Thursday, January 19, 2012
Varly vs. Chambers and other goalie thoughts
On Monday, the Avs suffered a 6-1 loss at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes. Afterward, Denver Post writer Mike Chambers wrote a piece about how he asked Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov for a quick interview and Varlamov waived him off and "rudely declined." Let me first start off by saying, I have tremendous respect for both Varly and Mike Chambers. I've played goalie for the past 10 years, albeit not in the NHL and obviously, I've written about the Avalanche, but never with a platform as large as the Denver Post. I've been in Varly's and Chambers' shoes, but of course on a much, much smaller scale.
Chambers stated that Varly acted unprofessionally and that he should "act like a pro hockey player." Sure, it is Chambers' job to get post-game interviews from the players, but goalies are different animals. Goaltending is as mental of a position as any in professional sports, right up there with NFL quarterbacks and MLB pitchers. I've had games in rec leagues where I've been lit up and I didn't want to talk to my teammates, friends, or anyone afterward. I just wanted to forget about it. I can only imagine that feeling is exponentially magnified at the NHL level with the media, fans, and the world watching. Patrick Roy was infamous for not making himself available to the media during game days. Now Varly has certainly not earned himself the passes that Patrick Roy got, not even close. If Varly went into Joe Sacco's office and trashed it, I don't think that would end well for Semyon. With all that said, I do think Varly and every NHL goalie is entitled to a pass every now and then. Every goaltender who's ever strapped on the pads has had those games where seemingly everything goes in and all you want to do is forget about it. Milan Hejduk wears the "C" and should be available for a quote. Chuck Kobasew netted the Avs' only goal that afternoon and I'm sure he would have liked to have been asked about that, but a goalie who just allowed 6 in a loss, probably isn't going to give you any profound insight as to why. Perhaps Chambers was fishing for an entertaining quote. If so, Varly's fellow countryman, Flyers goalie and 24/7 star Ilya Bryzgalov might be the right guy.
Much like the Avs team as a whole this season, Semyon Varlamov has been very streaky. Unfortunately for him, he is coming off two consecutive losses in which he allowed 10 combined goals. Fortunately for the Avs however, veteran goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been the model of consistency this season. Now I am not a fan of the term "goalie controversy." It has become as overused and cliche as "must-win" and "it is what it is" (thanks Todd, for that one). Giguere's numbers and wins have earned him more starts. There's no question about that. However, in my mind, nothing has changed. Varlamov is still the future of the Avs' goaltending and Giguere is the mentor goalie, who also happens to be a wily veteran who still has some gas left in the tank. It has never been a question of talent for Varly. He has the excellent quickness, flexibility, and reflexes and can be a #1 goalie in the NHL. At just 23, give him time to develop mentally, and he can get there. Even Giguere the other day, said he doesn't understand why a lot of teams, including the Avs, do not employ a full-time goalie coach. Coach Joe Sacco said that he feels it might be "overbearing" for the goalies to have a full-time guy there, but I don't see Sacco or assistant coaches Sylvain Lefebvre or Adam Deadmarsh taking days or weeks off so as to not make it overbearing on the 20+ skaters on the team. I fully agree with Jiggy on this one, every NHL team would be wise to employ a full-time goaltending coach. I mentioned quarterbacks and pitchers earlier. There are full-time quarterbacks coaches and full-time pitching coaches, why not full-time goalie coaches as the standard?