I Don’t Miss Theo

The Washington Capitals started their season on the road in Atlanta last night, with Jose Theodore getting the start. And I have to say, Theo is proving right off the bat why I don’t miss him. This picture should tell you everything you need to know. That looks familiar. Or how about this stat: 4 goals on 17 shots. Yep, the Theodore era continues somewhere else.

Now, you may be saying that Peter Budaj didn’t do that much better, letting in five on 20 shots, and you may have a point.

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But I saw a lot of good from Budaj the other day, and several goals that were not his fault. There were defensive gaffs, along with the holes down low that go along with “fire wagon hockey,” which is what the Avs are subscribing to (until they get lit up one too many times and go into a defensive shell again).

I don’t miss Jose Theodore one bit. One playoff series is not enough to win me back from a season and a half of high priced mediocrity, which is what the Caps fans may be experiencing right off the bat.

I’m with Jibblescribbits on this one.
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Why is Tapeleg Smiling?

And why is he speaking in the third person.

Because Jose Theodore is out the door.

From the Denver Post (which is not the AP, so I can quote the story):

Talks between the Avalanche and Jose Theodore have broken down, and it now appears the veteran goalie will test the NHL open market beginning Tuesday.

Good. Don’t let the door hit you.

Oh, is that mean? Is that harsh? Whatever. He can keep on walking.

I’m embroiled in work this week, so my “analysis” (ie: reasons I ain’t crying) will have to wait until the weekend. But for now, I can not wait to write “Theodore has his usual meltdown,” and he isn’t in an Avalanche uniform.

Mind you, it isn’t July 1st yet, so he could still be signed. Oh, now I am sad.

Theo Wants to Return

With the Stanley Cup Finals going on, it’s a slow news month for the Avs right now. Other than the signing of Tony Granato, everything else is speculation and “want to” right now.

In the want to category, Theodore wants to come back to the Avalanche. From the Rocky Mountain News:

Jose Theodore wants to continue his career resurgence in Colorado, and it appears the feeling is mutual.

Theodore’s agent said Wednesday he expects to talk with Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere soon about a new contract for the 31-year- old goalie, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

“We’re looking forward to seeing Francois and having discussions with him,” agent Don Meehan said. “Jose’s priority would be to be back in Denver. We’ve expressed that to Francois, and they’ve indicated they would like to have him back.”

Indicated? Perhaps at a serious discount. This sounds like Agent Speak 101 to me. Frankly, I think Jose just wants a job next season, and they are going to be few and far between. Remember Robert Esche, anyone?

Though Theodore and the Avalanche are eager to work out a deal, it might not be that easy. Theodore just completed a three-year, $16 million contract and could test the open market to gauge his value in what could be the final long- term contract of his career.

I would love to see Theo test the open market. If he truly had any off ice value, then the Avs are going to be the on;y ones who know about it, and the only ones who might pay him for it. Other than that, I hope Jose was able to save some of that paycheck from the last few years. He won’t be getting another one that big. Ever.

Before focusing on Theodore, Giguere still wants to find out whether captain Joe Sakic and forward Peter Forsberg will return for another season or retire.

It’s good to have your priorities straight.

Avs Wings Game 4: The Wheels on the Bus Fall Down and Down

If there wasn’t concern for Avs fans before, there should be now. At least, if you read the papers. First off, from the Denver Post, Paul Stastny is done for the series:

Stastny will miss the rest of the series and possibly beyond with a knee injury suffered in the first period of Game 3. It is just the latest in the torrent of bad news to hit the Avs since their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with the Red Wings started last Thursday.

If I’m reading that correctly, you can count him out if the Avs pull of a miracle and advance beyond this round. There are so few mainstay Avs available right now, even Wyatt Smith is getting the look. Ouch.

Further down, the scary part:

The Avs, down 3-0 to the Wings in the series, practiced Wednesday without several regulars, including Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Hejduk.

No matter how you read that, it doesn’t look good. Whether or not it’s injuries, or a damn tired squad, having your big three forwards out of practice is a sure sign that things are bad in Avs land, and perhaps a sign that the team is giving up for the season.

In another Denver Post article, Theodore was the focus, telling us that he is playing for pride, at this point:

“For myself, it’s all about pride,” Theodore said after practice Wednesday at South Suburban Family Sports Center. “You go out there and you just want to make sure you fight and be able to look at yourself in the mirror and really say, ‘I left everything out there.’ I think for a lot of guys, that’s what we did (in Game 3).”

But what the article focuses on is really money, and if Theo will be picked up after his contract expires this season, either by the Avs, or by another team:

Another issue will be whether Theodore’s play, at least in the first two games of the series when he was battling and recovering from the flu, will cause the Avalanche or any team thinking about pursuing him after July 1 to be less aggressive. He has allowed four goals in each of his three starts against the Wings, gotten yanked in the first two, and has a 6.55 goals-against average in the series — after being the difference-maker in the opening-round series victory over Minnesota.

Yes, he was sick, but he played games one and two, and if he was that bad off, he should have been benched, for his own good, and for the good of the team. 6.55 GAA says everything I need to know. Penicillin doesn’t take care of that. So it’s all about pride now. I don’t know if I should feel good about that or not.

Coach Q is still a dedicated Theo follower, with the blind devotion shown by cult members:

Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville, who showed faith in Theodore by coming back with him in Game 3 after Peter Budaj stopped 39-of-40 shots in relief in Detroit, remains committed to Theodore in this series.

“I thought Jose played well,” Quenneville said of Game 3. “The goaltending was fine. I think he looked sharper. He looked good in practice again (Wednesday). I don’t think the goal-tending is an issue.”

Man, are you sure about this? I’m starting to wonder if this is Quenneville talking, or his mustache. Perhaps the evil lip fur has taken over. At some point, you have to look elsewhere. And there is an elsewhere. He’s sitting down the bench from you.

Finally, there is the obligatory “Will Super Joe Retire” article that seems like clockwork this time of year. And while everyone sees a step taken off Joe’s game, there is plenty of reasons to wait and see. Joe is being coy, and perhaps a little ominous:

Sakic refuses to allow himself to think the Red Wings could sweep him out of the league and into retirement. It’s the lone mind-set a captain concerned first and foremost for his team’s preservation can embrace.

“If we win Game 4, then there will be another one for us all,” Sakic said.

I can’t tell you how sad I would be if this were his last series, and can only hope that his eventual retirement isn’t fodder for more Red Wings fans bragging. I don’t think he is going anywhere. Coming back from hernia surgery is difficult, and you can bet he was rushed back on the ice when he was almost healed. I wouldn’t be looking at a contract announcement right away, but maybe by July 1st. I think there is one more season left in him.

Super Joe ain’t gonna go.

Mark Kiszla weighs the pros and cons:

KEEP ON PLAYING

1. With eight points in nine playoff games, Sakic still has got game.

2. Wearing a Team Canada sweater at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver is a sweet dream.

3. Young Avs Paul Stastny, T.J. Hensick and David Jones can keep the “jump” in an old veteran’s step.

HANG ‘EM UP

1. If there’s any doubt at age 38, it’s probably time to go.

2. The quietly proud Sakic should not wait until he becomes an Average Joe on the ice.

3. Avs have too many question marks to be considered serious Stanley Cup contenders in 2009.

I particularly enjoy that last one. Anyone watching the games this year has questions for the next. Hell, I have questions for the Avs myself. Such as:

Who is going to be Coach next season?

Who is going to be in goal?

Are they going to resign Adam Foote?

I’ve got plenty of questions. I bet Sakic does too. But I think he can wait, and so can we.

Dear Quenneville, You Must Be Kidding

Perhaps there is something deft in Joel Quenneville’s statement to the media that Jose Theodore is going to get the start for game 3 of the Avalanche – Red Wings series. Maybe he is telling a little fib, to get the Wings over-confident, and then pull a switcharoo, putting Budaj in net, and watch the Wings spin their wheels.

Or Coach Q is out of his freaking mind. I’m thinking it’s the latter. For the life of me, I can not figure out what Budaj said that has kept him on the bench this much. Seriously, did he sleep with someone’s wife? He’s more in the doghouse than anyone this side of Brad Richardson. Theodore played brilliantly in the first round against the Wild, stealing at least one game, if not two. The key word is “played,” as in past tense.

Look at the numbers: Theodore has let in eight goals on 36 shots, in 51:24 of play. Budaj gave up one goal on 40 shots in 67:30. Who do you put in?
From the Rocky Mountain News, Coach Q has faith in Jose:

“Jose’s going to play,” Quenneville said. “He’s been our guy. He’s had a great stretch run for us and was great in the first series and we expect him to be a big factor going forward in this series.”

That’s a lot of faith, for a guy you pull two games in a row. What did he say about Budaj? From the Denver Post:

I thought ‘Boods’ did a real nice job in relief again tonight, but Jose, he’s the one that brought us here.

A real nice job? Can you hear the clinched teeth, and the resentment here? Something is up, or Budaj would be the no-brainer decision. For all the talk the Versus crew was giving Q for being a Jack Adams contender, I think you can safely bet they have shut their collective mouths. And, in “My NHL,” you do not get to finish in the bottom five in power play, and get Coach of the Year.
If the Carolina Hurricanes hadn’t put Cam Ward in net, and stuck with Martin Gerber, would they have won the Stanley Cup? No. Hell no. The lesson should be obvious. You don’t have to always dance with the one you brought.

The question is: Who do you risk the next game on? The guy who you haven’t played, or the guy who has lost his game? Jose better find it quick.

In other areas, the Avalanche know they need to get their collective backsides in order. Such as this little tidbit from the Rocky Mountain News:

Only two Avalanche players – Sakic in both games and Paul Stastny on Saturday – have managed as many as three shots on goal in a game.

If that doesn’t jolt the Avs into some sort of action, I don’t know what will. I am going to cringe when the Versus guys start saying things like “your best players have to be your best players.” If it’s Eddie O calling color, I’m guessing two minutes. Dudes, we can barely ice our best players.

For all the complaining about the bust that has been Peter Forsberg, there are some key elements to remember about him:

He was relatively cheap. One million, while not chump change to you or I, isn’t much against the cap, all things considered. And it certainly isn’t much when that money isn’t going to be doing you any good just sitting there, unused.

Would the Avs have gotten into the playoffs without him? The race was tight until the end of the season, and there were few players who could have shoehorned the Avs in as effectively as Forsberg.

Forsberg sells tickets. When he is in a lineup, fans get excited, and buy more tickets. That’s spending money to make money.

I don’t see Forsberg being a bust, just that he should be around more often than he is. It’s certainly frustrating that he is out so often, and kind of an oxymoron tat you have to limit his time to get long term use out of him, but when he is healthy (not often enough), he is a factor.

Scott Hannan may be back, but we will wait and see. Hannan has some sort of foot injury, and I never thought I would say this at the beginning of the season, but the Avs need him, badly.

OK, looking at the roster, and who to insert in the lineup with Wolski gone, and Forsberg only a possibility, I’m not seeing the usefulness of Cody McLeod at this time. He has an unhealthy relationship with the penalty box, and for all his “toughness,” isn’t being a positive factor on the ice. Who else could they fit in there? Let’s look at the scratches from the game on Saturday:

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Oh, look at that, out of left wingers. How special. Is there any way they can ask Hensick or Richardson to move over to the left side? Anyone want to guess what the Avs will be drafting this year?

The only thing left to say is that the Avs have to come out strong, and stay that way. What else is there? Get the damn puck, and keep the damn puck.

It finally becomes a series tonight.

Go Avs.

Avs-Wings: Goalies in Limbo

It was a sign of things to come when Dominik Hasek, the Dominator, was pulled from play in the Nashville series, and Chris Osgood was put in his place. The sign, though, was not for the Wings, but for the Avs. It was a sign of things to come.

Last night, Jose Theodore, who had been ill earlier in the day, ill enough not to participate in the morning skate, wast the starting goaltender for the game, and what a mistake that turned out to be. Two of the four goals Theodore he would like to have back (but show me a goalie who doesn’t want them all back), and the last one should have never gone in. All of a sudden, Theo wasn’t feeling very good. That was right about the time the Wings scored the eventual game winner.

Enter the Budaj. Peter Budaj came in to the game, and lit a fire under the Avs collective asses. A goalie change can do that sort of thing, but you have to wonder, should that change been made possible in the first lace? Should Theo have started if he was feeling ill, and off his game?

As happy as I was to see Tyler Weiman (a JAHL favorite) sitting on the bench, the scenario should never have happened in the first place. What heinous crime did Peter Budaj commit that makes him less desirable to start a game than a sick Theodore?

Of course, you dance with the one you brought, and Jose Theodore sadie hawkinsed the Avs into the second round, but that doesn’t mean he has to be the only one the Avs have to dance with (pushing the metaphor a little?). Was there enough compelling reason to have Theo start the game, or should the risk been evaluated more? Should the leash been shorter when he went into net, knowing that he was sick?

You want a goalie controversy? I think we have one. It still isn’t Budaj’s job to steal, I wouldn’t go that far right now. But you have one goalie who played when he should not have, and gave up four goals on sixteen shots, who came back for a little over a minute of the second period (and most likely should have stayed in the dressing room, or that’s the fastest flu-like symptoms I have ever seen), and you have another who shut the door, but who hasn’t played much lately. A few days ago, the goalie choice was a nice problem to have. Now it doesn’t look that way.

There is only one question now:

Who starts game two?