If the city’s often-fickle fans have a say, they’ll want Theodore in goal when Colorado plays the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
And it’s likely that Theodore would relish the chance to prove a lot of people wrong who applauded when the Canadiens and Avalanche swapped starting goalies last March.
The decision will be made by Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville, who must choose between Theodore, who struggled out of the gate this season, and his impressive back-up Peter Budaj.
Dany Dube, a long-time coach now working as a broadcaster for the TVA network, said it is a chance for Theodore to show he is still a big-game goalie and deserves his US$5.3 million annual salary.
“If it was an average player, maybe you’d try to hide him from this type of situation,” Dube said. “But as an impact player, you want him to earn his status on the team by playing in these types of games.
“As a coach, you look for these types of situations.”
Dube added that it is a great opportunity for Theodore to make a statement to Quenneville, who has criticized the goaltender’s play this season.
Former NHL forward P.J. Stock, now a radio broadcaster at the Team 990 in Montreal, said his listeners want to see Theodore, if only to boo him.
He said that should be motivation enough for the goaltender who only two seasons ago was the most popular player by far in Montreal.
“If I’m Theo, I’d definitely want to play,” Stock said. “He was MVP here and then he had one bad season and they shipped him out.
“I’d want to show them they made a mistake in trading me.”
Things haven’t gone well for Theodore since the NHL returned from the 2004-05 lockout season.
After signing a $16-million, three-year contract, the Montreal native struggled with a faster-paced NHL game with many more power plays under new rules and a crackdown on obstruction fouls.
By the time he was dealt away for goalie David Aebischer, and his much smaller contract, at the March trading deadline, Theodore had a 3.46 goals-against average and was sidelined with a heel injury while Cristobal Huet sparkled in the Montreal net.
So far, this season hasn’t been considerably better for Theodore. His 2.81 GAA and .902 save percentage not as impressive as the numbers posted by Budaj, who has shone with a 1.98 GAA and .934 save percentage in two starts, including a 4-1 win Wednesday in Toronto.
Theodore has kept a low profile on the Avalanche’s three-game Canadian swing this week. He didn’t talk to the media in Toronto or in Ottawa on Thursday morning.
A horde of reporters will be looking for him Friday afternoon, when the Avalanche are scheduled to skate at the Bell Centre.
After stopping 26 of 27 shots in Colorado’s 2-1 win over Ottawa, Theodore said he wasn’t sure if he had butterflies heading back to Montreal.
“I don’t know. It’s the first time I’ve played (back there),” he said. “I’ll tell you after the game. Obviously, it’s going to be special. I played almost 12 years in that organization, it was a great experience for me, so it’s going to be fun and exciting to go back to Montreal.”
Reporters will also be looking to speak to former Canadiens defenceman Patrice Brisebois, who was booed out of town.
“I know Brisebois is not a fan of the Canadiens media any more,” Stock said. “Theodore had six months where he didn’t play very well, but the consensus (among fans) now is that the team is better and they’re happier with the players they have now.
“Everyone wants to see Theodore and they want to see Huet go against him.”
Aebischer, who has better numbers than Huet this season, will also want to be in goal against his former team.
Note: The Canadiens were given a day off Thursday after a 2-1 loss Wednesday night in Chicago.