Colorado Avalanche: Evaluating Pavel Francouz for Next Season

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 22: Goaltender Pavel Francouz #39 of the Colorado Avalanche in action during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 22, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 22: Goaltender Pavel Francouz #39 of the Colorado Avalanche in action during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 22, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche have named rookie Pavel Francous as their backup goalie. Will he be up to the task?

Many Colorado Avalanche fans, myself included, were advocating for Pavel Francouz to take over the backup goalie position when Philipp Grubauer was faltering. Well, as we know, Grubauer not only kept his backup position, he won the starting spot.

Indeed, as it stands, Grubauer is Colorado’s number-one goalie. And, as it stands, Francouz is his backup.

The Avs signed Francouz to another one-year deal after signing him as an undrafted free agent last summer. At the time of the re-signing, GM Joe Sakic said of the Czech goalie:

"“We are excited to have Pavel back with the Avalanche organization for another year. He had a very strong first season in North America last year, being named an AHL All-Star and leading the Eagles to the Calder Cup Playoffs. He brings extensive international experience and got a taste of the NHL last year and performed well.”"

Sakic further intimated that, in fact, he intended for Francouz to be Grubauer’s backup.

Pavel Francouz spent the majority of last season playing for the AHL Colorado Eagles. He played 49 regular-season games with them, recording a 2.68 goals against average and .918 save percentage. His record was 27-17-3 in that time.

His playoffs were a little rough. He started four games for the Eagles, going 1-3 with a 3.31 GAA and .895 save percentage.

More from Mile High Sticking

What concerns me is the 29-year-old’s lack of NHL experience. His “taste of the NHL” consists of zero starts. He sat in as Grubauer’s backup when Semyon Varlamov was out with illness in December and again in January when Varlamov was banged up.

Remember my comment about Grubauer struggling? Well, you might remember that late December through January were some of the down times for the Avs, and goal tending was seen as an issue.

In fact, in that first game, December 22 against the Arizona Coyotes, Grubauer allowed four goals on 16 shots. Midway through the second period, after that fourth goal, Jared Bednar put Francouz in. Pavel played 29:15. We’ll look at his performance in a moment.

Grubauer was again the starter in the January 2 game against the San Jose Sharks because Semyon Varlamov was banged up. Again, Francouz sat as his backup. And, again, he entered the game when Grubauer allowed four goals in 14 shots this time. Pavel played 31:56 in that game.

So, essentially Pavel Francouz has one game’s worth of NHL experience spread out over two games. He also sat as Grubauer’s backup in one more game but didn’t see any action in the 5-1 win over the New York Rangers.

That’s an awful lot of inexperience to put as the primary backup. Even if Bednar plays the heck out of Grubauer, you’ve got to expect his backup to get at least 30 starts.

Now, here’s the caveat: Pavel “performed well” with the two chances he was given. He allowed only one goal in each game. He recorded a .955 save percentage against the Coyotes, stopping 21 of 22 shots. He recorded a .923 save percentage against the Sharks, stopping 12 of 13 shots.

Unfortunately, both goals were the game-winners. Therefore, Francouz is the goalie on the record for the loss. It’s not fair, but that’s how the scoring shook out.

What gives me hope is that Francouz didn’t look out-played in either game. He looked like he belonged. That’s especially difficult when you’re the replacement goalie for one that’s been pulled — especially since the pull was mid-period, not between periods.

Here’s Francouz in his debut:

Holy moly, breakaways must be adrenaline rushes for goalies. Yet watch Francouz come way out of his crease to challenge Richard Panik then collapse back to make the glove save. (By the way, the play started on a Tyson Barrie turnover. I’m going to miss T-Brat — but not plays like that.)

Here’s Francouz scrambling a bit in his crease to make a pair of saves:

I like how cool-headed he stays.

Does that level of play from Francouz show promise? Absolutely. Is that level of play adequate enough for the 29-year-old to be Grubauer’s backup — especially since the latter will be a starter for the first time in his career?

I’m not so sure about that proposition. The jury’s still somewhat out on Grubauer — I don’t feel comfortable with the rookie goalie as our main backup.

dark. Next. Saying Goodbye to Varly

The Colorado Avalanche only have one other goalie in the system, Adam Werner. Obviously, they need to make a signing or two at the position to even complete a roster at both the NHL and AHL levels. They may well choose a seasoned NHL goalie as a backup to the backup.

There’s not a lot on the market in that respect. So, we may just have to see how this Grubauer-Francouz tandem plays out.

What do you think of that goal tending tandem, Avs fans?