If former Avalanche net-minder Calvin Pickard hadn’t been selected by the new NHL expansion team in Las Vegas, he would have been a good bet to be the Avalanche’s starting goaltender in the 2017-18 season. Pickard’s departure left the team with questions at the goalie position, but it’s also opened the door for a healthy Semyon Varlamov to step up and reclaim the starting position between the pipes.

Even though he hasn’t looked like his former Vezina-caliber self for awhile, it doesn’t appear that the club is ready to end the chapter on “Varly” just yet. It’s still too hard to forget the ride he took the Avs on in 2013, where his pads seemed to double in size, and it seemed as if nothing could slide past him. He registered 60 starts that season: 41 wins and 14 losses and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.41 — by far his best in an Avalanche sweater.

It’s no secret that the net-minding for the Avs has been suspect for the last couple seasons. That position has become a revolving door since Patrick Roy retired — in fairness, those are some massive skates to fill. Varlamov looked like he was on the path to secure the starting position when he first arrived, but due to poor play and injuries over recent seasons, the club has scrambled to find someone reliable to fill the net. After losing Pickard to the Golden Knights, Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic went out and brought in free-agent goalie Jonathan Bernier, who arrived from the Anaheim Ducks while carrying an impressive résumé.

Varlamov struggled with a hip injury for a lengthy stretch before he and the team decided it would be best for him to get surgery. He underwent his surgery in January of 2017 and then had a second surgery on his other hip a couple of months after. This will be his first season back, and from all accounts, fully healthy, in some time.

All indications from the 2017-18 training camp and pre-season is that Varlamov is feeling good, and looks ready for a big-time, rebound season. It’s too early to make predictions for the club, but if Varlamov can stay healthy — and harness that focus from years back — the season could mark a major turnaround for the Colorado Avalanche.