I'm a fan of Terry Frei. I consider him to be the best of a pretty good group of professional writers covering the Avalanche. But his article today on the goalie situation in Denver had me shaking my head in disbelief.
In short, Frei is in favor of returning to the alternating goalie system. In Frei's opinion, "neither — not Budaj, and certainly not Theodore — has proven worthy of being considered the guy" and that " it’s clear now that the Avs have a pair of backup goalies — at best." He's got the Theodore part right, but he's off on Budaj. Way off.
Seriously, what does Peter Budaj have to do to get some respect? He certainly doesn't have it from Joel Quenneville, but we already know our coach is a complete loon. But Frei? I'm speechless. Look, I don't think that Budaj is the second coming of Saint Patrick, but come on people. When he's gotten a chance to be the #1, he's performed admirably - at times, even carrying the team. In the last two seasons, playing in front of a defense that often has resembled the Keystone Kops, his record over 83 games is 45-24-8. I'll take 98 points from a backup goalie, Terry.
And, unlike Theodore, Budaj actually is better when he's getting a string of starts. His best month of last season was in March when he started 13 of 14 games. Over that stretch, he posted a 2.24 GAA and a .910 save percentage. And, oh yeah, he was 11-0-2 as he led the team back into playoff contention. This year, Quenneville threw Budaj back into the blender and, to no one's surprise, it affected Budaj's game. Budaj struggled early, but a large part of that can be attributed to the fact that he started 4 consecutive games for the first time on December 19th.
Once Budaj got some consecutive starts, he started to roll. From December 13th to January 2nd, he started 9 of 10 games, and posted a 5-2-2 record. His GAA was 2.08 over the stretch and his save percentage was .924. There are a lot of teams who could use a number 1 goalie capable of posting those kinds of numbers. But, the team lost a couple of games which surely is the fault of Budaj and not the team's inept powerplay. So, he's back to the bench. In Quenneville's world, a goalie must win every single game. If he doesn't, he rides the pine. I can only imagine how much fun it would have been to see him bench Roy after a 3-2 loss. "Okay, Billington, you're up. I want you to take this opportunity and go with it."
Look, I've posted stat after stat that supports Peter Budaj as being a very capable starting goalie (while also proving that Jose Theodore is not). Even with the clusterfuck of a rotation Quenneville has used this year, Budaj has the better numbers. Are there better NHL goalies than Peter Budaj? Sure. Is there one in our organization? Not even close. There is absolutely no excuse to use Theodore for any reason other than to give Budaj the occasional game off. The fact that people are actually supporting Quenneville's misuse of Budaj makes me think that I've woken up in crazytown.
The next thing you know, we're going to start seeing defensemen play at forward and forwards playing the point on the powerplay.