The Avalanche Ahead — Breakouts and Disappointments Part 3

With the 2013/14 season rapidly approaching – 27 days!!!! – it’s time to look towards the upcoming season with an eye on expectations.

Every year, every team has its breakout players; the guys who rise to prominence either as a rookie, totally out of nowhere, or as an established player making a big jump. Each team also has its share of disappointments (some more than others). Over the next several days, we’ll look at three of each for the Avalanche for 2013/14 and just why their name is mentioned.

Today, the last of the breakouts for the 2013/14 season before we get to the ugly part no one wants to talk about: the disappointments. No, today we will continue the good vibes by predicting a breakout year for the guy every has hoped would establish himself: Semyon Varlamov.

Mar 28, 2013; Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov (1) during the first period against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Some don’t believe in him. That’s fair; there will always be detractors. He’s clearly got some talent; he was the 23rd overall pick to the Washington Capitals in 2006 and battled for the starting job during his time there, youth and inexperience being his biggest faults.

The problem is the expectations. Part of that is because the Avalanche dealt a first round pick (which would become Filip Forsberg) and a second pick for the young Russian prior to the 2011/12 season. The Avs weren’t ready for the playoffs and the expectations for Varly weren’t fair.

He showed promise that year – going 26-24-3 with a 2.59 GAA and .913 save percentage – but struggled with consistency and was even pulled for backup J.S. Giguere at one point. Last year didn’t seem to go a whole lot better, though his performance isn’t told in his numbers. Sure, 11-21-3 with a 3.02 GAA and .903 save percentage sounds terrible but he faced a ton of shots behind a terrible defense and managed to nearly steal a handful of games.

Varlamov is capable of the outstanding, like this:

He’s certainly got the talent and the size (6’2” 200) to be the man in Colorado. And fairly or not, this year, he can’t fall back on “well my defense sucks” as an excuse. Ryan Miller had that excuse but still had pretty decent numbers last season.
Look for Varlamov to finally become more consistent and play like the guy they thought they were trading for a few years back. The team is still going to be bad – they didn’t do much of anything to help the defense and while they should get better with additions through the system, they’ll get more talented but their collective inexperience could come back to hurt them – but Varlamov could be helped out by the fact that the Avs are now pretty deep and talented at forward.

This team will get in a shootout or two this year but Varlamov will come up big when needed more often than he has in the past. Look for Varly to get near the 30 win mark, playing 65+ games for the Avs, and knocking his GAA to about 2.60 and bringing his save percentage close to .920.

Or I’ll be horribly, horribly wrong and the team might have to start looking in another direction. No pressure!

Follow me on Twitter: @RWTFC

Topics: 2013-14 Season, Breakouts, Colorado Avalanche, Semyon Varlamov

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