After Roy: Goaltenders in Colorado’s System 

By Tom Mara

The concept of the Colorado Avalanche without Patrick Roy
is tough to fathom, but it could very well happen for the 2003-04 season. 
The certain Hall-of-Fame goalie has not yet announced his plans for the
future, but in the meantime speculation has centered on all kinds of potential
replacements, among them former Cup-winner Chris Osgood. 
However, it begs the question:  Who
do the Avalanche have in the organization who could fill a void?  This organization has sent Marc Denis, David Aebischer and J.
F. Labbe to the NHL, so a look though the system is warranted and shows a few
intriguing possibilities.  

David Aebischer apprenticed in Hershey while Marc
Denis played the second spot in Denver.  The
Swiss-born goalie moved into the backup slot when Denis was selected by Columbus
in the expansion draft, and has held that spot for three seasons. 
After two very good seasons, he suffered through a losing year in
2002-03, though his GAA of 2.43 and his save percentage of .916 were certainly
respectable.  This sixth round pick
who worked his way through the system is rarely mentioned when discussing
Roy’s replacement, as both fans and the press are unsure if he’s up to the
#1 spot.  Avs management is
understandably mum on the topic. 

Down on the farm in Hershey, two goalies drafted in the
second round may be the future of Colorado. Phil Sauve, the main man in
Hershey for the past two seasons, is a solid goaltender with an NHL pedigree
(his dad, Bob, played over a decade of NHL hockey). 
He’s a butterfly goalie with the reflexes to pick up rebounds, and
those same reflexes make him very tough against breakaways. 
Sauve’s
competitive nature, while an asset in regards to most of his
game, occasionally becomes a liability when he lets it get the better of him. 
He’s won several games in the playoffs nearly singlehandedly, but lost
his composure in Game 4 of a Houston sweep last season after keeping the Bears
in the first three games.  Sauve
seems to have improved that part of his game this past season, as he helped the
Bears stretch the defending Calder Cup champion Chicago Wolves to overtime in
the final game of their series.  There
was considerable speculation that he would have moved up to Colorado if
Aebischer had been dealt at the trading deadline, but that never came to pass.

Rookie Peter Budaj held down the backup position for
the Bears this past season, and showed enough to get fans excited about his
future.  After a rough start, the rookie (who turned 20 during camp)
more than held his own over the second half of the season, posting a pair of
shutouts and a .500 record.  He
relies heavily on positioning as opposed to Sauve’s more reflex-oriented
style, but it works very well for him.  Budaj’s
adjustment to the backup spot was remarkable for a 20-year old, as he posted
several impressive showings off of long layoffs.  His most notable weakness was a tendency to let a second goal
in quickly after a first, but that’s a tendency many young goalies work
through, and he improved that aspect of his game as the season progressed.  
His immediate hope is to be the Bears #1 goalie next season, but Budaj
shows all the necessary tools to see the NHL in his future. 

Colorado Goalies Statistics

SeasonTeamLeagueGPMin.WLTGAAPCTSO
Aebischer2000-01ColoradoNHL26139312732.24.9033
2001-02ColoradoNHL21118413601.88.9312
2002-03ColoradoNHL22123571202.43.9161
Sauve2000-01HersheyAHL422182171812.75.9143
2001-02HersheyAHL553130252062.13.9286
2002-03HersheyAHL6033942620122.37.9175
Budaj2001-02Toronto St.
Michael’s
OHL42232926952.29.9222
2002-03HersheyAHL281467101022.66.9112

The Avs could decide to go with an Aebischer / Sauve tandem
to start next season, and then see about getting an experienced netminder during
the campaign if the tandem shows growing pains. 
If this happens, they could also
sign a veteran and assign him to Hershey as a tutor to Budaj and a safety valve
for the Avs.  A more likely approach
will be to try to obtain an experienced goalie using either Sauve or Aebischer
as part of a package, with the one not traded manning the backup position. 
Barring a miracle in camp, Budaj will continue his apprenticeship in
Hershey.  In any event, look for the
Avs to draft a goalie this June to replenish the system, as the only other
goaltender in the system is Tyler Weiman, who has put up mediocre numbers over
two seasons for the Tri-City Americans in the WHL. 

Discuss the Colorado Avalanche on the
Hockey’s Future Message Boards.