09 December 2008
3rd star: JM-Liles
Even though his last couple of games were fairly pedestrian, Liles got a nice free agent payday this offseason and has played up to that new contract. A common cliché is that athletes have off seasons after signing their big contracts so it's nice to see someone step up.
His point totals aren't quite as high as I'd like to see, but I think the same can be said for every single member of the Avs. Liles is tied for the team lead in defensemen points with 10, but his real improvement has been in his own end. He has started to really come of age defensively and his work along the boards has been superb. It was also nice to see him bust out a little Rob-Blake style hip-check last game, and let's hope he can become a decent open-ice hitter.
2nd Star: Paul Stastny
Leads the team in points. Second in SH ice time. Flashy new contract. Future of the franchise. The kid has it all and is living up to expectations. He's slightly behind the point per game pace that he should have, but he has started to heat up again.
The one area I'd like to see Stastny work on, and with Sakic out this season it's time for him to step up, is his leadership abilities. Sakic was never a fiery leader and got put into a nice situation with Forsberg, Roy, and Foote in the locker room. It wasn't difficult to put his locker room in line because of those strong personalities. The current Avs locker room seems more introverted and humble than years past and it would be nice to see Stastny develop into a leader, grab an "A" and be next in line for the "C".
Nevertheless Stastny has been his usual dynamic self on the ice and has been a bright spot in a fairly dismal season so far.
1st star: Milan Hejduk
This selection was easy as Hejduk has been the Avs best player this season. Last season was quite the disapointment and his slight drop-off had everyone, well at least me, worried that father time was catching up to the Duke. But Hejduk has been the Avs most dangerous player this season and is on-pace for a nice 33-goal campaign. He also has 11 assists to go with his 11 goals and is second on the team in points.
His work in the offensive zone overshadows his work in his own end, where he's been a very good defensive forward. He's third among forwards in SH-time on ice per game, and plays well on the penalty kill.
Honorable Mention Ryan Smyth: bouncing back nicely from a dispaointing season in '07-'08
Peter Budaj: Has rebounded from a rocky start to be pretty good.
Jordan Leopold: Hasn't broken.
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