I wasn't able to fix the issues I was running into with my old template, so I've opted to move on to a new one. Still some further adjustments I want to make, including a revamp of the old banner to better fit this template. But so far, I'm liking the new look.
Update: Thanks to a suggestion by Joel, I've added a "Recent Comments" section to the sidebar. This should help folks keep track of discussions, especially on older posts.