Colorado Avalanche: Who Is the Second Best Goalie in Team History?

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 26: Goaltender Patrick Roy
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 26: Goaltender Patrick Roy /

While Patrick Roy is clearly the best goalie in Colorado Avalanche history, there is considerable debate as to who is the second best in franchise history.

No matter how a fan of the Colorado Avalanche feels about Patrick Roy as a coach, talent evaluator, or hockey personality, all of which can be debated, there is no debating that Roy is the greatest goaltender in the history of the franchise. He may well be the greatest goalie in NHL history. On the other hand, the back-up goalie on the Avs all-time roster is far less clear.

The sad reality is that no goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche, other than Patrick Roy, has ever put together two excellent seasons. There have been a few stellar years, but they have been like comets, burning extremely brightly, but fizzling out just as quickly. There have been others, who have compiled stats over the course of many years, but never succeeded as an elite starter.

Let’s take a look at some of the contenders for the back-up goaltender position on the all-time Colorado Avalanche roster.

David Aebischer

DENVER – OCTOBER 29: Goalie David Aebischer
DENVER – OCTOBER 29: Goalie David Aebischer /

We begin with Patrick Roy’s successor… David Aebischer. Aebi was Roy’s back-up for his first three seasons with the Avalanche, including the 2000-01 season. As such, Aebi is the only goalie in this conversation who has a Stanley Cup ring, earned during his rookie season. He was an excellent back-up giving an incredibly talented team a chance to win most games he started.

Following Roy’s retirement in the summer of 2003, the Avalanche turned to Aebischer as their new starter. And for one glorious season, Aebi was fantastic. David put up a 32-19-9 record with 4 shutouts and 2.09 GAA during the 2003-04 season. In the playoffs, Aebi was even better, leading Colorado over Dallas in Round 1 in five games.

Round 2 brought a defensive struggle with San Jose. In games 3, 4, and 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals with the Sharks, Aebischer allowed a total of two goals. Unfortunately, the Avs didn’t score much either, and they lost the series in 6 games. The Game 5 victory at the Shark Tank is still the last playoff game the Avalanche have won outside the first round.

Unfortunately, and this will not be the last time we see this pattern, Aebischer was never able to replicate his initial success. I feel like no other player suffered more from the cancellation of the 2004-05 NHL season than David Aebischer. After a rough start to the 2005-06 season, Aebi was never able to regain the organization’s confidence as the starter and he was traded to Montreal.

Jose Theodore


The person Aebischer was traded to Montreal for… Jose Theodore. Theodore came to the Avalanche with an impressive resume, including both the Hart and Vezina trophies for the Canadiens during the 2001-02 season. However, he came to the team with an injury, limiting him to five games to get ready for the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs.

More from Mile High Sticking

Theodore was good in a first round upset of the Dallas Stars before he and the Avs fell apart in the second round, an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Theodore’s fall from grace continued as he lost the starting job in his first full season with Colorado, and the Avalanche missed the playoffs for the first time.

The 2007-08 season proved a bounce back year for Theodore and the Avs. Jose had his best year in burgundy and blue leading the team to the playoffs with a 28-21-3 record, 3 shutouts, and 2.44 GAA. The 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs were a microcosm of Theodore’s stay with the Avalanche in the span of less than a month.

Theodore played his best hockey as a member of the Avalanche during a first round upset of the Minnesota Wild. It is still the last series the Avs have won. In Round 2, Theodore suffered through injuries and illness and was incredibly ineffective as Colorado was swept by Detroit, getting pulled in three of four games. His tenure with the Avs was over.

Peter Budaj

NASHVILLE, TN – MARCH 12: Peter Budaj
NASHVILLE, TN – MARCH 12: Peter Budaj /

The man who replaced Theodore in those three playoff games… Peter Budaj. Budaj’s tenure with the Colorado Avalanche is the most unique in this conversation. Peter spent six full seasons with the Avalanche from 2005-2011. He led the team in games played as a goalie three times, but never in consecutive years, meaning he won and lost the starting job frequently.

Budaj’s best season for the Avalanche was the 2006-07 season. He entered the season as Jose Theodore’s back-up, but Budaj won the starting job eventually posting a career best record of 31-16-6, 3 shutouts and 2.68 GAA. Unfortunately, the team missed the playoffs by a single point. This changes the narrative on Budaj’s career with the Avalanche.

In Budaj’s three seasons as a back-up goaltender, the Avalanche made the playoffs each season. In all three seasons in which he led the team in games played, Colorado missed the playoffs. Budaj was often good enough to be a contributor to a good team, but when he was relied upon to be the unquestioned starting goaltender, the results were often disappointing.

Craig Anderson

DENVER – APRIL 18: Goalie Craig Anderson
DENVER – APRIL 18: Goalie Craig Anderson /

The best example of a Colorado Avalanche netminder being a supernova… Craig Anderson. Anderson signed with the Avs as a free agent in the summer of 2009 to very little fanfare. He had been a career back-up with the Blackhawks and Panthers and he was expected to battle the incumbent Budaj for the starting job during the 2009-10 season.

Instead, Anderson had a breakout season with a career best 71 games played, 38 wins, and 7 shutouts. He led an overachieving team to a postseason appearance. In game 3 of that first round series against the vastly superior San Jose Sharks, Anderson made 51 saves in a 1-0 shutout in an overtime victory the team really didn’t deserve. That game was the apex of Andy’s stint in Denver.

The Avalanche lost the next three games, and the 2010-11 season was far from the storybook season of the previous year. Anderson missed time with injury and was not effective when he did play. Amid contract squabbling he was unceremoniously traded to Ottawa, in February 2011.

Semyon Varlamov

colorado avalanche
colorado avalanche /

The final candidate for all-time Colorado Avalanche back-up… Semyon Varlamov. Varly was acquired for first, and second round picks from the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2011. He has now been the starter for six years. As such, he leads the team in most categories, but the team has not had much success during his tenure as the starter.

Varly’s best year with the Avs was the 2013-14 season. He posted 41 wins, a number even Patrick Roy never posted with the Avs in a single season. He led the team to their only Division Championship outside the Patrick Roy era. Unfortunately, the team lost in the first round of the playoffs, and Varly did not play nearly as well as he had all season long.

It is difficult to judge Varlamov’s time in Colorado as it is still going on. If he has one more really good season, in which he leads the team out of the first round, I believe he would settle the debate. However, until that happens, if it ever does, Varlamov is only one of many, rather than the clear cut choice as the Avs all-time back up.


There are many ways to judge success when looking at the goaltender position. Does one look at individual statistics, or team success? Does one look at single seasons, or does one try to look at the bigger picture of a player’s entire tenure within an organization?

I believe that Varly has had the most statistical success when looking at things with a big picture view. He has the most regular season games played, wins, and shutouts. However, he has only navigated the team to the postseason once in six years, and that run lasted only seven games.

If team success is your main category, then David Aebischer, or Jose Theodore are the candidates for you. Aebi has a Stanley Cup ring and is the last Avs goalie to win a game past the first round. Theodore is the last Avs goalie to get there. He also is the only Avs goalie, other than Roy to win multiple playoff series.

If a single season is your pleasure, there is a case to be made for Craig Anderson’s 2009-10 season with 7 shutouts, more than any goalie not named Roy in an Avs jersey. One could also make the case for Aebi’s 2003-04 season (2.09 GAA), or Varly’s 2013-14 season (41 wins) as the best in Avs history.

Next: Roy Beats Brodeur

In any case, the debate on second best goalie in Colorado Avalanche history is one that will likely continue until a netminder leads this team deep into the playoffs on a regular basis. The downside of having Patrick Roy as the best goalie in franchise history is that there is a large drop off to the second best. Please share your ideas on the matter below.