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12 November 2007

You're not quite there yet, Jose...

If you think it's weird that Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jose Theodore is letting in less than 3 goals per game in Colorado and stopping at least 9 shots out of 10, you're seriously not alone.

The former Hart and Vezina winner was dealt to the Avalanche 2 seasons ago by his hometown Montreal Canadiens, the same year he was made the richest goalie to ever tend goal by Canadiens GM Bob Gainey with a brand new 3-year/$17 million deal.

Theodore floundered in Montreal terribly, and posted mediocre numbers as the team continued its embarrassing downward slide in the standings.
With newly acquired goaltender Cristobal Huet pushing Theodore for playing time, the French media being all over him for his little Paris Hilton scandal, coach Claude Julien getting blamed for Theodore's paltry performance, costing him his job, and a newborn child on the way as well as problems related to his uncle's loansharking business, Jose Theodore was a troubled young man.
The icing on the cake came when Theodore broke his ankle by falling down the stairs in front of his home one morning in that January, putting him on the injured reserve for the rest of the season as well as sparking talk that his injury was purposely "done" for his terrible season to end, highlighted by a recent 8-2 home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes that proved to be his last in the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge uniform.

At that point, it was doubtful rumours persisting that Gainey would unload Theodore and his huge contract would happen, but big G surprised us all once again.
While Huet rode the Habs net and Gainey coached his team up the standings behind the bench, Jose Theodore was a lost memory, and was written off for good the eve of the 2006 trade deadline, as he was surprisingly sent to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for equally struggling goaltender David Aebischer in a move many so called "experts" called the second coming of Patrick Roy in the Rocky Mountain state.
Gainey had successfully gotten rid of $17 million.

While Theodore tended to his injury down in Denver, Cristobal Huet carried the Canadiens to the playoffs and put up a strong performance in a series the Canadiens should have won against the eventual Stanley Cup Champs Hurricanes and in a series that dramatically saw a team fall apart as its captain did after a highstick to the orbital bone in Game 3 by Justin Williams.
That was evidently the turning point of the matchup that saw Carolina climb back from a 2-0 deficit, to beat the Canadiens in 6.

A few weeks later, the Avalanche and Jose Theodore took the plane home after losing in the Western semi-final in spectacular fashion to the San Jose Sharks.

In the month that followed, Cristobal Huet striked a new deal with the Canadiens, inking a 2-year/$5.75 million deal.
Theodore likely caused, however, then Avs GM Pierre Lacroix to resign, after wrongfully acquiring Theodore in a trade that still glares to this day in the hearts and salary cap of the Colorado Avalanche and their fans as a lopsided one.

The next season, Huet posted respectable numbers en route to a first career all-star selection while Theodore was just as bad as he had been in Montreal in a backup role to Peter Budaj.
Theodore earned the nickname of Jose "Threeofour" and was known to let in an inordinate number of goals on low shot totals (ex: 4 goals on 26 shots, 3 goals on 24 shots).
With new GM Francois Giguere manning the deck for Colorado, fans were itching for management to buy out the Quebecois goalie for his immense $5.5 million salary to be tossed out the window and forgotten.
This obviously did not happen and it is much easier said than done, as for Theodore to pass up that kind of money (knowing he likely won't ever get anything remotely close to that again) would be ridiculous.

The 2007-2008 season is just a month old, and Theodore is doing a lot more than he did in previous seasons with Colorado, pushing Peter Budaj for playing time in the Avs' goaltending tandem.
I'm trying to say this is a nice comeback, feel good story, but sorry, it's not.
The 31-year old netminder is 4-2-1 with a low GAA of 2.30 and a .920 SPCT%, both very remarkable results.
He is looking like the old Jose the Habs wished they could've had for the $17 million they invested in him at the time (actually, no, Huet rocks...and for his salary, he's a steal) and his play is looking less and less shaky, and more and more productive and confident.

It's only 7 games, I know, but (and I'm trying REAL hard to say this with a straight face) he needs to prove he can be brilliant over the course of one whole season, as you could argue that his last "great" year came in 2003-2004, in the last year of the pre-lockout era.

Formerly dubbed "The Franchise" by the Hockey news for the Canadiens, Theodore isn't quite there yet, but it's "nice" to see he's finally earning a fraction of his paycheck, at least for Avs fans.


3 fanatics have replied:

Mike Thompson said...

Let's get one thing straight, Theo is at best part of a goaltending tandem in Colorado and pushing Budaj at worst. He's not the number one. Myself and many others feel that his early season appearances are just showcases to generate interest in a possible trade after the first of the year. Budaj is the goalie of the future for the Avs. Theo would have to have a Biron-like run of double-digit wins before anybody in an Avalanche uni took him seriously as the starter.

Coach Q. used the swapping goalie system at the beginning of last season too, only Theo fell apart MUCH earlier in the season and was the bonified backup by January. Management has to be hoping that he continues to be just above average for a few more weeks so that they can unload him for something rather than the handful of nothing they'd get at the end of the season.

Remember, a good chunk of his wins have come against a woeful Calgary team, and his losses have come at the hands of rejuvinated Blues and Chicago teams. Not exactly elite teams on either account. Let's not call it a comeback yet, but I'll take a win from anybody in net as long as he's wearing the Burgandy, Blue, and White.

kronis said...

Best case scenario for COL is Theo finds his game again and wins back the starters job. But, the tandem plan is likely what will continue to play out. I don't buy that Theo is being showcased because unless he is stellar, no one is going to pick him up with a bloated salary like that. And if he becomes stellar, why wouldn't COL keep him?
COL is saddled with this hefty chunk of cash invested in a guy they aren't sure has it anymore.

Mike Thompson said...

But he doesn't have a bloated salary at this point! If Theo is a trade deadline deal, the team that picks him up is only responsible for his salary from that point on. If some eastern conference team takes a flier on him for a playoff run, they pay only half of his salary, and that's it! He's a FA after this season.

I disagree that a good run by Theo would be the best thing for the Avs. Another great run like the 15-2-2 run that Budaj and the team put together at the end of last season would be the best thing for the Avs, IMO. Then we'd have a bonified starter, a decent backup in Theo and a stranglehold on the NW division. The only way that is going to happen is if they go with Budaj as the man, a position I believe he has earned.

Plain and simple, when watching Avs games, I don't hold me breath when Boots has to make a tough save like I do when Theo is between the pipes. Maybe that's just me...

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