Colorado Avalanche: Solving the Goal Tending Crisis

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 21: Goaltender Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche eyes a loose puck against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center on January 21, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 21: Goaltender Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche eyes a loose puck against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center on January 21, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche have a goalie crisis. Unfortunately, the team has limited options for solving that crisis.

The Colorado Avalanche have a goal tending crisis. That language may seem a little inflammatory, but there’s no question goal tending has been costing the team games recently.

You only have to look at the save percentage in recent games to see it’s been a rollercoaster affair.

Semyon Varlamov:

  • .885
  • .968
  • .857
  • .850
  • .933
  • .733

Philipp Grubauer:

  • .700
  • .960
  • .714
  • .953
  • .750

Neither goalie has been universally bad — in fact, both goalies had really good games in the recent stretch. However, both goalies have had games where they weren’t even putting up league-average goal tending.

Currently, Varlamov has a .908 save percentage, which puts him at #30 int the entire NHL for goalies who’ve played at least 15 games. Philipp Grubauer isn’t far behind with his .895 save percentage putting him at #43. However, that’s not exactly promising from our two “number-one goalies.”

In fact, those standings get worse if you go back about 15 games, to that terrible New York Islanders game that seemed to spell doom for the Avalanche. From that point, Varlamov is at .885, putting him at #49 among goalies who’ve played at least five games. Grubauer is a little better with .890, keeping him at #43.

Those numbers aren’t good enough for Colorado Avalanche hockey. But what can we do about our goalie crisis?

Let Grubauer Take the Lead

I don’t know what’s going on with Semyon Varlamov. He’s in a contract year — he should be giving it his best shot to lure a team into giving him a lucrative contract. The fear is that he is giving it his best shot and is simply injured again — that would explain his slow movements, especially laterally.

Maybe it’s time to pass the torch to Philipp Grubauer. GM Joe Sakic traded for and signed Grubauer with the intention of the big German’s eventually being the number-one goalie. He had solid numbers in Washington, and… he’s been slightly better than Varlamov in the last month.

I’m not a huge fan of this option, but it is, technically, an option.

Give Francouz a Shot

The popular choice among Avalanche fans is to call Pavel Francouz up from the Colorado Eagles. The 28-year-old was a free agency signing over the summer. Technically, he’s been the best Avs goalie this season, posting a .943 save percentage. Unfortunately, he’s played in just two games, both times as backup, and he was credited with the loss both times. (Fluke, but still.)

Francouz has been good at the AHL level. He has a .916 save percentage in 28 games with the Eagles.

It’s a little tricky carrying three goalies on a roster, though, and most teams don’t do it unless one of the regular goalies is struggling with a short-term injury or illness.

Nonetheless, this option remains popular among Colorado Avalanche fans who are to the “Why not?” point of the season.

Give Martin a Shot

The other potential goalie for the Avalanche is Spencer Martin. The 23-year-old is… not great. Granted, he’s only 23, but he’s not having as great a season even in the AHL as Francouz. In 12 games, he’s recorded a .892 save percentage. He played in three NHL games two years ago, recording a .865 save percentage.

This doesn’t feel like a good option at all. Colorado should have him fourth after Francouz.

Trade for a New Goalie

Anybody got a spare goalie we can have? Probably not, or the St. Louis Blues probably would have snapped him up by now.

Nonetheless, Colorado could technically trade a draft pick or a prospect for an interim goalie. I think it’s a bad idea, though.

Give One of their Unsigned Goalies a Call

More from Mile High Sticking

The Colorado Avalanche have four unsigned goalies at their disposal.

Adam Werner, whom they drafted in 2016, is currently playing for Färjestad BK in the Swedish Hockey League. He has a .926 save percentage and 2.04 goals against average in 17 games. He played three games for the San Antonio Rampage (.880 save percentage, 3.35 GAA) last season. I guess that wasn’t good enough to earn an entry-level contract… at the time.

Petr Kvaca, whom they drafted in 2017 is bouncing around a bit within the Czech Leagues. At the Czech 2 level, he has a .930 save percentage and 1.62 GAA in 17 games. He’s played three games at the higher level, earning a .895 save percentage.

Justus Annunen, whom the Avs drafted in 2018, is playing in the Mestis League in Finland. He has a .894 save percentage and 2.65 GAA. The Mestis League is the second-highest in Finland. Annunen won’t be 19 until mid-March. That’s young.

Shamil Shmakov, whom the Avs drafted in 2018, is playing in the  Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga, which is essentially major juniors in Russia. He has a .920 save percentage and 2.48 GAA. He’s 19.

Yeah, that’s all a reach. Well, at least we might have some good goalies coming up the pipeline… eventually.

Ride it Out

This is the least sexy option, so, naturally, it’s the one Jared Bednar is choosing:

The Colorado Avalanche are going to let the two goalies “get competitive” for the number-one job — which is literally what it was supposed to be since Day One. So I don’t know what Bednar means by “I’ve changed my strategy.”

We need one of the goalies to “get hot” — yeah, no 💩.

Ok, fine, after reviewing the options above, I admit the Avs really don’t have much of a good choice but to ride out the goal tending crisis. It sucks, though, because said crisis might not bottom out until Colorado bottoms out — and falls out of the playoff bracket.

Maybe the top line can just get hot again and score a boatload of goals every game? After all, it doesn’t matter how many goals you allow as long as you score one more than the opponent. To be honest, that’s probably our best hope at the moment.

Next. What the Jost Demotion Really Means. dark

The Colorado Avalanche’s next game is tomorrow against the Minnesota Wild. After that, the Avs have the All Star break off followed by the bye week. I don’t know if those eight days off will be all that useful in helping solve the goalie crisis. The best we can hope for is that the Wild will have their own goalie woes.