Peter Budaj Thriving in Second Chance as Colorado Avalanche Starter

James CriderCorrespondent INovember 10, 2010

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 16:  Peter Budaj #31of the Colorado Avalanche warms up before playing against the New York Islanders on October 16, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The 2008-2009 season was by far the worst in Colorado Avalanche history.

The team missed the playoffs for the second time in it's history, finishing dead last in the Western Conference and 28th overall in the league with a 32-45-5 record.

The poster boy of that season was Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj, who was given the starting job in the 2008 off-season when goaltender Jose Theodore was lost to free agency.

Budaj's play that season was a mix of good, bad, and ugly. He'd give the occasional stand out performance, as well as the occasional stinker; but mostly his play was lackluster, failing to make key saves to keep the Avalanche in games.

By no surprise, he finished with more losses (29) than wins (20), while posting a career low save percentage (0.899).

The season can't be completely pinned on Budaj, as he played with a complete joke of a team in front of him for most of the season, but his mediocre play all but cemented him as an NHL back-up.

Jump ahead two years, and the revived Avalanche are riding Budaj's play between the pipes. Only this time, they're finding success doing it.

Budaj didn't win the starting job back—he's been the benefactor of an injury to starting goaltender Craig Anderson—but all of his hard work has come to fruition.

Instead of bolting for the KHL for more money, or exploring free agency for another chance at starting, Budaj remained loyal to the team that drafted him in 2001.

Through seven games, Budaj has posted a 4-2-1 record, which at the very least should earn him time splitting duties down the road—a drastic change from last season, in which he only started 11 games.

Anderson remains out indefinitely, but if Budaj keeps playing like he has, Avalanche coach Joe Sacco will be hard pressed to put him back in.