Peter Budaj: The Forgotten Man in Colorado

James CriderCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2009

VANCOUVER, CANADA - NOVEMBER 1: Peter Budaj #31 of the Colorado Avalanche looks over toward the Vancouver Canucks team bench during warmup at General Motors Place on November 1, 2009 in Vancouver, Canada.   (Photo by Nick Didlick/Getty Images)
Nick Didlick/Getty Images

A year ago, Peter Budaj was the talk of the Colorado Avalanche. With Jose Theodore departed through free agency, would Budaj be able to rise up as the Avalanche's starting net minder of the future?

No, he wouldn't.

Budaj, like most of the players on the team, struggled greatly. He finished the season with a career high 55 starts, but also had a career high in losses as he posted a 20-29-5 record.

His 0.899 save percentage ranked 27th among starters.

Last offseason, it was speculated that the Avalanche would break ties with Budaj, but they surprisingly gave him a $450,000 raise by signing him to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.

With Craig Anderson only making $1.5 million this year, many speculated that while Anderson was the clear starting goaltender, Budaj would get involved in 25-35 games.

Instead, Budaj has sat and watched as Anderson has started 27 of 29 games, on pace to start 76 games, a number that would shatter Patrick Roy's franchise mark of 65.

Part of the reason for Budaj's lack of playing time is the fact that he came down with the H1N1 flu early in the season, causing him to miss several games.

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But that only covers the month of October. Budaj was available all of November, and Sacco only choose to start him in two games—ten times less than the amount of starts he had a year ago at this time. 

The results of those starts were mixed. Budaj played well in his win against Phoenix, turning aside 28 shots in a 4-1 win, but struggled against Edmonton, where he let in several soft goals en route to a 6-4 third period meltdown loss.

Unfortunately for Budaj, he'll also pick up the overtime loss in tonight's game, even though he didn't face a non-shootout shot.

With Colorado playing the second of a back-to-back tomorrow night in Pittsburgh and Anderson possibly hurt after being run by Keith Ballard, the ball is in Budaj's court. He can either come out with a big road win against the defending Stanley Cup champions, or he can fall flat on his face and further cement Joe Sacco's policy of starting Anderson every game.

In this writer's opinion, Peter Budaj was the biggest reason for the last place finish a year ago. If he would have even given average goaltending, the Avalanche could have been alot more competitive than they ended up being.

That said, he's still better than alot of goalies in the NHL, and is a more than competent backup. But he needs to be given a chance to prove it.

Craig Anderson set a career high in starts with 27 last year, and he's already tied that number well before the halfway point of the season. His recent play indicates he's exhausted, and if he sustains a serious injury due to over use, the Avalanche's season is over.


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