Mar 29, 2012; Vancouver, British Columbia,CANADA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov (1) during the singing of the national anthem before the game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE
Last week, Andi ran a series here at Mile High Hockey on the economics behind the Avs' rebuild. I'm also taking a look at the rebuild, but I'm approaching it from a different angle. By now, Avalanche fans should be familiar with the core foundation that the team has been building around - you know, the Holy Trinity of centers, Erik Johnson, Semyon Varlamov, etc etc. So, I decided to take the different components and compare them to the eight teams that made the playoffs this year in the Western Conference. I'm starting things off with goaltending and then will move to defense and forwards the next two Mondays (spoiler alert: I think today might be the high point).
For this study, I went to the ever-useful hockey-reference.com and grabbed the regular season stats for the primary goalies for the 7 legit playoff teams + San Jose (guffaw). I also included "backups" Brian Elliott and Cory Schneider as they played significant minutes this year (and, at least as I type this on April 22nd, are currently the playoff starter for their team). Below that are the numbers for Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere (an amazing depth player for the Avalanche, but this piece isn't about depth players).
As you can see, Varlamov had a decent year for the Avalanche this year, but statistically, the only playoff goalie he was better than this year was Corey Crawford. His numbers don't quite measure up as playoff caliber...yet. That's a key word, because Varly was just 23 years old this year (he turned 24 on April 27th), younger than everyone else on the list. Here's the list again, but instead with NHL stats from when they were 23.
When they were 23, only Elliott, Quick, Halak and Luongo spent any significant time in the NHL. Varly's stats are fairly similar to all four and, of course, all four have improved significantly since then. The obvious extrapolation is that it's not a stretch to picture Varlamov putting up playoff-like numbers in a couple of years (I did an age-related Varly study a couple of months back which led me to similar conclusions). It's not a automatic - these goalies improved over time and Varlamov will need to do the same. For now, though, he appears to be on the necessary development track.
Bottom line: I'm very comfortable with Semyon Varlamov as a core foundation piece. Although he still has some developing to do (insert full-time-goalie-coach dig here), he's shown that he has a ton of talent. Based on that talent and this simple study, it's not hard to envision Varly as one of the dominant goalies in the Western Conference a couple of years from now. Wait...it's not hard to envision Varly as one of the dominant playoff goalies in the Western Conference a couple of years from now. Yeah, that sounds much better.