Author: Joe Yerdon

Semyon Varlamov, Zach Parise

Will the real Semyon Varlamov please stand up?


One area the Colorado Avalanche aren’t particularly stressed out about is in goal. With Semyon Varlamov locked in as the No. 1 guy and Jean-Sebastien Giguere backing him up, they’re all set there.

The question is: What version of Varlamov is the real one? Fans in Colorado have seen two different performances from him during his two seasons in Denver.

Take a look at Varlamov’s numbers over the last three seasons (one with Washington) and you’ll be left wondering the same thing.

2010-11:  11-9-5    .924 SV%  2.23 GAA (Washington)

2011-12:  26-24-3  .913 SV%  2.59 GAA

2012-13:  11-21-3  .903 SV%  3.02 GAA

Neither season with the Avalanche is overly inspiring but the work he’d done in Washington was enough to inspire GM Greg Sherman to give up a first-round pick for him.  His save percentage numbers in the ’11-’12 season don’t even crack the Top 20 in the league and he was outplayed by Giguere.

Last season was a disaster all around for the Avs and was highlighted by the terrible play of their defense. It’s difficult to be hard on Varlamov for that, but his meager numbers from the previous season took a further beating.

That’s cause for concern, but the Avs may have addressed that by hiring Patrick Roy as their new coach. You’d have to think if anyone can help a goalie figure out their game it’d be a Hall of Famer of Roy’s ilk. After all, Varlamov is still young at age 25 and headed into his sixth NHL season.

If Roy can help Varlamov out, the Avs won’t have to sweat out goaltending at all. If not, 21 year-olds Sami Aittokallio and Calvin Pickard will be waiting in the AHL for an opportunity. Colorado is hoping it doesn’t have to come to that.

Veteran goalie Leighton off to KHL

Michael Leighton

The NHL won’t have Michael Leighton to kick around this season.

The former Flyers and, more recently, Blue Jackets goalie is off to the KHL to play for Donbass Donetsk in the Ukraine according to the team’s website.

Leighton is best known as the goalie who helped lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, but his career since then has seen him battle injury, bouts in the AHL and a trade to Columbus last season.

Last season, he played in just one game for the Flyers and was bombed on for five goals allowed in a loss to Tampa Bay. With Donbass, he’ll get to suit up with former Flyers teammates Ruslan Fedotenko and Oskars Bartulis.

Daniel Alfredsson’s troll game is strong

Alfredsson - Panzeri

It’s been the summer for offseason drama that never stops in Ottawa as new Detroit Red Wing Daniel Alfredsson and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk have traded versions of their story of what happened and who to blame for him signing with the Wings.

The fun never ends, however, as players are back in Ottawa skating in preparation for training camp and that includes Alfredsson. Allen Panzeri of the Ottawa Citizen snapped this picture of him skating with some of his former Sens teammates and wearing very familiar gear.

Daniel Alfredsson may not win any personal awards this season, but he’s locked down the “Troll Job of the Year.”

Colorado’s defense could lead to an avalanche of goals against

Erik Johnson, Mike Brown

One thing the Avalanche weren’t very good at last season was preventing opponents from scoring goals. They were 27th in goals allowed which was a leading reason why they wound up in the NHL Draft lottery and picking first overall.

A big part of the blame for that fell on their defensemen. Bad news Avs fans: Not much has changed back there.

The two subtractions from last year’s team were Shane O’Brien and Greg Zanon. The latter was brought in to be a defensive stopper and failed to do much stopping at all. Meanwhile, O’Brien struggled to get into the lineup most of the season.

The only addition made to this year’s team was Cory Sarich who came over in a four-player swap with Calgary and he played rough third-pairing minutes on an equally defensively inept Flames team. He also wasn’t very good.

There are a couple of young guys who offer hope and will get thrown into the fire more this season.

Tyson Barrie is just 21-years-old but he led the team in average time on ice over his 32 games (21:35). Incredibly, he also led all defensemen in points with 13. His advanced numbers were strong which means he could (should?) see more responsibility on the blue line.

Likewise, Stefan Elliott, 22,  should get more time this season. In 18 games last season he had a goal and three assists and, like Barrie, put up respectable advanced numbers. The play of those two made it acceptable to part ways with Zanon and O’Brien.

The rest of the group with Hunwick, Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, Ryan Wilson, and Andre Benoit all offer complementary parts but not an overly dominating game.

Johnson should be the best of the bunch but has never taken the reins as a true No. 1 defenseman. Hejda is their “defensive stopper” and Wilson has a steady all-around game. Benoit and Hunwick could wind up fighting for the sixth spot with Sarich.

Long story short, it’s a flawed bunch with a pair of hopeful youngsters and a third, Duncan Siemens, waiting down the road. Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere had better be ready for another busy season in goal.

Colorado’s crew of centers will lead the way

Matt Duchene

Say what you will about the Colorado Avalanche but one thing you have to admit is they’re loaded with talent up the middle.

They were already a strong team last season at the center position with Paul Stastny, a revitalized Matt Duchene, and a retained Ryan O’Reilly. This summer they added No. 1 overall pick in the draft Nathan MacKinnon and suddenly the Avs aren’t lacking for scoring ability anywhere at the pivot.

With four guys who could run the show at center, coach Patrick Roy already said he was relieving the logjam by moving O’Reilly to left wing to relieve the pressure. It’s a good problem to have if you’re a first-time NHL coach but it shows how much the Avalanche have going for them.

As it is, Roy mapped out how he sees his top three lines as is and it looks good.

Alex Tanguay – Paul Stastny – Gabriel Landeskog
Ryan O’Reilly – Matt Duchene – P.A. Parenteau
Jamie McGinn – Nathan MacKinnon – Steve Downie

If MacKinnon comes as advertised, the Avs are rolling with three lines that can put the puck in the net. McGinn has shown the ability to finish and Downie, who’s returning from injury, can score a little and get rough as needed.

There’s a lot to like about what the Avs have going up front and the kind of production they got from Duchene (17-26-43) and Stastny (9-15-24) last season shows the top two lines will be well taken care of. Duchene and Parenteau each had 43 points last year. A healthy Landeskog and Tanguay should help Stastny pick up his offense.

If nothing else this season, the Avs will be able to score goals in bunches.