Since leaving Quebec and moving to Denver prior to the 1995-96 season, the Colorado Avalanche have enjoyed both the highest highs and lowest lows over the course of their 23-season history. From two Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001 to an appalling 2016-17 season where they finished last in the league with 48 points to two consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs immediately after that, they’ve seen it all.
As the Avalanche appear to be poised for another competitive run at the Stanley Cup with an up-and-coming goaltender already starting to make a name for himself. In light of this, it’s fitting to take a look at some of the top netminders in Avalanche history.
Honorable Mention: Philipp Grubauer
Philipp Grubauer hasn’t even played in 50 games for the Avalanche; however, he’s already established himself as the goalie for Colorado moving forward. After six seasons with the Washington Capitals and capturing a Stanley Cup with them in 2017-18, Grubauer was dealt to the Avalanche as a backup for fellow ex-Capital, Semyon Varlamov.
Grubauer proceeded to put impressive numbers, appearing in 37 games he posted an 18-9-0-5 record with 2.64 goals-against average (GAA), .917 save percentage (SV%), and three shutouts. What’s even more impressive is that despite entering the season as Varlamov’s backup, Grubauer ended up tending the twine in all 12 of Colorado’s postseason games.
Heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the San Jose Sharks aside, Grubauer’s playoff stats were equally impressive. In 12 games (arguably his first substantial playoff workload), Grubauer recorded a 2.30 GAA and .925 SV%. While not good enough to bring the Cup back to Denver, Avalanche fans have high expectations of Grubauer as he aims to make his mark in Colorado.
Number 3: Semyon Varlamov
Arguably the best goaltender to have skated for the Avalanche thus far without winning a Stanley Cup, Semyon Varlamov has finally traded in Rocky Mountain views for beaches and the Big Apple. Varlamov provided consistency for the Avalanche during most of his eight seasons in burgundy and blue after making a name for himself with the Capitals and backstopping them to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010.
Despite some injuries in his latter seasons with the Avalanche, Varlamov is second in games and wins for the Colorado Avalanche. And with the 2016-17 season aside, Varlamov helped the Avalanche to three Stanley Cup Playoff appearances in 2014, 2018, and 2019. The 2013-14 season was by far Varlamov’s best season as he posted a 41-14-6 record in 63 regular seasons with a 2.41 GAA and .927 SV%. He capped that off with a 2.77 GAA and .913 SV% in seven games as the Avalanche fell in the first round.
Varlamov’s legacy will likely be his consistency and ability to put the Avalanche in a position to be successful. In both 2018 and 2019, Varlamov saw no playoff games; however, he shouldered a majority of the regular season games before handing things off to capable backups as dictated by the coaching staff. Varlamov should also be commended for handling his transition from the Avalanche to likely the starting job with the New York Islanders due to the departure of Robin Lehner.
Number 2: David Aebischer
David Aebischer occupies the #2 spot on the list as he is the only other Avalanche goalie aside from our (obvious) #1 with any longevity to have won a Stanley Cup for Colorado. Stephane Fiset did win the cup in 1996 and was a member of the Quebec Nordiques prior to the move to Denver, but he left the Avalanche after the 1995-96 season.
Aebischer joined the Avalanche in 2000, just prior to their second Stanley Cup win. And although he would continue to back up our #1 until his retirement after the 2002-03 season, Aebischer was instrumental in Colorado’s dominance in the early 2000s as they appeared in the playoffs every year from 2000 to 2006 (although Aebischer was dealt to Montreal during the 2005-06 season).
Aebischer ranks fourth on Colorado’s games and wins charts with 174 and 89, respectively. He stood out in 2003-04 after taking over the starting job, going 32-19-9 in the regular season with a 2.09 GAA and .924 SV%. Aebischer would help the Avalanche advance to the second round of the playoffs that year on a 2.08 GAA and .922 SV% in 11 games. Unfortunately for Aebischer, much of his success is overshadowed by the #1 on our list.
Number 1: Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy at #1 is no surprise. Roy’s 478 games and 262 wins are both franchise records and he is the only goaltender whose jersey (33) has been retired by the Avalanche. After winning two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, Roy was traded to the Avalanche in their inaugural season and helped lead them to their first of two Stanley Cups in 1996.
A colorful character, St. Patrick has been listed on the NHL’s Top 100 Players, and is arguably one of the best goaltenders in NHL history, if not the best. In addition to four Stanley Cups, Roy won three Vezina Trophies with the Canadiens, five William M. Jennings Trophies (one with the Avalanche), and three Conn Smythe Trophies (one with the Avalanche). Roy retired in 2003 having backstopped the Avalanche to playoff appearances in every single one of his eight seasons with the team.
Roy’s name will forever be a part of Avalanche legacy; however, his ties with Colorado did not end between the pipes. In 2013, Roy was named head coach of the Avalanche and led them to another playoff appearance in 2014, picking up the Jack Adams Award as well. However, after missing the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, Roy resigned as head coach in 2016. Despite a less successful coaching career, Avalanche fans will never forget Roy or his impact as a player.
Former Army officer and Army ACHA D2 hockey player.
Husband and father of 3.