Not Your Average Day in Denver
Winning can paper over a lot of cracks. When you’re 10-1-0 to start a new season, everything should be rosy.
The past 24 hours have been anything but smooth sailing for Colorado however.
Starting netminder Semyon Varlamov appeared before a Denver County Judge accused of domestic violence and kidnapping, whilst Steve Downie was traded to Philadelphia for Max Talbot.
The Varlamov saga becomes more bizarre and shady as news is released, with a series of serious accusations being made against the former Washington stopper.
Varlamov was given a $5,000 bail bond (which he posted) and a series of restrictions by Judge Claudia Jordan, but will be allowed to travel with the team; although they start a four game home stand on Saturday against Montreal.
The timing of these accusations is far from ideal for Colorado or Varlamov.
The Russian has made a fantastic start to the 2013/14 season, posting a .945 save percentage and 1.45 GAA in 8 contests as the Avs posted a red hot start to lead the Central Division.
So strong has the Samara native’s play been, he had begun to be talked about as a possible starter for Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The Avalanche released a statement saying that they were aware of the allegations but wouldn’t comment further until the conclusion of the investigation.
The Avs fan base was further sent in to a spin when popular forward Steven Downie was sent to Philadelphia, who drafted him in 2005, in exchange for Maxime Talbot.
The exact reasonings behind the decision seem murky; with financial considerations being one possible factor.
Downie has 1 goal and 7 points through the Avs first 11 games, and looked at home on the Avs top line alongside Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. Despite missing almost the entire 2012/13 season through injury, the former Windsor Spitfire’s combination of grit and skill made him a hit with Avalanche fans.
The Ontario native is heading for free agency in the summer however, and seems likely to get a raise on the $2.65m he earned this season.
Talbot on the other hand is signed through to 2016 with a cap hit of $1.75m.
Some have raised concerns the Avs are making the kind of financially motivated moves that helped relegate the franchise to the basement in recent years; with little or no discussion between the club and Downie about a contract extension prior to this trade.
Head Coach Patrick Roy, who announced the trade at the teams post practise press conference, was quick to praise the former Pittsburgh man however:
“Talbot has won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh. He’s a great penalty killer. We feel that he’s going to (add) a lot of depth to our team. He’s a guy that has performed so really well in the playoffs and we think he’ll be a great addition.”
Read more on The Denver Post
Roy noted that he felt Colorado were a little short of depth on the penalty kill whilst Cody McLeod sat out through suspension recently; while Talbot recognised as one of the NHL’s best penalty killers.
Avalanche Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic also spoke of Talbot’s experience and ‘Cup heritage’. Despite Talbot’s obvious qualities however – many still question the move.
Downie’s blend of sandpaper, his willingness to get his nose a little dirty and his ability to contribute offensively leave question marks over what Colorado is set to gain by trading one of their top wingers for someone who was playing on the fourth line for the, thus far woeful, Flyers.
NHL.com’s Dan Rosen saw things differently however:
One thing Talbot will provide is better consciousness in the Avs own end. The defence has been playing largely ahead of itself thus far this season, and the addition of another strong defensive forward should help counter act what seems like an inevitable (at some point) regression in the teams defensive play; which currently leads the NHL with just 16 goals against – a far cry from last season when the Avs were one of the worst teams in the whole league defensively.
Whether Talbot is, as Rosen suggests, the kind of depth player that can help tip the Avs over the top or if the club has made a major mistake letting Downie go; Colorado have shown no lack of stones in making such a bold move at this stage of the season and look to add to their ‘Stanley Cup mentality’ with this latest move.