Varlamov went 41-14-6 with a .927 save percentage during that magical 2013-14 season, and for that he was named a Vezina Trophy finalist.
But there’s nothing magical about the Avs (11-18-1) anymore. They’re the NHL’s worst team, four points back of the second worst, Arizona. Varlamov, meanwhile, is 6-12-0 with a .904 save percentage, and to make matters even worse, now he’s battling a sore groin.
Varlamov’s backup, Calvin Pickard, has been forced to start the last three games, all of them losses. Pickard’s record is 5-6-1 with a .903 save percentage. He allowed three goals on 29 shots in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Winnipeg.
“Right now it’s major breakdowns that are hurting us,” said forward Jarome Iginla, per the Denver Post. “Our goalies are playing well. It’s unfortunate we’re leaving them … with a few two-on-ones and breakaways. That’s all of us. That’s forwards covering for the D, the D making the right reads. It’s all of us in front of the goalies, and we’re not good enough in that area right now.”
Even great goaltending may not be enough to rescue these Avs, who have the NHL’s second-worst offense (2.17 goals per game), barely ahead of the Coyotes (2.16). Only two Colorado players, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, are providing much in the way of scoring. And even then, Duchene’s team-high 22 points do not crack the top 50 league leaders.
Bottom line: the Avs’ season has been a disaster.
And frankly, it was a disaster before it even started, with Patrick Roy abruptly quitting in August, forcing a frantic coaching search that ended with the hiring of Jared Bednar.
So, what happens now?
To date, GM Joe Sakic has been hesitant to make any big changes.
“It’s early in the year,” he said a few weeks back. “First of all, changes are hard to do, especially this time of year. … We know we have certain guys who can give more, and those guys know they can give more, but it’s not like it’s a whole thing. We’re not as consistent as we need to be.”
At the time, Sakic noted the Avs were only two games below .500 — “a four-game swing and you’re two games over .500 and right back in it.”
Today, they’re seven games below .500. To make the playoffs, it’s estimated they’d have to go in the neighborhood of 29-16-7 the rest of the way.
So essentially, they’re already out of it, save for a miraculous turnaround that does not in any way appear imminent.
That may soon require Sakic to move to Plan B and start selling off veterans like Iginla, or even consider dramatic changes to the core.
At the very least, this core may only have the rest of the season to show Sakic it’s worth keeping together. With attendance suffering and interest dwindling, it will be hard to sell fans more of the same if there isn’t some sign of life down the stretch.
The Avs’ next game is Tuesday in Minnesota against a Wild side that’s won seven straight.