In the first instalment of an offseason series, Mile High Sticking takes a deep dive into the 25-year history of the Avalanche, and celebrates the most obscure, brief, and forgotten players. In this edition, we remember the one-year stint of netminder Andrew Raycroft.
The summer of 2008 was a strange time for the Colorado Avalanche.
A few seasons before, they were the perennial President’s Trophy-winning, huge free agent signing, team that boasted no less than four future Hall of Famers. After missing the playoffs in 2007, they were on track to the way they used to be. Literally too, because they managed to re-acquire former franchise faces Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg for a playoff run that involved a Detroit Red Wings series. You know, like old times.
And like some old times, it didn’t exactly end well. In this case, the Avs got swept by a Wings team that went on to win their most recent Stanley Cup.
Then summer 2008 rolled along. Sakic was eventually convinced to return for a 20th season. Forsberg, meanwhile, opted to remain a free agent, eventually returning to MODO in Sweden. Jeff Finger allegedly got confused for Kurt Sauer, leading to a payday with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a dent in the legacy of Cliff Fletcher. Former Avalanche eliminator with the Minnesota Wild, Andrew Brunette, opted to return to the Minnesota Wild, shocking everybody. Coach Joel Quenneville left to coach the Blackhawks, where he might have won a few Cups or something.
Also leaving was Jose Theodore, for a shiny starting gig in Washington, freeing up the starting spot for 25 year old Peter Budaj. This left a backup spot open, one GM Francois Giguere was happy to have a seasoned free agent goalie occupy. All three of those words matched Andrew Raycroft.
How He Got Here
Things weren’t going great for Andrew Raycroft in 2008. 28 years old, and 4 years removed from a Calder Trophy-winning breakout season with the Boston Bruins, he was supplanted by an upstart Tim Thomas in his sophomore full year. With Thomas and rookie Hannu Toivonen in their system, and unwilling to pay his salary, the Bruins intended to buy him out.
Raycroft struggled with the Leafs, unable to live up to his initial stellar season, putting up .894 and .876 seasons. Pushed out of his starter role by the equally ill-fated Vesa Toskala his second season, Raycroft would be waived and bought out a few days later.
The same day the Avalanche added winger Darcy Tucker (himself perfect for a future edition of this series), bought out from the Leafs days before, GM Francois Giguere figured two bought-out Leafs couldn’t hurt. Signed to a one-year, $800,000 deal, Raycroft was a safe bet in a goalie market featuring such names as Olaf Kolzig, Ty Conklin, and Marc Denis.
As Budaj struggled in the spotlight, Raycroft didn’t have a bad start. For an Avs team that was missing Sakic and Paul Stastny for most of the season, Raycroft managed a 9-1 record going into early January, seven of those in a row. Unfortunately, he followed this with six straight losses, most of these backstopping a weakened team. A game against his old team saw 7 goals allowed.
In the 14 games he played the rest of the season, he only amounted to three wins, finishing with a 12-16 record and .892 save percentage.
Did It Work?
No, not really.
Raycroft had the unlucky fortune to join the Avs during a very ugly time. The beginning of what would become their worst period since moving to Denver, 2008-09 saw Giguere and coach Tony Granato lose their jobs, Sakic opt to retire after an injury-riddled season, Budaj forced into a position he wasn’t ready for, and an Avs team that finished at the bottom of the Western Conference for the first time.
Maybe with a better team in front of him he might have found a better stint as a backup, but Raycroft wore out his welcome the 31 games he played. The Avs kept Budaj on as a backup, and signed Craig Anderson that summer.
Raycroft went to the Vancouver Canucks for a season, backing up Roberto Luongo, where he also got his final playoff appearance. After two seasons with the Dallas Stars organization, he finished his career in Europe. He now works as a NESN studio analyst, and claims an active presence on Twitter.
The #1 wore by Raycroft ended up being adopted by Semyon Varlamov, further erasing any evidence of his stint.
I liked his pads. Really, those were some sweet pads. Before a lot of players went with boring white pad designs, players used to do stuff like this, and it was great.