Reto Berra Should be Avalanche Backup Goalie


Reto Berra should be Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov’s back up for the 2015-16 season. Calvin Pickard should head to San Antoinio and play for the Rampage.

These are not popular opinions. In fact, I daresay the only statement on which the majority of Avs fans agree is that Semyon Varlomov is the Colorado Avalanche’s #1 goalie. However, there’s rationale for leaving Reto Berre as Varly’s backup and have Pickard “going down to San Antone.” (song title)

Calvin Pickard’s Development

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Head coach Patrick Roy sent Calvin Pickard back to the AHL last season even though he had a heroic December for the Colorado Avalanche. Roy was clear in his rationale — Pickard needs to play to improve.

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic concurs:

"“I think a young guy has to play, keep working on your game. Is it going to hurt him to play another year in the minors as a #1 goalie, to back up what he did [last season]? No.”"

Coach Roy has already hinted that Varlamov is going to play the majority of the games next season. Sitting on the bench watching Varlamov isn’t going to help Pickard improve his game.

With the Avalanche, Pickard played in 16 games last season, going 6-7-0. (It should be noted it was in those dark days before the Avalanche reached their stride.) Nonetheless, he recorded an impressive .932 save percentage. Picks faced a lot of shots.

Pickard’s numbers weren’t quite as impressive with the Lake Erie Monsters, last year’s AHL-affiliate, but then he played in a lot more games — 43. He went 16-18-7 and recorded a .906 save percentage.

Pickard is just 23, which is young for a goalie. (You can’t judge by Patrick Roy, who backstopped the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup victory at 20 years old.) Goalies have to develop instincts to go with their skill and talent, and that comes with playing.

With the new-affiliate Rampage, Picks is the #1 and will get the start in the majority of the games. After one more year of honing his skills, Pickard should be ready to transition to the Avalanche — and maybe even challenge Varly for the #1 position, or at least take some of the burden of playing time off of his shoulders.

Calvin Pickard’s highlight reel save in his NHL debut:

Reto Berra’s Position

On the other side we have Reto Berra. Berra is a good goal tender. He is not a phenomenal goal tender, and he doesn’t have it in him to develop into one. He can hone his skills a bit more, but he just doesn’t have that flair it takes to be an Avalanche goalie.

See, Avs goalies face a lot of shots. Colorado is never a defensive team. Coach Roy even said in the post-draft interviewing that he didn’t really care about minimizing shots, only scoring chances. Read — Avs goalies may face upwards of 30+ shots again next season.

That said, Reto Berra is a solid backup. He played in 19 games last season and went 5-4-1. He even recorded a shut out, in the penultimate game of the season. His save percentage was a decent .918 for the season.

Reto Berra earns his first NHL shutout:

Goalie Battle

Coach Roy said the backup position for Varlamov would get decided during training camp and the preseason. Berra and Pickard are going to battle it out.

Both Reto Berra and Calvin Pickard attended a goalie training camp in Verbier, Switzerland, put on by Avalanche goalie coach Francois Allaire. Even though the two will be battling it out come September, Pickard says the two get along very well.

In an interview with Nicola Martinetti of Eurolanche, Pickard said of the competition for the backup spot:

"“It’s just the way it has to be in the NHL, beat someone out for a spot. It’s going to be a battle. I love Reto and we know it’s gonna be a friendly competition even if obviously we both want to be there. It’s out of our hands in terms of decision making, we can just give everything we have and see what happens.”"

For both Berra’s and Pickard’s sakes, I hope Reto Berra gets the backup spot. It’s the best situation for both goalies.

Next: Avs Player Profile: Reto Berra

Next: Avs Star of the Week: Calvin Pickard

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