So far, the Avalanche’s gamble on fallen former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore has not paid off. Theodore was outplayed by Peter Budaj last year and, despite his $6 million salary against the cap, lost the No. 1 starting job. The 31-year-old Theodore’s 3.26 GAA and .891 save percentage won’t get it done for a starter in the NHL anymore.
Theodore recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss the start of training camp. While the procedure is minor, missing camp is never ideal. It takes a player – especially a goaltender – time to regain his rhythm.
As of now, it looks like the 25-year-old Budaj (2.67 GAA, .905 save percentage, 3 shutouts in 57 appearances) has the inside track to be the starter heading into the season. Entering his third NHL campaign, the Slovak keeper has improved slowly but steadily in each of his five professional seasons.
Budaj could be capable of holding off Theodore and being a decent NHL starter. One concern, though, is the fact he only has one AHL playoff game to his credit and no NHL postseason experience.
It would not be surprising if Quenneville gave both Budaj and Theodore significant playing time during the course of this season in the hopes that one man takes the job and runs with it heading into the playoffs.
Team defense and goaltending are a chicken-and-egg proposition. The better a goalie plays, the more confident the rest of the team plays in front of him. The better a team plays in front of its goalie, the more likely he is to challenge the shooters and slam the door when there is the occasional breakdown. The reverse is also true.
At least in 2006-07, Budaj was the Avalanche goalie who instilled more confidence in the rest of the club even though players and coaches will always say they have equal faith in both goaltenders.
In the Wings
Tyler Weiman -- The Avalanche drafted the 5-foot-11, 180 pound goalie in the fifth round, No. 164, of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Weiman established himself as an AHL starter in 2006-07 after splitting the previous season between the ECHL and AHL. He posted a 27-22-3 record with a 2.99 GAA and .905 save percentage with the Albany River Rats. The 23-year-old will likely need another year of minor-league seasoning.
Avalanche goaltender Jose Theodore discussing his plan for improvement:
"Challenging shooters, and going out there with the attitude of not thinking about the second shot. When I'm on top of my game, I challenge. It makes things easier for me."