Canadian Press writer Pierre LeBrun has a blog/column at ESPN.com. In it, he responds to reader emails that usually vary in quality between moderately uninformed to persistently retarded. Such is the life of a mainstream journalist, I suppose.
LeBrun's latest "blog" addresses the Western Conference and the prospects for various teams to do well or suck horrendously. Naturally, the Avalanche came up. After two emails from doom-and-gloomers and one from a more positive observer, LeBrun offers this gem of a response:
My take: Funny how a year ago at this time, no one thought Jose Theodore could stop a beach ball. Now, he's the No. 1 reason people think the Avs are toast because he's gone. Such is life in the NHL! Today's perception is rarely tomorrow's. Still, the fact is Colorado's goaltending is comprised of two netminders that lost their starting jobs to other guys last season -- Peter Budaj to Theodore and Andrew Raycroft to Vesa Toskala. That's not terribly inspiring. I agree with the last reader (ballsy comment) that the Avs blue line is pretty deep. No question there. I don't think the free fall will be quite as dramatic as so many people believe, but we're talking about a team that will be in that five-to-six team race for seventh and eighth.
First of all, Theodore really couldn't stop a beach ball a year ago. And there's a strong possibility that the only reason he became able to do so was because coach Joel Quenneville finally gave him some consistent starts. Those consistent starts were at the expense of Peter Budaj, of course.
Budaj and Theodore are alike in one very important way. When Quenneville finally abandoned his cursed goalie carousel, both goalies immediately improved. In 2006-07, when Budaj was given the starting job, he was the rock upon which the ill-fated Streak (15-2-2) was built. In 2007-08, when Theodore was given the starting job, he became the irresistible Pimp Cane, and put up some of the best numbers of his career.
But Theodore didn't steal the starting job from Peter Budaj. Budaj never had it in the first place. Don't you have to actually have the starting job in order to lose it? When Theodore was given his chance, the goalie carousel had been in effect for much of the season to that point. Budaj wasn't excelling because he wasn't given the opportunity to do so.
It is true that Budaj had gotten consistent starts immediately before Jose Theodore was plopped into the permanent starting position on January 5th during last season. But Budaj's record in the seven straight games he played between December 13th and December 27th was 5-1-1. Even including his non-consecutive start on January 2nd, his record was still 5-2-1. Does that seem like the record of a goalie who deserves to lose a starting job---assuming he had that job in the first place?
This stubborn insistence by many hockey "journalists" that Peter Budaj was somehow usurped by Jose Theodore---and therefore is a terrible, unreliable goaltender---completely ignores the roles played by Coach Q and the Avalanche front office in the whole Save-Theodore-At-Any-Cost campaign, not to mention the persistent insanity of the goalie carousel before it.
Peter Budaj was not the starting goalie of the Colorado Avalanche before Jose Theodore was given the job. Nobody was. The role was shared by both until Joel Quenneville gave it to Theodore arbitrarily. Budaj did not lose it.
I understand that serious hockey journalists can't be bothered to look things up, since they're so busy answering emails and whatnot, but all LeBrun has to do is check out the very website he's posting to, and he'd have a better idea what he's talking about.
ADDENDUM: And just because I can't beat this dead horse enough, I want to add this little pre-season statistical nugget Drafty came up with at ITCS yesterday:
- Budaj: 192.7 minutes, 6 GA, 1.87 GAA, .936 Sv%
- Raycroft: 89.1 min, 7 GA, 4.71 GAA, .781 Sv%