Reto Berra: Why He Is Good Enough to Be Avalanche Backup


The Colorado Avalanche made the final decision to go into the season with a bad goaltender (Reto Berra) instead of a good one (Calvin Pickard) as Semyon Varlamov’s backup. But the thing is, Berra is neither a bad goaltender nor is this decision final.

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Finding elite goalies that will succeed in the NHL is not an easy task. Hockey goaltenders are kind of like football quarterbacks. For some inexplicable reason, NFL teams struggle regularly, on their search for a deserving starting quarterback. The Cleveland Browns haven’t been able to find a decent quarterback in a rather long time, just like the Edmonton Oilers can’t seem to find a decent goaltender.

Luckily, the Colorado Avalanche has not had to deal with that problem ever since Varlamov came to Denver. When Varlamov stands between the pipes — no matter if it’s against Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin or anyone else — you know that a win is possible. It may take 54 saves to shut out the Chicago Blackhawks, but that’s what Varlamov is there for.

When the Russian star is injured or given a break, however, things can get shaky in the Avalanche’s crease. Reto Berra is known for bad positional play and odd save attempts that end in ugly goals against. But how bad is he really?

As said before, Berra may indeed be the worst of the Avalanche’s top three goalies. However, considering that Pickard likely won’t be able to repeat his stats, Berra shouldn’t be considered as much worse as Pickard as he is said to be.

Goalie Stats Courtesy of

As seen in the chart, Pickard is clearly the best goalie stat-wise, which also put him close to the top of the league. However, he won’t be able to repeat those stats, especially when he plays more than last year’s 16 games. So, leaving Pickard out of this conversation for now, Reto Berra actually seems to be really close to Varlamov’s statistics.

In 2014-15, Berra had an adjusted save percentage of .930, while Varlamov’s was .929. Therefore, Berra was in fact “better” than Varlamov, as long as we are still just talking about statistics. Furthermore, Berra’s “standard” save percentage was .918, which is better than the league average (.915).

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So, stat-wise, Reto Berra really isn’t that bad of a goaltender. The big issue is his (in-)consistency. Berra made the NHL and stuck around for two years for a reason. However, his play isn’t always at that level. Berra can play a decent game, but then lose it for the team by struggling for five minutes.

Still, Berra is generally a good goaltender and if there is one person who can judge about that, it’s Patrick Roy. But even if he turns out to be nothing more than an AHL-level goalie, it shouldn’t hurt the team too much.

First of all, Varlamov will likely get 60, maybe 65 starts again — as long as he stays healthy. That would only leave 17 games for Berra to do his thing. Plus, if Berra isn’t successful, the Avalanche can still call up Pickard, and send Berra down to San Antonio.

But for now, Roy has made the right call. Both Berra and Pickard had some good games during preseason and a decision had to be made. This way, the Avalanche doesn’t have any more dead salary in the AHL, and Pickard gets the starts he needs to develop. A happy ending (except this controversy isn’t over yet).

Next: 4 Lessons From Preseason

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