Goaltending Concerns in Montreal

The new NHL rules have reaped nothing but benefits for the small yet speedy Montreal Canadiens, who are taking advantage of a lack of clutching and grabbing to put their offense to work. One Canadien who has had some trouble making the adjustment to the post-lockout NHL, however, is star goaltender José Theodore, whose goals-against average (3.06) and save percentage (.883) are a far cry from the numbers he put up as Vézina and Hart Trophy winner in 2002. Can rookie backup Yann Danis fill the holes in Theodore’s consistency, or should the Canadiens look for help from another team?Traditionally, Theodore has thrived under the immense pressure of having a strong backup or co-#1 goalie creeping up behind him (see: Jeff Hackett), in addition to facing a ridiculously high number of shots per game. However, the new-look Canadiens have allowed an average of only 26.6 shots against per game as of Friday afternoon, compared with 31.7 in Theodore’s trophy year of 2001-2002, and coach Claude Julien has said that he expects #60 to play a number of games in the same neighbourhood as his jersey number this season.

This begs the question: would Theodore fare better if he had a little less security than what Julien has offered him by expecting him to play 3/4 of the season? It may be in everyone’s best interests – Theodore included – for the Habs to shop around the league for a backup goalie who can push Theodore a little bit more than Danis can, although, with a little more time in the AHL, Danis will be a solid NHL goaltender. Rumblings that injured backup Cristobal Huet, slated to return to action in November or December, may return to Europe next year strengthens the argument to make a move for another goalie.

I was just listening to Montreal’s CJAD radio 800 and Martin Biron, who seemingly has become the odd man out in Buffalo, apparently expressed his interest to be traded to the Canadiens to a CJAD reporter. Bob Gainey and the Habs should strongly consider picking up Biron so that Theodore can feel some pressure to stay on his toes and so that Danis can get some playing time in the minors.

Any thoughts?