These are all the starting goalies to ever don the Burgundy and Blue. But as of Friday, another had been added to the list: Semyon Varlamov. Already being heralded as "The Goalie of the Future" by this organization, he has big shoes to fill. But how big are those shoes? How does he compare with the other "Goalies of the Future" from the Avalanche?
The netminder Varly will get compared to the most is of course Patrick Roy. Roy was THE Avalanche goalie during the glory days and is our longest tenured starter in net with 8 seasons in burgundy and blue. But Roy was... different. Goalies of that caliber are rare to say the least - he almost single-handedly popularized the butterfly style of goaltending. He won 4 Stanley Cups and is the only player in NHL history to take home the Conn Smythe 3 times, an honor not even Gretzky and Lemieux can claim. His number has been retired by two NHL teams and is one of only three retired by Team Canada (which is an honor Gretzky and Lemieux CAN claim). When the 30-year-old netminder came to the Avs, he was already an established world-class goalie with enough Stanley Cup rings to plug both ears. He was the goalie of "now" that also turned out to be the goalie "of the future". Without a doubt, he's one of the greatest netminders to ever play in the NHL - heck, he's one of the greatest goalies to ever play the game. Expecting Varlamov to be the second coming of Roy is unreasonable to say the least. Roy was one of a kind.
However, in Varly's first 3 seasons, he actually had better stats than Roy during the regular season.
Varly GP: 59, Roy GP: 138
Varly GAA: 2.38, Roy GAA: 3.06
Varly SV%: .917, Roy SV%: .889
Varly Win %: .550, Roy Win%: .493
Varly's rookie team's regular season stats: 318 GF, 233 GA, +85 difference, Roy's rookie team's regular season stats: 330 GF, 280 GA, +50 difference
And don't forget Roy played behind a Stanley Cup team his first year. Their run to the Cup might have had something to do with his .923 SV% in the playoffs that year, but goalies alone don't win championships (even though Roy did his best to prove that wrong). But Varlamov's .918 and .908 in playoffs aren't anything to scoff at either. And Roy came back down to earth his second year playoffs, putting up only .873 SV% and 4.00 GAA. If you average the two together, Roy had a .898 SV%, 2.97GAA, and 1 shutout in his first two playoffs. Varly had .913 SV%, 2.47GAA, and 2 shutouts. Add in the fact that there are only two other goalies in the history of the NHL to get a playoff shutout before their 21stbirthday, and I'd say Varly's already in pretty good company.
Varlamov, if he can stay healthy, has the ability to be one of the elite goaltenders in the league. Yes, this is a small sample size and he's had half as many games as Roy did in his first three years, and I still don't expect him to be the second coming of St. Patrick for reasons already expressed. But the kid is 23 and posted a .924 SV% behind an offensive-minded team last year. That's pretty darn good.
Plus, in comparison to the other goaltenders we've had, Varly already has much better stats.
Fiset first three seasons: .873 SV%, 4.53 GAA, 32 GP ('90, '91, '92 QUE - remember, they were TERRIBLE back then)
Aebischer first three seasons: .917 SV%, 2.18 GAA, 69 GP ('01, '02, '03 COL)
Theodore first three seasons: .897 SV%, 3.09 GAA, 64 GP ('97, '98, '00 MTL
Raycroft first three seasons: .902 SV%, 2.71 GAA, 21 GP ('01, '02, '03 BOS)
Anderson first three seasons: .882 SV%, 3.39 GAA, 56 GP ('03, '04, '06 CHI - He lost all 6 games he played in his rookie season)
Varlamov first three seasons: .917 SV%, 2.39 GAA, 59 GP
The only goalie that beat him was Aebischer - Roy's backup on the early ‘00s Avalanche. That team was pretty decent from what I hear. There was also some dude's lawn between "Abby" and anyone shooting, which probably helped his numbers a bit. Varly put up similar numbers without the help of a lawn. Not too shabby IMO.
As I said before, if Varlamov stays healthy, we could easily be looking at the second best goalie this team has ever seen. He could be the long-term solution in net we've all been hoping for. Yes, a first and a second next year seems like a lot to pay, but if someone had offered you a 23-year-old Roy (even if he hadn't won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe his first full season), for a first and second rounder (that could even be mid- to late- round picks) would you say no? This is a huge risk trade, but by the numbers at least, there is the chance of HUGE return.
This also means we have a at least semi-proven goalie as our "Goalie of the Future" instead putting all our bets on our prospects. Pickard, Aittokallio, Millan, Cann, and Patterson could all turn into decent goalies, but we've got a player that's already put up good number in the NHL to cover for them now. While there is always the chance Varly getting injured, turning into a bust, or pulling an Anderson, I feel much safer about our long-term goalie situation than I did a couple months ago. Besides, we don't exactly have a good track record of drafting and developing goalies. And hey, even if he doesn't work out, he'll still get us a couple seasons closer to Pickard. He also has a former Conn Smythe winner covering his back and mentoring him. It's a role Giggy's had before, and the last young Russian he helped along (Bryzgalov) turned out pretty alright I'd say.
Only time will tell if "Sherman's Gamble" will work out. This team has a lot riding on injury-prone 23-year-olds right now - Varlamov, Johnson, Mueller and Galiardi - and if we don't make playoffs this year, our GM (and probably Head Coach) might be looking for new jobs next summer.
High risk, high reward. That is the theme for not just our goaltending, but our entire team next year. Either way, this is an exciting time to be an Avs fan. Here's to hoping Varly doesn't lead us astray.