Welcome to the latest installment of an Avs Mailbag. Thanks for your questions, and if you want to send me anything to address in future Mailbags, the email address is Dater@bsndenver.com. OK, let's get right to it:
From Skyler, we have: "Hey, I know it’s a bit out right now, but what do you think the Avs’ plan is in net after Varly? Do you think Martin will be ready by time Varly’s contract is up? Thanks!"
I've gotten a few worried fans asking about Varly this week, and while I think it's fair to be concerned with his play right now, I don't think it's panic time and I believe he'll get on a roll at some point soon. I hope, for his sake, I'm not jinxing him by saying that, but I just think he has too much talent to keep having his saves percentage hover around the current .903 clip.
It's true, Varly's contract, with a $5.9 million cap hit, is up after next season. He can be an unrestricted free agent after that. Typically, goalies haven't cashed in too well in the UFA market in recent years, though Ryan Miller in Vancouver was an exception. Usually, top goalies are re-signed to extensions before they can leave as a UFA. It's too soon to start worrying about Varlamov's contract status, though, either way. My strong guess is he will go into next season as a member of this team still, and how well he plays likely will dictate if he gets that extension offer from the Avs or not. If he has a sensational rest of this season, he'd get the extension offer earlier than that.
But there's no question that Varly has to start putting up better numbers. He can't keep giving up three-four goals every night like he has mostly lately. Granted, not all the goals have been his "fault." But, last time I checked, goalies are paid to make the tough saves too, not just the easy saves. It seems like Varly has been a bit shaky on shots to the glove-hand side, an area of his game he's always worked at harder than others. He's not a good puck-handling goalie, so he freezes a lot of pucks, which puts extra pressure on a team that isn't very good on faceoffs right now.
Varly works really hard, though. He takes his job seriously. In fact, maybe he's a little too serious about things. He is a nice guy, a friendly guy, but he doesn't laugh a lot it seems. Maybe he does in private, with friends and family, but he's always very dry and...serious...around us press folk. Sometimes, I'd like to see Varly just do something wild and crazy, even if that is getting really mad or something. Otherwise, he's just a very monotone guy, but some of that probably has to do with the language barrier, though his English is 100 miles head of where it was when he got to Denver.
As for Spencer Martin, he had a real hot streak a while ago, but his numbers have cooled off a bit. As of Wednesday, his saves percentage in San Antonio was only .901. I watched him play in the Rookie Showcase before the season in San Jose, as the only traveling Denver media member not on the team payroll, and did a story on him. He struggled mightily there, and time is starting to get short on his career, probably, as a "hot prospect." But, man, goalies are weird creatures. They can just come out of nowhere at almost any age, it seems, and light the world on fire. Then, you never hear from them again. So, Martin still has time to get his career going. But, next year will be the fifth year since being drafted by the Avs (63rd overall, 2013). Time is starting to become something of a factor with him probably.
From Tyler: Hi Adrian, What are your thoughts on the Yakupov roller-coaster? Thank you for taking the time to read my question.
Shoot, I wish I felt more optimistic for Yak, because, like other media people who have covered him and people in general who have been around him, he's a very nice person who just wants to have fun and succeed. But it's just...there are just these moments where he seems lost out there. I'm just being a pop psychologist here, but I just have to wonder if the North American style of game just isn't, and never has been, his cup of tea. This is a league where coaches watch film of your every move, 24/7. who are armed with reams of data, and who simply don't tolerate a "one-way game" anymore, unless you can score 30 goals. Yak is a good forechecker, I've noticed. But when the puck is in the neutral and defensive zones, he just doesn't seem to grasp the art of tight checking. Offensively, he's got great talent. But, here's the problem: He doesn't get the puck enough. He doesn't go get it enough and he doesn't get open enough for teammates to easily spot him.
That said, he does have seven goals in 26 games. That's four more goals than he had in 40 games last season. His Corsi at even strength is 54.1. He's been a good guy in the dressing room, and hasn't whined publicly about being a healthy scratch of late. But here he is again, a healthy scratch. After such a promising start, Yak is the forgotten man again. The bad stuff is happening again. I hope he can get back to great times again, like in this classic Yak interview (and whoever said this was a "horrible" interview who posted this video, that's dead wrong. It's an awesome interview:
From Dennis in Seattle: Hey Dater - So glad you're covering the AVS again - it's great to have you back! So can you please enlighten me on why EJ is constantly sliding on the ice instead of staying on his skates - more that once in the last couple of games he's slid completely out of the play. And I have no idea what he was trying to do on the Penguins goal - flopping around backwards. Don't get me wrong I like him as a player - but his sliding just drives me nuts!
From Bradley Hobart:
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