Wolski Coming Into His Own

James CriderCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2009

ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 17:   Ryan Smyth #94 and Wojtek Wolski #8 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate after Wolski scored Colorado's second goal in game five of the 2008 NHL Western Conference Quarterfinals on April 17, 2008 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Colorado won, 3-2. (Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)

At the beginning of every season, it's the same question: "Is this going to be the year Wolski breaks out?" At the end of every season, the answer has been no.

Things look to have finally changed.

Five games into the 2009-2010 NHL season the Avalanche find themselves atop the Western Conference standings, led by Wojtek Wolski's four goals. The 21st overall draft choice from 2004 is finally showing the potential Colorado believed he had when they drafted him ahead of players like Mike Green (though I'm not convinced that was the best idea).

Including this season, Wolski has scored in all of the past four season openers for the Avalanche. Finally, he's been able to follow his early season goal with more early season goals. Last season, it wasn't until game 22 that Wolski netted his fourth of the season.

However, the early season hasn't been a cake walk. In the 3-2 loss to the Predators, Wolski was benched in the 3rd period. This was due to a combination of a bad penalty midway through the 2nd period, and laziness in general.

Many fans were enraged at coach Joe Sacco for doing this, seeing as Wolski had arguably been the best forward in the first two games. Unlike most, I agreed with the decision to bench him. Sacco has stuck to his guns: if you don't work, you won't play.

Obviously, this move paid off because Wolski responded with a strong effort, including scoring the then-tying goal against the Blackhawks the following game.

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Sacco, along assistant coaches Adam Deadmarsh and Steve Konowalchuk, are the type of coaching staff Wolski has needed since the beginning of his career. All three were known as hard workers in their career's, and so far it's rubbed off on the team. Too often in the past would Wolski get away with lazy behavior, and as a result his point totals dipped from 50 to 48 to 42 the past three seasons.

Finally, his stats are progressing in the right direction.

Three Stars of the Week

Kyle Quincey

The major off-season acquisition has easily been the Avs best defender, leading the team in ice time with an average 24:56 per game. He has at least one point in all five games, and has scored a goal and three assists in the first three games of Colorado's seven game road trip.

Darcy Tucker

Arguably one of the come back players of the year, Tucker finally looks like the player Avalanche management thought they signed two off-seasons ago. Tucker has picked up an assist and a shoot out goal the past three games on the road.

T.J. Galiardi

For a player expected to be relied on for his scoring touch, Galiardi's defensive play has been a welcome addition to the Avalanche line-up. Through the past three games, Colorado's penalty kill (ranked third best in the league) only gave up one goal on 13 chances against. He also picked up a short handed assist on David Jones game winning goal against the Bruins.

Dud of the Week

Chris Stewart

The former first round draft pick has struggled early this season, and found himself watching from the press box as Colorado defeated Boston 4-3. Stewart's play has been one of the only disappointing aspects of a largely successful start to the season.