The Avalanche sent Calvin Pickard back down to Cleveland today, where he will return to marinating in AHLspice and pucks. Semyon Varlamov has been activated from IR, so somebody needed to go for sure. But couldn't this have waited just a minute?
There's been a lot of ink on this one already so I'll be brief on my agreement. There is absolutely an argument to be made that Pickard has been the better goaltender than Reto Berra during his call-up. Not that this would be difficult, mind. Despite his October success Berra's .883 SV% this season and .891 career SV% do not inspire confidence. But for better or for worse, Reto Berra is going to be with the organization through 2016-17, and is 6 years older than Pickard.
Who's more likely to benefit from lots of playing time, the 28 year old Swiss with good size but bad numbers as long as he's been in North America, or the 22 year old who has only ever had two seasons below .900, his first pro year with LEM and his first year with WHL Seattle?
Who would you rather be stuck seeing mainly practice pucks and door duty, the guy who's still developing his pro game, or the guy whose SV% is likely only drop from here on?
Whether Reto Berra would be exposed to waivers is irrelevant. Whether his salary is too big to bury in the AHL is irrelevant. Pickard needs to be getting game-level practice, while it won't hurt Berra to miss it. Would Pickard be a better backup than Berra right now? Very probably, but it's not worth the long-term tradeoff.
Now to the main taek.
We can learn a lot about decision making from (don't laugh) Craig Ferguson. Ask yourself before speaking:
Does this need to be said by me now?
Well, Avalanche? Is this a move that needs to be made by you now?
Varlamov is healthy and we presumably want him to go play and win us games. The front office appears to agree. They are also currently unwilling to play Reto Berra. So what's the plan with the back to back this week? Calgary on Thursday, Winnipeg on Friday. Will Varlamov, who you'll remember Roy said is going to "play a lot of games," start both of them? Because he shouldn't, especially not coming right back from a groin injury. Tired goalies generally perform worse than rested ones. Are you ready to go with Berra now? Because he's been losing you games and you know it, guys, that's why Pickard got an extended shot.
Here's the team's options as I see them.
- Varly plays both games, introducing a negative schedule effect on Friday: tired goaltender.
- Varly plays Thursday, Berra plays Friday, when Berra has continued not to be NHL caliber.
- Wait. Let Pickard play Calgary, send him back and activate Varlamov on Friday and start him in Winnipeg.
- Carry three goalies til the weekend and start Pickard on Friday.
or, in sum,
- (1) rested Varly (1) tired Varly
- (1) rested Varly (1) rested Berra
- (1) rested Pickard (1) rested Varly
- (1) rested Varly (1) rested Pickard at the expense of a roster spot
The third option appears to be a smarter gamble. If you believe Pickard to be an NHL backup, you trust him with rest over a tired Varlamov. We already know the team trusts Pickard over Berra, right now at least. Carrying three goalies is generally not a good idea because you need the roster spots for skaters. (Not that Roy always uses them, but that's a different story.)
If it were up to me, I'd answer no, Avalanche, while this is a move that you need to make, you don't need to make it now. You're putting the team at a disadvantage on Friday, be it with a tired Varly or a Berra over a rested Pickard. Obviously, in any given game, tired Varly or rested Berra could win a hockey game, this is about averages. Hockey as we understand it today is about playing percentages, maximizing your chance to Score More Than Them, and sending Pickard to Cleveland today, rather than say Friday morning, does not do that. And even though you just told everyone Pickard deserves to stay based on his play but not developing him would be a disservice, if you play Varlamov in both games, you're saying you have no faith in your #2 goalie whatsoever. If you're treating Reto Berra like a lame duck that's Pickard while he's on the roster.
Yes. The Avs have much bigger fish to fry than this. But as we're already seeing with premature contract
ulations extensions, this little stuff adds up.