“Hockey Cometh, and That Right Soon…”
The Colorado Avalanche finally opened their training camp on Monday, and this season has every single Avalanche fan wondering if the greatest goalie to ever play the game can be replaced by a backup goalie.
Patrick Roy’s retirement over the summer was a sad twist of fate, leaving a new gaping hole in the Avalanche defense. Nobody expected his career to end so abruptly, but when Andrew Brunette and the Minnesota Wild took a shocking game seven victory in the first round of the playoffs, it seemed as if Roy had finally decided to give up the glory and allow the youngsters to take over the game.
So into the spotlight steps David Aebischer. The 25-year-old netminder from Switzerland has quite a big pair of skates to fill this season, but received the biggest boost of confidence from President and General Manager Pierre Lacroix and head coach Tony Granato.
For a decade, Lacroix made sure goaltending would never be a concern for the Avalanche by signing and re-signing Roy to generous contracts. The Avalanche never had a starting goalie besides Roy since he arrived in Denver back in 1995. But this summer Lacroix has refused to go out and buy one of the available free-agent goalies, showing faith in his young backup goaltenders. He believes that the tandem of David Aebischer and minor-leaguer Philip Sauv/ deserve the chance to carry this team since they paid their dues and played underneath Roy for so many years.
Instead, Lacroix went out and bought two of the most dynamic forwards in the league in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Playing together on the same line for five years allowed the duo to become the best of friends, so coaches have stressed how it will take no time whatsoever for them to click this season. The addition of Selanne and Kariya give the Avalanche the scariest offensive lines ever, with Sakic centering them and the A-M-P line sticking together. (Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk, Peter Forsberg)
But even though Aebischer is young, he is not completely devoid of experience. He was the starting goalie for Switzerland in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, and also took a Bronze medal with the Swiss Junior Club at the 1998 World Junior Championships. He has been a formidable backup to Roy for three seasons, playing only 69 regular season games in that span.
For three years then, he was learning and watching and practicing and rooming with the best goalie to ever play. If that does not make you feel a little better about Aebischer taking over the reigns, then nothing will. Roy is the epitome of the solid butterfly goaltender, and Aebischer does an excellent job of modeling that popular style.
So the Avalanche now flaunt one of the most potent offenses of all time this season, with Kariya and Selanne being added to the all-star lineup. Even though Colorado has parted with the winningest goalie of all time, the successor to the throne has been working and practicing for almost five seasons to have his chance to become an honorable mention as well. I just hope he has nerves of steel when he actually has to play the big games.