but eventually lose the game and blame themselves for not playing the first half of the game.
The problem with this team is that players become too comfortable giving up. Each line needs someone that can energize play, however when guys like Arnason are centering the first line, Hensick still learning the game and nobody to fill in except Laperriere, it leaves a glaring hole right down the middle of the team. The Arnason experiments over, he is exactly what he has always been, a guy with amazing potential, but no drive to tap into it. Like he has been his whole career the Avs can trade him on his potential alone, to a team (like us) hoping a change in scenery will finally ignite his play. We could likely obtain a decent pick for him (3rd rounder maybe) and after that we need to look into either moving Wolski to center or recalling one of our prospects. Maybe we need to overhaul this team, make a few sideways moves just to get some new faces in the mix, maybe some with the drive to play day in and day out. Guite, Arnason and even Brett Clark wouldn't hurt the team if they left. Probably nothing too extravagant we would receive in return, but maybe just something to shake things up.
The team is struggling, even when it's winning and it's because it lacks an identity. We're losing but not rebuilding, we're in the lower ranks of the West but battling for a playoff spot. Really, the Avs need to make up their minds. Either rebuild or go for it, but don't lie to the fans and tell us we can do it with exactly the same product we've seen on the ice this season. I said it before that in my opinion our best chance of returning to greatness is to rebuild for one year. Trade off some contracts for draft picks and prospects, make a decision with Wolski or call up an actual center, and then let the younger guys get some NHL experience while we sit on what could possibly be a top 10 pick in a very deep draft. We need a goalie as well as someone behind Stastny that can carry this team and none of it will happen unless this team does something.