On paper, it seems pretty straightforward — Semyon Varlamov will be the Avs’ starter this season, and Calvin Pickard will be his backup.
But in Colorado, things are never really straightforward.
New head coach Jared Bednar said he’s not sure how his goaltending position will shake out this year, telling the Denver Post that Pickard has a chance to shine with Varlamov on Russian national team duty at the World Cup.
“We’re going to watch him through training camp,” Bednar explained. “Obviously [Pickard’s] going to get a real good look at training camp with Varly gone, to play some exhibition games early. And then we’re going to sit down once Varly gets back how exactly we’re going to split the games.
“That will be determined on how each of them are playing along the way as well.”
Again, on paper, this is Varlamov’s net. The 28-year-old is paid like a No. 1 — $5.9 million annually through 2019 — and has carried a starter’s workload, appearing in 63, 57 and 57 games over the last three seasons.
Pickard, 24, has played 36 career NHL games.
But there are some things to consider.
One, Varlamov’s numbers have steadily declined since his banner campaign three years ago, in which he finished fourth in MVP voting and second in Vezina voting:
’13-14: 41 wins, .927 save percentage, 2.41 GAA
’14-15: 28 wins, .921 save percentage, 2.56 GAA
’15-16: 27 wins, .914 save percentage, 2.81 GAA
There’s also the matter of who’s behind the Colorado bench.
Gone is Patrick Roy, who had a curious relationship with Varlamov and the goaltending position in general, really. Often times Roy’s Hall of Fame resume seemed to bubble to the surface.
When Varlamov played poorly, Roy was there with a critique or challenge. When Varlamov played well, Roy was effusive in his praise.
The constant message, though, was that Varlamov was Colorado’s No. 1 goalie. And, at times, Roy made it seem like Varlamov was team’s most important player.
That might not be the same under Bednar. He’s coming in fresh, with almost no previous relationship to any of the players — and in that regard, Pickard becomes awfully intriguing.
The 49th overall pick in 2010, Pickard showed very well last season (13-7-6, .922 save percentage, 2.56 GAA) and received a couple of votes of confidence this summer. The first was when the Avs sent backup goalie Reto Berra to Florida, all but ensuring Pickard would spent the whole season in Colorado.
The second came in the form of a two-year extension.
Pickard also played very well for Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the World Championship, going 2-0 with a 0.50 GAA and .971 save percentage.
So yeah, definitely something to keep an eye on.