Colorado Avalanche: Evaluating the Goalie Situation

The Colorado Avalanche aren’t as strong in goal as they thought they were. There are some viable options in free agency if they decide to augment.

The Colorado Avalanche looked pat in goal going into the playoffs. I won’t say goal tending cost them the series, because it didn’t. Not by a long shot. Michael Hutchinson came in having never tended in the playoffs, and he backstopped the Avalanche to 2-1 record. Unfortunately, that sole loss was in Game 7, overtime no less.

No, goal tending wasn’t a big reason the Avalanche lost the second round series, but it didn’t help to have both your starter, Philipp Grubauer, and your backup, Pavel Francouz, go down with injuries in the second round.

Grubauer’s injury was obvious. He went down to make a save and never came back up — not without help, that is. I don’t think it’s too much speculation to say he had a groin issue.

Francouz’s loss was more surprising. Hutchinson did go in for him in Game 4, but that’s after Francouz had let in five goals on 26 shots. It looked like a typical case of a goalie having an off night, and the backup going in to spell him.

Well, according to GM Joe Sakic, Francouz, too, had been playing injured. He said of the goalie, “He was battling through his issues once he came in.” That makes it sound like Francouz came into the bubble injured. If that was the case, why didn’t they bring Hunter Miska in to begin with?

In any case, Francouz was not himself. Sakic said of his performance:

“He’s an athletic goalie and he wasn’t able to push. I give him credit. He tried. He battled. He just couldn’t do it anymore.”

That left us with a capable Michael Hutchinson backed up by a most likely terrified Hunter Miska. A hot goalie wins you series and championships, and that wasn’t the tandem that was going to do it for Colorado.

To be honest, I find both those injuries alarming. Sakic said neither of those injuries are something to worry about, but how so? How did Grubauer get injured? I mean, I saw the play, that’s not what I’m asking. Rather, you’ve got to wonder if there are now-chronic groin issues.

And now we’re looking at Francouz. He’s had injury woes, too. And he’s hit 30 now. Do we keep riding him as the backup?

Sakic has said that’s exactly what the Avalanche plan on doing. He may be telling to truth, too. But Mr. Joe Sakic has gotten a reputation as a shrewd GM, and those GMs don’t give away their thoughts and intentions.

You all can stop dreaming about Robin Lehner, though. The 29-year-old goalie is rumored to have a gentleman’s contract extension with the Knights — five years at $5 million each. Sakic was never going to hand him that anyway — he’s no longer in the habit of handing out contracts that he’ll have to buy out at the end.

Are there other options? There are always other options. Stanley-Cup winning Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is a pending free agent. So, too, is Cam Talbot from Calgary and Mike Condon out of Tampa. Louis Domingue is another name that jumps out.

The one that looks most intriguing, though, is Stanley Cup-winning Washington goalie Braden Holtby will be a free agent. I know a lot of people are pointing out that he had a terrible year, and this a contract year. But he’s only 30 and he’s not injury prone, not on the level of Grubauer.

And Colorado does love their Washington goalies. Or Washington players in general. I’m not saying he’s a long-term option, but he could be a great player for a win-now team like the Colorado Avalanche.

Next: Mental Errors that Cost the Avalanche

On paper, and even in the regular season, the tandem of Grubauer and Francouz looks adequate. However, we saw this post-season that they’re not the tandem to take the Avalanche to Stanley Cup glory. This was Colorado’s year. We’ve still got a few, but those windows are so brief.

The Avs need a Cup-ready goalie tandem. I’m sure, despite his assurances otherwise, that Sakic will be making a few phone calls.