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Revisiting MHH's 2013-14 Avalanche Season Analysis: Part 8 - Varlamov

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The goalie whisperer certainly did his thing with Varly. Who called it?

Doug Pensinger

We all know Semyon Varlamov has the raw talent to be an elite goaltender in the NHL. People have criticized his technique and mental fortitude, however. How will having Roy (arguably the greatest goaltender in the history of the game) and Francois Allaire (the guy credited for making the careers of both Varly's coach and backup goaltender) as coaches hurt or help him?

What Steve said then: Honestly I'm hoping consistent work with consistent staff will keep Varly fairly even throughout the year, as far as Goalies go. I think Allaire can do that and I think, with time, Allaire can help Varlamov not be in a position where he needs to make crazy saves so often, where he bails his defense out without looking like he's had to. (Stuff Giguere does.) I have a lot of faith in Allaire and think he got a lot of his bad rap in a Centre of the Univrese Media Frenzy while James Reimer struggled to return to form after a concussion (and while Jonas Gustavsson was bad at stopping pucks). You need someone to blame, and "bad headaches" don't go over well with GOOD ONTARIA FANS so there's your fall guy, your easy story to follow, your escape goat. Have at him.

Hopefully Roy doesn't have too much of an effect most of the time. He's got enough to do (and I want to say he said as much but a quick googling didn't turn up the quote).

What Steve says now: From day one the coaching influence was apparent. "Hey look at that glove hand," we said. It was up, it was open. That was new and it was a tremendous asset for him. We also saw Varlamov be on his angle almost all of the time. He played smart, he used his natural talents efficiently, it was what we were all hoping for. GG Allaire.

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What Earl said then: Varly's got a great opportunity to show what he's got this year, and he better. Think JSG is going to retire after this year? I bet he doesn't, he was out in Vail training with Duchene, MacKinnon and Andy O'Brien. He wouldn't mind being the starter. Pickard trained harder than he ever has this summer, he's got his eye on Varly's job, or Jiggy's. Sami does too. Four talented guys fighting for two jobs, this going to be fun to watch.

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What Mike said then: Based on his track record so far, I would think anything that adds consistency to Varly's pro routine will have a stabilizing effect on him. When he has had consistent coaching (like he did in the A and in Europe) he excelled. When left to his own devices or faced with changes (like certain times in Washington and in Colorado) he's been up and down. I'm hopeful that hearing something from a respected voice like Allaire coupled with any input from Roy and Giggy will help provide a level of "these guys want me to succeed" for him and elevate his game. I can't see a downside to Allaire unless he brings a level of inflexibility, which I don't think will happen. That said, this season provides him with his best chance to sign a good deal going forward after having a (hopefully) stellar season in '13-'14. He has to show improvement for management to see his as a viable long-term starter or (at a minimum) tradeable asset.

What Mike says now: It's like I have some insight on this subject or something...

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What Cole said then: Allaire is a high risk high reward hire by the Avalanche for sure, but I don’t think we’ll know this season whether it was the right call. Allaire has obviously developed some legendary goaltenders in his career, but he’s broken quite a few young goalies as well, trying to force them into a goaltending style that doesn’t work for them. I don’t think we’ll really see the impact on Varlamov until late in the season, or even early next season, once they have worked together long enough, but the biggest things I’ll be watching this season are: 1) How Varlamov plays in games following a loss, 2) How Varly plays after giving up a bad goal, 3) How much Varlamov talks to his defense (it needs to be more IMO), and 4) rebound control and body language (kidding). Then, when we can’t tell what’s different about Varlamov this year compared to others, we’ll just ask Mike, because he’s the goalie guy.

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What Andi said then: I think it will help him, but I'm not convinced it will be enough to guarantee he stays in Colorado. Allaire, Roy, and Giguere all belong to a specific school of thought when it comes to save selection and techniques, and I don't know if Varly will buy into it. It will be a good thing for him to experience, but unless it clicks and he starts to excel, I believe the Avs are more likely to move on from him than Allaire & Co. If Varly falters, I'd also guess that Pickard will be the next choice since he naturally plays a style that's very similar to the Allaire model.

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What AJ said then: Allaire is known far better for his successes (Roy, Giguere, to a lesser extent Reimer) than his failures (Toskala, Gustavsson) but both ends of the spectrum DO certainly exist. Now, it's not to say Vesa Toskala failed to become an NHL stalwart simply because of Allaire's guidance but as a coach he did fail to develop Toskala into anything close to a starter. Fortunately, Varly is way more talented than Toskala or The Monster so Allaire should cultivate that talent into another Hall of Fame career. Yeah, that's my answer. Hall of Fame career. Lots of Stanley Cups and shit. Yeah. Roy won't hurt, either. Lots of Stanley Cups. Yeah!

What AJ says now: I've always believed in Varly's talent. Always. I was a bit tongue in cheek with the "Hall of Fame career" bullshit but if he puts up a .927 save percentage for the next few years, he'll definitely find himself in the HoF when his playing days are over and the Avs will very likely be serious Cup contenders in that time. FWIW, I'm using this answer again this year when the "Will Varly repeat last year's success?" question is inevitably asked this year. Hall of Fame career, baby. At least until Pajpach is ready.

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What Cheryl said then: Varly has already stated that he's looking forward to developing this season. His desire to improve himself will be something Roy appreciates. However, Roy's involvement will be minimal —as he's already stated—and any nerves about having him as a coach will dissipate quickly. I actually think he'll get past the "my coach, the goaltender" and into simply "my coach." Allaire will become the one to whom Varly looks, and I can't imagine any goaltender out there wouldn't feel thrilled to have a legend like Allaire in his corner. I suspect Allaire will be a calming influence on Varly and help him take his game to the next level.

What Cheryl says now: Yup, pretty much this.

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What Sandie said then: It won’t hinder him. From hearing players talk who have played under Roy, they say that he is a great coach. Yes, he expects wins. He doesn’t accept losing well. He still wants to win. But, he takes care of his players. He knows what it takes to win and likes to share that and help his players. As for Allaire, this guy is gold. Why would it hurt him?