So, if you recall, I said before the season started, that TJ Galiardi should be a top-line winger. That notion was further reinforced with the re-injury of Peter Mueller. It was looking good for Mules during the preseason and he played the team's first 3 games, albeit without getting on the scoresheet. However, Mueller has mysteriously been absent ever since. The Avs are of course being mum on his condition, but one can only surmise that the concussion symptoms that have been plaguing Mueller for the last year and a half have returned. The contract the Avs gave Mueller appears to be a gamble lost. Don't get me wrong, I like Mueller. He was fantastic in the 15 games he played in 2010 before suffering the first concussion. At this point however, the Avs cannot rely on him. Period. It's sad. The guy is a former 8th overall pick and is only 23-years-old, and his career is in real jeopardy. Another gamble the Avs appear to have lost is by not signing Tomas Fleischmann. Mules and Flash have probably been Matt Duchene's favorite wingers ever, but the Avs opted not to sign Fleischmann after his bout with pulmonary emboli last season. Flash is a good player, but I do feel the 4-year, $18 million contract he received in Florida was an overpay. However, if the Avs would have signed him when he was still restricted, that would been a moot point.
Anyway, back to Gali and the current Avalanche players. After 8 games as a bottom-liner and 2 as a healthy scratch, Gali finally got a shot at left wing on a top line and the Avs came away with their first home win of the season. Was Gali instrumental in the win? Not on the scoresheet, but I still feel that his presence creates balance amongst all four lines. The Landy-O'Reilly-Winnik line was once again untouched and continues to thrive. Landy recorded an assist and the line was solid as a whole. I like Jones-Duchene-Lindstrom. In David Jones, Duchene finally has a scoring winger who can take some of the pressure off of Duchene. Duchene has been much maligned so far this season, but I still feel that his lack of production has been due to his lack of capable wingers. When Duchene was centering McLeod and McClement, defensed could just shut down Duchene without having to worry about much of a scoring threat from either of the McCs. With Jones, Duchene can make moves and defenses cannot cheat toward Duchene because Jones is a very dangerous scorer as well. Not sure Lindstrom is the long-term answer on the other side, but for now, he's the best option. The line of Galiardi-Stastny-Hejduk is a great line as well. Gali, with his speed, grit, and new-found size, can be the power forward the top lines have been lacking. If he uses all of his assets, he can create havoc down low in the crease and along the boards and free up great scoring chances for the talents of Stats and Hejy. I hope Sacco keeps these lines together. I also would not be opposed to swapping Gali for Lindy and seeing how that goes, but the core of Jones-Duchene and Stastny-Hejduk looks very promising.
If there have been studs and duds so far for the Avs this season, I think most people would agree that Semyon Varlamov has been the team's MVP. His start out of the gate is reminiscent of Craig Anderson's two years ago. Every game he's been in, he has given the Avs a chance to win. In his 3 losses, the Avs have averaged under a goal a game. The defense has also been much improved. Quincey is having a renaissance year and Wilson has been hard-hitting and defensively solid. While many people would point to Duchene and Stastny's numbers so far and call them duds. I disagree. Sure, it would be nice if they had a bit more in terms of points, but I think they've both been fine so far. The lack of wingers, as I've addressed before, is the more concerning part. My duds would include Chuck Kobasew, who has proven to be a good 4th liner, but not a top-line forward whatsoever. With Duchene's public criticism, it felt very good to see him rip the game-winner past Jonathan Quick last night. Duchene came in with speed, used Doughty as a screen, and shot it between his legs top shelf on Quick. An absolute beauty of a shot! Hopefully now that the Avs got the proverbial monkey off their backs, they can start to accumulate the wins at home!