BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10: Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche clears the puck against the Boston Bruins on October 10, 2011 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
We've all been lamenting the valleys in the performance landscape of our new #1 (in our hearts and on his jersey!) goaltender, Semyon Varlamov. We've wondered aloud as to whether his injury history, inconsistency, and relative inexperience as a bonified NHL starter are issues that can legitimately be overlooked at times. Given the steep price paid by Colorado's management in order to acquire his services many of us have felt that they can't. This was especially true during the horrible late October to mid-November he had between the pipes for the Avalanche. He wasn't delivering on the cost paid for his services and he wasn't giving the franchise what they desperately needed: a legitimate #1 goaltender. And then the fans started casting around for causation.
One of the biggest issues that came up almost immediately in our (and others') conversations is the lack of a full-time goalie coach for Varlamov. We all know (or at least I think you do) that Kirk McLean is the team's goaltending consultant. We also know that he's part-time and lives in Vancouver. Varlamov hasn't expressed any ill-will or issues about his work with McLean, but he has a longer history with Finnish goalie whisperer Jussi Parkkila. Why didn't Parkkila get the Avalanche goaltending coaching job you ask even though there was speculation that he'd be offered the gig? He was already under contract with the KHL's SKA St. Petersburg. You may remember them as the potential destination of Varlamov if he didn't get things worked out in Washington. Things worked out by him getting traded to Colorado for a couple of draft picks, including a 2012 1st-rounder.
Varlamov himself has stated that he hoped that the Avalanche would have someone available to work with him every day. But at the start of the season, McLean was still the consultant and still part-time and the sour grousers among us took this as another sign that the Avs were continuing to operate on the cheap and that they weren't doing enough to protect their investment in Varlamov. There's the possibility that this situation plays into the somewhat fragile mindset that Varlamov appears to exhibit at times this season and it doesn't provide the subtle guidance that a world-class goalie sometimes needs.
However, given that the #1 job seems to have developed into a split-time arrangement lately and wit the team winning more often than not, is it still a viable argument for the pro-Varlamov to demand a full-time coach? Is his inconsistency an indicator of youth and inexperience or a sign that he needs a more omnipresent guiding hand at his position? Why aren't people discussing the lack of a full-time coach for Jean-Sebastien Giguere? Have we made much ado about nothing here at MHH? Was having McLean back part-time for this season just a stop-gap until Parkkila or another full-time coach was available to take the reigns in Denver? Should we be worried about a lack of goaltending development in the Colorado system when touted uber-prospect Sami Aittokallio plays a similar style of game?
Justin at The Goalie Guild responds.