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Opinion: Why losing Phillip Grubauer didn’t hurt the Colorado Avalanche

Hear me out on this one...

Colorado Avalanche v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Four Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This past offseason, there were two main goals: sign captain Gabriel Landeskog and goaltender Philipp Grubauer to new contracts. They accomplished this for Landeskog keeping him here for eight more years, practically the rest of his career.

However, the same couldn’t be said for Grubauer.

It seemed more than likely that Grubauer would remain in net for the Avs, and continue to rise to glory with them. Grubauer and his agents went back and forth with the Avs on contract terms. The longer it held out, the more worried fans became. But it was hard to believe he would end up somewhere else.

When free agency opened, Grubauer and his agents moved to the newly-formed Seattle Kraken to sign a six-year, $5.9 million contract.

Avs fans were hurt by the move and caught off-guard with the idea, always thinking that Grubauer was always going to re-sign for the Avs. The front office had to scramble to find a new goalie with limited options available. Darcy Kuemper signed a one-year deal with defensemen Conor Timmins and a couple of draft picks going to the Arizona Coyotes.

The acquisition of Kuemper was seen as an initial downgrade from Grubauer, and for obvious reason when you looked at how Grubauer had been performing the last three seasons in an Avs sweater. However, here’s why Kuemper will be better as time passes compared to Grubauer when healthy.

New York Rangers v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Grubauer wasn’t at the top of his game in his first year in Colorado. He had a 2.64 GAA and a .917SV%. However, Grubauer’s SV% went from a .917 to a .916 to a .922 in his three years. Kuemper will go through the same journey once he is comfortable in burgundy and blue and increase his SV%.

One stat that Kuemper has an advantage over Grubauer in is shutouts. Grubauer has 18 career shutouts, versus Kuemper’s 20 shutouts. Kuemper has played for weaker teams throughout his career earning these shutouts compared to Grubauer.

In Kuemper’s time with the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes, the combination of records between the three teams between 2012-2021 is 343-226-64. Grubauer’s teams record on the Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche from 2012-2021 is 389-200-77 including a Stanley Cup with the Caps

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

With Kuemper’s defense in front of him weaker than what Grubauer has had in his career, Kuemper has been able to command his crease and win games for teams. The Avs have been at the receiving end of losses from Kuemper before he came to Colorado with Arizona, both last season and in the 2020 bubble playoffs. Therefore, after losing Grubauer it was great for the Avalanche to pick up Kuemper having faced him before and seeing his quality against them.

Arizona Coyotes v Colorado Avalanche - Game Five Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Kuemper is a quarter of the way through his first season as an Avalanche player. He’s played 19 games with a 13-5 record with 50 GA, a 2.77 GAA and a .907SV%. In Grubauer’s first 19 games as an Avalanche player, he had a 9-4 record with 53 GA, a 2.00 GAA and .877SV%. Kuemper is already starting his career as an Avs player better than Grubauer did.

Kuemper and Grubauer both show that this is a trend with new Avalanche goaltenders - they take time to get adapted to Colorado’s system and get themselves to consistently make big saves and lead the team to victory in the regular season and playoffs. While it stung and still stings to lose fan-favorite Grubauer and not hear “Gruuuuu” raining down from Ball Arena after he made every save, the Avalanche are in great hands with Kuemper to win them hockey games.