Theodore, not Turco, turns into Mr. Clutch

5/1/2006 - NHL

As painful as it is to acknowledge, given the man's insufferable smugness, Avalanche president and general manager Pierre Lacroix has once again proven he may be the smartest man in hockey.

At the beginning of the season, no one gave Lacroix's team much of a chance at either regular-season or postseason success, given the departure of Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote and the netminding of David Aebischer and Peter Budaj.

Fast-forward to the trade deadline. Lacroix appeared to take his team even further from the promised land when he dealt Aebischer for an injured Jose Theodore, who had struggled to regain his form on the ice and keep his off-ice problems from mushrooming out of control in Montreal.

Seeded seventh in the Western Conference, the Avs looked to be first-round fodder for the Dallas Stars and top-notch netminder Marty Turco.

Instead, Theodore stepped into the breach and closed the deal with a virtuoso performance in Sunday's 3-2 overtime victory that gave the Avs a stunning 4-1 first-round upset of the Stars. The former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner allowed just two goals on 52 shots and none on 11 overtime shots as Dallas threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Avs in a desperate bid to stay alive.

Lacroix was pooh-poohed for his acquisition of Theodore, both in terms of the netminder's potential to help the team and his financial burden. The Montreal native will count about $5.3 million against the cap for the next two seasons. Winning a playoff round doesn't relieve the cap pressure Theodore presents, but he has helped guarantee enough playoff revenue to pay for his entire salary next season.

And now, who knows? With Joe Sakic looking like Joe Sakic circa 1996, the Avs will give Detroit or Calgary or whoever they may meet in the second round more than they can handle. And each home date after the two guaranteed second-round dates is more money in the Avs' coffers.

So what of Theodore's counterpart, Turco?

Where Theodore was the one who was supposed to crumble, it was Turco who could not take the Stars where they seemed destined to go after a stellar regular season.

Was Turco bad? No, not really.

But Theodore bested Turco in three overtime games, games in which money goalies earn their stripes, separate themselves from the chaff. Now, in spite of establishing himself as one of the best regular-season netminders of the past few seasons, Turco has now firmly established a reputation as a guy who cannot win in the clutch.

Earlier this season, Turco signed a four-year, $22.8-million contract extension. But he now owns an 8-14 playoff record and he has led the Stars to one playoff win in three seasons since taking over for Ed Belfour.

So what is his future in Dallas? Strangely, it is much less certain than Theodore's now in Colorado.

Who's watching the Predators?
What's more embarrassing for the Nashville Predators, threatening to black out their home game Sunday because of lagging ticket sales or the fact there is such tepid interest in the team that such a strategy had to be considered?

Would it not have been better to suck it up and hope the walk-ups filled in the final empty seats in the Gaylord Entertainment Center rather than look churlish and distinctively small-town? Of course, that has always been the knock on the Predators. Sadly, they played to type in this case.

Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.