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Searching For Wojtek Wolski

Avalanche winger Wojtek Wolski, a first-round pick and potential star forward among the younger players in the franchise, was a healthy scratch last night against the Wild.  It was just one among many games this season in which Wolski has sat in favor of lesser players.

Despite his goal against Edmonton on March 13th, his lackluster performance in the game against New Jersey two days later was enough for Coach Q to shut him down again.  

Says Adrian Dater of Wolski's perceived struggles:

Wolski and Hlinka the forward scratches tonight against the Wild. Wolski’s descent to healthy scratch-dom continues to be a slightly big story around the team. Hard to believe the former first-round pick and the team’s fourth-leading scorer is sitting out a game in mid-March while Cody McCormick and Cody McLeod are in, but Joel Quenneville just hasn’t been happy with Wolski’s overall game lately.

The feeling is he hasn’t been using his size still, not battling hard enough for pucks or in front of the net.

Fair enough, but Wolski is certainly not alone, and a perceived lack of effort is probably not a great reason to bench a strong offensive player (who puck-handles extremely well) in favor of an unskilled pest who doesn't effectively protect the star players or drop the gloves in the face of a challenge---even against a much larger brute like Derek Boogaard.  Tip: punch him in the back, it's been sore all year.  This is, after all, the final stretch run to the playoffs, in which every goal scored and every game won is of immense importance.

Wolski has eight points in his last 15 games, and four points in his last 10.  That's definitely not impressive, but when you've got guys like Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth chronically under-performing, you need any and all extra help you can get.  Wolski's benching is even more confusing considering the continued appearance of Tyler Arnason on the ice and even on the power play.  Prior to the March 13th drubbing of Edmonton, Arnason had scored only two points in fifteen games, including a scoring drought of six games from February 12th to the 22nd.  For a guy that can't hit and is inconsistent on defense, that's a pretty tremendous lack of offensive performance.

Arnason has not been benched once this entire season.

Maybe Wolski's just lazy.  Maybe he's too comfortable on the team and isn't trying hard enough.  I have a suspicion that this isn't true, especially considering the Rocky Mountain News piece that highlighted his hardcore dedication to training during the offseason and his determination to make an impact on the team.

I suspect Wolski's inconsistency is being compounded by the system of play imposed on him by the Colorado coaching staff, not to mention the constant personnel changes due to injuries and impulsive line changing that have plagued team chemistry all season.

Wolski's still a good player, has a good work ethic and---I feel---has a place on the team.

With the playoffs looming and the Avs' chances dimming with each late-season loss, it might be prudent to toss as much offense at each opponent as possible, even if that offense is still young and finding its way.  You can't build confidence by inconsistently punishing young and inexperienced players while rewarding veterans who contribute nothing.