Walshy’s World: Varly – Broken goods, injury prone or mismanaged?

Our resident health and fitness expert Cameron Walsh weighs in on Semyon Varlamov and why he feels that getting out of Washington could be a good thing for him.

By Cameron Walsh

Semyon Varlamov has been a bit of an enigma. A talent no doubt, but one who frustratingly for Caps fans and George McPhee, couldn’t stay on the ice, to the point he has been shipped off to the Avs.

As I was compiling this piece, the trade by the Caps to the Avs sending Varlamov for a 1st round pick in 2012 and a 2nd round pick in either 2013/14 was completed. The Caps got a great return on a player that was not signed when the trade occurred, however I think in the end we will see the Avs come out on top in this trade.

If anyone watched the series between the Penguins and the Caps in 2009 they would have got to see the talent level of the kid; let’s not forget ‘Varly’ is only 23, it seems a bit early in his career to be casting him off as an injury prone waste of talent. I know the Caps are deep in net and they had the luxury of Thomas Vokoun signing for one season, but I think of the 3 young netminders the Caps had, Varlamov has the highest ceiling.

When I was in Pittsburgh back in 2010 I was fortunate enough to have a bit of a chat with some of the Washington media after the big rematch between the Caps and Pens (the Pens lost by the way) and the Washington media were struggling to work out why he kept on getting injured.

I tried to explain to them what I thought the problem was; however, kind of hard to be taken seriously when you are all decked out in Penguins gear, it is 1am in the morning and you are an unknown with a strange accent, and according to them, have no credentials…

So what I am going to try and do is dissect why this talented netminder seems to be breaking down all the time and why it baffles me that pro teams don’t see it more often. The same thing happens over here, overloading on muscle areas and not compensating with others, but I am getting ahead of myself.

We all know a goalies best friend is his quickness and flexibility. The strain a goalie’s body goes through over the course of a season is going to fatigue on particular body parts that will wear down over time if under prepared before the long haul.

An athlete’s core is their most important asset in their body’s functionality. No matter what sport, I don’t care what you are playing, hockey, basketball or lawn bowls, it helps all of your extremities function without having to worry about helping you balance.

The core is where the body can generate all of its base movements. The core is not just the ‘abs’ but so much more, it includes the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, quads, and lower back — basically any area that attaches to your pelvic gurdle.

This piece could become a 5000 word grind about the functionality of the body parts attached to pelvis and how each works but I want to focus on what I think has effected Varlamov and how I feel he has been mismanaged by the Capitals and why the trade will help us see the best of him (thank god he went west, I just hope after the realignment he stays there).

The adductors and glutes are the main muscles that move a goalie sideways when in the butterfly position, and surprise, surprise it is the good ol’ ‘groin’ (adductor) pull that Varlamov has continued to have his pro career since hitting the North American shores. Even in his AHL days he has had the same issue.

He barely played back to back games in the 2008-09 season due to groin injuries and this injury has followed him through his career. There are 2 plausible reasons for this; 1. He is a lazy player who doesn’t do any condition and just tries to get by on pure talent (he has it in buckets) or 2 he has been mismanaged and the work has not been put into getting his body up to speed to handle the work load of a full NHL season.

I had a look back at his stats on and in 2007 he played in 44 games and 2008 he played in 33 games all in Russia, since hitting North American turf Varlamov has played in 89 NHL and AHL games combined, with 27 of those coming this past season, a year he was expected to prove he was the number one in Washington and got outplayed enough by Michal Neuvirth that he sat and watched the playoffs.

I reason his inability to get on the ice for any consistent length of time without getting injured was mismanagement by the Caps strength and conditioning staff, the Av’s must have felt the same way, or they would not have given up as much as they did (the trade looks so one sided at the moment).

Between the end of this season and the start of 2011-12 Varlamov will be taking direction from a new fitness crew who will be doing their upmost to ensure their new number one goalie gets on the ice and stays there. When an often injured player is traded and the team picking up that traded player says “we feel a change of scenery will be good for said player” they usually feel they can manage that player’s health better.

I have a feeling that Varlamov feels the same way; he seemed to have a new enthusiasm about being out of Washington and was looking forward to starting a new page in his start/stop career. I am booking it he has a stellar year this year and plays over 50 games, without a groin injury.