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With the Avs firmly entrenched at the bottom of the standings, and fans "Tanking it for teh Tavares", I thought it might be a good time to look at some of the teams "competing" with the Avs for the best odds at the Tavares sweepstakes. For the record my position hasn't changed, I don't root for the Avs to lose. It's bad Mojo and even worse it creates a culture of losing and allows players to get sloppy and complacent. It also creates embarrassments like this and this I still want them to win and play well. I am just cheering for the teams at the bottom of the standings to win as well...

THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING


At this current moment this may be my least favorite team in the league, which is why I'm cheering for them to win (or at least go to OT) so badly. You see as the other lottery bound teams, like Atlanta, Ottawa and Phoenix, have kept up their end of my "cheer for them" bargain by actually winning some games Tampa has been the only holdout by looking as bad as, or worse than, the Avs.

The Lightning's season has been one of redemption. After a start of the season which can only be described as a circus, the Lightning have quietly worked their way back to respectability. They started the season losing their first five, and then went 3-7-4 in November, and 4-6-3 in December. While they haven't set the world on fire, they have at least dug themselves out of league laughingstock.

Rich Tocchet has beaten the odds (set at 20-1) of an NHL return and aquitted himself quite nicely behind the bench (C'mon everyone knew that joke was coming). He is currently coaching for a chance at running this team for at least another season and may have earned himself the opportunity. Part of the reason for that is the development of Stephen Stamkos, who looked like a lost puppy under Barry Melrose. Quietly Stamkos has put up 19 goals and 41 points and has climbed into 5th on the rookie scoring list. His season will still be considered a disapointment, but the second half of the season has been a redemption for the #1 overall pick.

Analysis: Tampa is, easily, the biggest threat to "catch" the Avs and knock them out of the #2 slot. Their schedule down the stretch would be brutal for a team that hasn't had to deal with the aftermath of The Barry Melrose Experience. They have 6 games left, and still play all three East division leaders, plus Pittsburgh.

In fact Tampa is single handedly challenging my "Cheer for the Avs to win" tanking strategy. See I've really started to fall for the Swedish 6'7" future Norris Trophy factory that is Victor Hedman, and right now the Avs are in the driverd seat to draft him. Tampa and the lottery are the only thing in the way of the blessed union of the Avs and Hedman. If Tampa would put some points up the Avs could win a game here or there and I wouldn't have to worry about it, but with Tampa continuing to lose the Avs are in jeopardy of losing out on the Swede.

Final Games

3/31- @BOS
4/3- @NJ
4/4 @NYI
4/7- vs PIT
4/9- vs WAS
4/11-@ ATL