Europe is seeing a mass exodus of their most talented hockey players as the NHL gears up for its shortened 2013 season. The NHL Lockout leaves teams with a 48 game dash into the Stanley Cup playoffs, allowing little room for error. The Colorado Avalanche’s best young prospects are among those heading home, including Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Goalie Semyon Varlamov. While these players represent the optimistically bright future of the Denver based organization, Varlamov may quickly find himself out of the starting line up early this season.
Varlamov was acquired in a trade form the Washington Capitals before the start of last season. Varlamov enters his fourth full year in the league, but established himself as the indisputable starting goaltender for the Avalanche in the second half of last season. A five game winning streak in March when the Russian was the team’s main goalie was the season high point for the team. Ultimately, they could not keep the momentum going.
Despite all his high marks, Varlamov could easily lose the starting job in the 2013 season. With a 48-game schedule, teams do not have the luxury of bad stretches if they hope to make the playoffs. If Varlamov stumbles out of the gate, then veteran goalie J.S. Giguere could easily step in and take his place. The two had a tandem role in net for the early part of last season. Giguere, who won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks, is 35, but could benefit from the shortened season.
The Colorado Avalanche believe their future rests with Semyon Varlamov. All great teams have an outstanding goalie as their foundation and the 24-year-old has a lot of talent. However, the Avalanche have missed the playoffs for two years and reside in a market that trades success for fan loyalty. The Avalanche have no choice but to win at all costs and that could quickly elevate Giguere to the starting position. With the frenzy that awaits the shortened NHL, it’s anyone’s Stanley Cup.