After getting off of the ice in the second day of training camp and being told he looked as sharp as he has in years heading into a season, Semyon Varlamov looked up with a smile, half-patronizing, half-genuinely appreciative, and said, “Am I looking OK?”
It was another arduous offseason for the now 30-year-old, who once again had to bounce back from a season-ending injury, though a less severe one than in past years. He is proud of the progress he has made and the hard work he put in over the last few months – and now that he fought off another injury and had a full summer of training, it’s time for him to fight for his job and prove he is still a number-one.
“It’s been a long summer for me,” Varlamov said, breaking down his offseason training. “The first thing I did in the second half of April and beginning of May is I began my rehab. I wanted to make sure when I finished my rehab that I’d be ready to start training again at 110 percent.”
“The doctors here have done a great job and I fully recovered from the knee injury from last year. I had a two-week vacation; after that, I started training right away. I wanted to make sure that when I come to training camp, I want to be ready 100 percent. I feel good now.”
Everyone knows that today’s professional hockey player not only needs to maintain their skills on the ice, but also has to work diligently off of the ice to help build strength, endurance, and agility. Considering Varlamov’s competitive fire and understanding of expectations this year, he spent a majority of his offseason ensuring he would not only be healthy, but be as physically prepared for a season as he’s ever been.
“I did a lot,” Varlamov said. “I have really good trainers working with me. I do lots of off-ice training like running, jumping, quick runs. I do lots of cardio, conditioning and endurance fitness, like all of this kind of training. I spent seven weeks working with them, and every time I worked with them, I felt great.
“I also worked with our strength coach, Casey Bond, the last four weeks before training camp starts, and he did a great job of taking care of me, so I feel good.”
As for the mental side of the position, Varlamov still leans heavily on the teachings of Jussi Parkkila to help hone his craft, but is also still adjusting to him after only having worked together for one full year.
“I’m still learning from Jussi Parkkilla and I’ve learned a lot, but Jussi has told me I still have a lot to improve. So I’ve switched back to learning from him, because there’s so many things we can do even better. It just takes time.”
“I used to work with Francois Allaire for a few years, and he was a completely different goalie coach — like the style of teaching you,” Varlamov continued. “Jussi is different, of course. It takes time to make adjustments and learn new things.”
The combination of facing the final year of his current contract and having his starting role legitimately threatened for the first time since he joined the Avalanche has placed some pressure on Varlamov’s shoulders to produce one of the best seasons of his career.
Whether he is feeling the pressure or not is something only he knows, but it is clear that through the offseason, he has done everything he can to prepare himself adequately, both physically and mentally, to be at the top of his game going into the 2018-19 season.
So far in camp, Varlamov’s speed, reactions, and stamina seem to be in peak form and he will be ready to be the Varlamov Avs fans have grown to know and love. So I think it was safe to respond to his question, saying, “Yeah, Varly, you are looking A-OK.”