Colorado Avalanche in a Goalie Crisis

The Colorado Avalanche’s lack of goalie depth has been exposed, leaving the team in a weak situation at the back end.

Colorado Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer is good. Often, he’s downright great. He’s even been known to steal games — that casual leg lift from the playoffs two seasons ago comes to mind.

Grubauer has had his off days, just as any goalie will. The last game against the Coyotes is what I’m thinking of. Letting in three goals in 14 shots –.786 save percentage — didn’t do the Avs any favors. Yes, they were deflections. Watch that playoff save — goalies on their game can track the puck even in impossible circumstances.

Yes, Grubauer is a good-great goalie. Patrick Roy he ain’t, but no one has been since 2003. Unfortunately, it’s beginning to look like he’s not even Semyon Varlamov, who could play 50 games in a season and truly steal some games.

The problem isn’t strictly Grubauer or even mostly Grubauer. The problem is that he’s it for the Avalanche. Colorado was betting on a goalie tandem that did more than serviceably well last season. Unfortunately, right at the beginning of the season, January 17, the second half of that tandem got injured. Pavel Francouz suffered an injury in practice, and he’s been out since then. In February, the team put him on long-term injured reserve.

A lot of fans, myself included, and even sports reporters worried in the offseason that the Grubauer-Francouz tandem wouldn’t be sufficient to carry the team. And with half of that tandem out, it certainly isn’t.

And Colorado is just one Grubauer injury away from utter disaster in the back end. Everyone send healing rays to his hips. Especially with the load he’s currently having to bear.

In Francous’ absence, the Colorado Avalanche have been relying on 25-year-old Hunter Miska, who had a total of five NHL games of experience. Four of them have been with Colorado, all this season in relief of Grubauer.

This will not become a Hunter Miska hate post. The goalie could never have expected to be the primary backup for the Avs this season. However, he’s got a 3.50 goals against average and a .865 save percentage. That’s simply not going to cut it as the team’s primary backup.

The problem is that Colorado doesn’t have much of a choice. The only other goalies they have at their disposal are equally as inexperienced — or moreso — and even younger than Miska. Those players are Justus Annunen (20 years old, no NHL experience) and Adam Werner (23 years old, 2 NHL games). They might be a bright future for Colorado, but they’re not the now for the team.

So, what can the team do about the situation? Well, their only choice seems to be to trade for a goalie. That said, what was once an advantage the team enjoyed — cap space — has been eaten up by some big contracts they had to dole out. Even with putting Francouz and defenseman Erik Johnson on LTIR, they’re very close to the cap ceiling.

The only other option, and it’s a long shot, is to hopefully discover another Francouz in Europe. The Czech goalie was never drafted. Colorado’s overseas scouts simply discovered him after he’d matured in the European leagues. Maybe, just maybe they can uncover another such gem.

Or we can send some serious healing rays Francouz’s way. But after being gone for almost two months, he’d need some conditioning to be ready for NHL action again anyway.

So, the Colorado Avalanche do have a goalie crisis. Hopefully enough of the other Avs players on IR can get healthy and at least offer better protection to whomever is in net on a given night.