Colorado Avalanche: The Case for Reto Berra as Backup Goaltender


The Colorado Avalanche is only a few more weeks away from training camp. With it comes one of the biggest roster questions: Reto Berra or Calvin Pickard for backup? The answer seems easy, as it should obviously be the better one of the two, which would be Pickard. However, a case can be made for Berra as well.

Before we start, let’s take another look at the three Avalanche goalies.

The chart was talked about in detail in “The Case for Calvin Pickard“, so, for more information, please check that out first.

It doesn’t take much to notice that Pickard has a better adjusted save percentage than the other two, despite having faced quite a few more shots per 60 minutes. One thing that stands out in Berra’s favor — somewhat surprisingly — is that he has a better adjusted save percentage than Varlamov. It is better by .1 percent, but it is still surprising.

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In fact, according to, Berra’s adjusted save percentage was better than that of goalies like Ben Bishop (92.47) and Frederik Andersen (91.83). While it is surprising that he posted better numbers than some of the better goalies in the league, we knew that Berra plays like a true NHL goalie at times. He even posted a shutout last season.

The problem is his consistency. Berra constantly switches back and forth between playing like a good NHL backup, and playing like a decent AHL goalie. And I am not talking switches between games. Berra could actually start a game looking great, and finish it looking like the goalie version of Marc-Andre Cliche.

That said, the one thing that’s really working in his favor, is Berra’s contract. The Swiss goalie has two years left on a three-year, one-way deal, which pays him an average of $1.45 million, according to Pickard, on the other hand, just signed a new one-year, two-way deal, which would pay him $67,500 in the AHL.

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So, the options are to have a good backup that’s

a little bit

very inconsistent and a better third goalie who makes a modest salary in the AHL, or to have a slightly better and more consistent backup, while paying your third goalie millions in the AHL. Just from a business standpoint, the former seems to make a lot more sense for the Colorado Avalanche.

It will likely be decided in training camp — assuming the issue isn’t solved by injury. So, what will either goalie have to do to win the Colorado Avalanche’s backup role?

That isn’t easy to determine. Generally, you should try to have the best team you possibly can — which would likely put Pickard in the backup position. But, hockey is a business, and the Colorado Avalanche is no exception. Having big contracts in the AHL would be bad, especially when Nate Guenin and Cliche are also candidates for an AHL role. Furthermore, coach Patrick Roy may prefer Pickard in a big starting role in the AHL, instead of having him play 20 games in the NHL.

Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pickard starting in San Antonio, while Berra starts for the Colorado Avalanche — no matter how each one does in training camp. Depending on how well — or not — Berra and Pickard do in their respective roles, Roy could still switch the two.

Related: San Antonio Rampage 2015-16 Roster Outlook

The only problem with that would be Berra’s waiver eligibility. Sure, if Roy scratches him off the roster, he may be happy to see him be claimed by another team (Buffalo and Florida have questionable backups right now). However, if Pickard doesn’t work out in the NHL just yet, and Berra is gone, the next call-up would be Roman Will or Spencer Martin.

So, maybe it would be easier to let Berra start in the AHL, regardless of his contract. If Pickard works out, perfect. If not, Berra can be called up, and Pickard can be demoted without having to clear waivers. Seems like an easy decision.

As you see, there is a lot to be considered by Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, and the owners as well. There is good and bad about having either one of the potential backups in either one of the possible roles. A case can be made for both, and now it is up to the Colorado Avalanche to make a decision.

Next: The Case for Calvin Pickard

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