Colorado Avalanche: Brian Elliott, Peter Budaj, and the Goaltending Situation

James CriderCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2011

The year was 2003.

The Colorado Avalanche had just been eliminated in a heartbreaking Game 7 overtime loss at the hands of future Av and then-Minnesota Wild forward Andrew Brunette, and it would bring the end of an era.

The goal would be the last allowed by Patrick Roy, winner of 551 regular season games and four Stanley Cup championships.

Of those wins, 262 and two of the Stanley Cups came during Roy's eight-year tenure with the Avalanche.

Eight years, 557 regular season games and five starting goaltenders later, the Colorado Avalanche are still searching for his replacement.

In the midst of an epic 1-13-2 slide, which has seen the Avs go from third to 14th in the Western Conference, the omnipresent weakness of the club has been its goaltending.

Using goaltenders Craig Anderson, Peter Budaj and Brian Elliott, the Avalanche rank dead last in goals against average (3.36) and save percentage (0.893) while allowing the most goals in the NHL (223) during 2010-2011.

Craig Anderson, who was recently dealt to the Ottawa Senators for Brian Elliott, was offered a two-year, $7.5 million deal after winning 38 games in 2009-2010.

But inconsistencies, including a 2-8-1 record in 2011, saw Anderson shipped out and the Avalanche once again without a starting goaltender.

Without a goaltender signed for 2010-2011, it's likely at least one of Elliott of Peter Budaj are offered a new contract.

But if the Avalanche are to compete for the playoffs next season, they'll have to search for a workhorse goaltender.

Having not used a first-round draft pick on a goaltender since Marc Denis in 1995, the Avalanche's top goaltending prospect is 18-year-old Calvin Pickard.

Pickard, who the Avalanche drafted 49th overall in the 2010 Entry Draft, leads the WHL with 2,259 saves, nearly 500 more than the next highest goaltender.

But Pickard will only be 19 by the time the 2011-2012 season starts, and expecting a teenager to fix a problem of nearly a decade is preposterous.

Avalanche management has to bite the bullet and trade for a legitimate starting goaltender.

Too many times in the past eight years has Colorado tried to fix the problem by taking the "upside" with goaltenders like Budaj, Elliott and Andrew Raycroft.

The most serious attempt to remedy the situation was trading for a struggling Jose Theodore in 2006, a trade which would ultimately lead to the Avalanche missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history during 2006-2007.

As the Avalanche try to rediscover the magic of yesteryear, finding a young goaltender to build around is the next logical step for Colorado.

With a plethora of draft picks and quality prospects, only inaction will deter the Avalanche from getting a deal done.

Cruising to their second bottom five finish in three seasons, inaction isn't an option.


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