The Colorado Avalanche will continue to roll with Semyon Varlamov in net. It hasn’t been a week yet since the news broke that the goaltender could be charged with second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault, yet Varlamov continues to travel with the Avalanche freely.
Opinions of the rightness and wrongness of this vary widely.
Scott Burnside made some very valid points in his op-ed for ESPN two days ago. He writes:
…presumption of innocence does not necessarily mean to go ahead and do whatever you want or, more to the point when it comes to the Avs and Varlamov, to go ahead and try to collect a few more points while we get this whole guilt or innocence thing straightened out.
You know what happens to police officers and teachers and lots of other people when they get charged with a crime, especially one involving alleged acts of violence? Yes, they are protected by the presumption of innocence. But police officers don’t go back on the beat right away — they are reassigned to desk duty. Teachers who are charged with violent crimes don’t go right back to talking about Christopher Columbus and the Civil War in the classroom. Not two days later, anyway.
Truth be told, it was very unsettling to watch all the members of the team stream off of the bench to congratulate Valamov on another well-played game only a few days after he’d spent the night in jail for allegedly wailing on his girlfriend. It wasn’t like the netminder was accused of something like urinating on a tree in public.
The crimes that he could be charged with are very, very serious. If he does end up on the guilty side (and we’re not presuming he will, but if) then how awful does the NHL look for allowing him to continue to pile up wins for the Avalanche while the slow wheels of justice grind out the process?
Adrian Darter of the Denver Post has a different perspective on the ordeal. Given his proximity to the Avs on a daily basis, naturally he has a strong feeling for the matter. He thinks that the team did the right thing in scooping the embattled goalie up immediately after his rough night.
Darter wrote that both Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic had a very serious talk with the netminder, and the outcome of that chat is what led them to icing him still. Per his op-ed column in the Post:
Any answer, any piece of body language not to the satisfaction of two of the most important decision-makers with the team, and there would be no way Varlamov would be allowed on the team’s charter flight to Dallas on Thursday afternoon.
Varlamov swore to both men that the ugly allegations made against him by his Russian girlfriend were untrue.
Roy and Sakic have chosen to believe him. Now comes the hard part: waiting to see if their faith was rightly placed, or if both proud Avs executives were played for fools.
This perspective is also fair. Darter had a chance to talk to both of the men that looked Varlamov in the eye as he swore that the allegations against him weren’t true. So they stuck with their player who they clearly believe, and are allowing him to play.
That approach stands in contrast to how teams typically operate however. You’ll see franchises suspend players indefinitely, pending the outcome of the charges and things along those lines. Richie Incognito isn’t going to play for the Miami Dolphins this weekend. Yet when Colorado takes on the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night, it will be the accused kidnapper in net.
It’s not possible to write through something like this or to make it make sense without knowing all the details. The Avalanche aren’t creating a lot of goodwill around the league by icing the netminder despite his recent run in with the law and the possible charges though. This is a powder keg of a situation that will explode sooner or later, and sadly, the outcome won’t be pretty for the Avalanche, Varlamov or the NHL regardless of what comes of the charges.