Top Shelf: Avs play wait and see with embattled Varlamov

Philadelphia, PA ( - In a scenario all too common in professional sports, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov is the most recent athlete being accused of committing heinous acts of violence against his girlfriend.

They are only accusations for now but the Avalanche know this situation can go from bad to worse in a hurry. That's why Colorado is treading lightly at the moment, choosing to say little as it waits for the facts to come to light.

The team is hoping the very serious charges being levied against Varlamov are not true, but at the same time they must prepare for the worst. Unfortunately, we are all aware of the frequency in which violence is perpetrated against women, and the world of sports is no stranger to the ugly realm of domestic violence.

Varlamov was arrested Wednesday on second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault charges. The kidnapping charge is a Class 4 felony, punishable by two to six years in prison under Colorado statutes; the assault charge is a misdemeanor.

The 25-year-old Varlamov turned himself in to police Wednesday evening. He spent the night in jail before he could stand before a judge Thursday morning.

For now, Varlamov is free to go as he pleases. A Denver judge set Varlamov's bond at $5,000 and the goaltender was able to join his team in its trip to Dallas, where the Avalanche are scheduled to play the Stars on Friday.

In fact, Denver Post writer Adrian Dater is reporting Varlamov will not only be with the team in Dallas, but that he'll also get the start.

With Colorado also playing a home game Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens it was assumed Varlamov would have to play one of the two games while backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere would get the other start. Considering the Avs are set to retire Adam Foote's jersey in a ceremony prior to Saturday's home game, it seems wise to use Giguere rather than Varlamov in that contest. The optics of Varlamov playing on a night of celebration for the franchise would be less than ideal, to say the least.

Considering the crimes he's being accused of, however, the Avs should prepare themselves for life without their No. 1 goaltender and instead get used to seeing backup Giguere between the pipes.

Although they are only allegations at the present time while Denver police continues its investigation, the things Varlamov is being accused of is enough to make your blood run cold.

Varlamov's girlfriend tells the familiar story of a boyfriend in the midst of an alcohol-fueled rampage, but the fact that similar things happen every day in the world doesn't make her tale any less horrifying.

Her boyfriend, she claims, kicked her in the chest and dragged her across the room by the hair. The arrest warrant also claims Varlamov "pulled the victim's face to the floor and told her in Russia that if this were Russia, he would have beaten here more."

The Avalanche said in a statement Wednesday that the team "is aware of the allegations concerning Semyon Varlamov. At this time, and until the conclusion of this investigation, the Avalanche organization will have no further comment on this situation."

While the Colorado franchise plays wait and see, as it should, other folks close to Varlamov are making the potential mistake of championing his innocence before the all the facts are revealed. Varlamov's agent professed his client's innocence in remarks to the Denver Post, and the goaltender's father told a Russian newspaper that his son "is not facing any serious problems."

Sticking up for your client or son, however, is understandable compared to the outlandish remarks of Igor Ananskikh, head of the Russian Duma Committee on Physical Culture.

Ananskikh, as reported by RSport, took things a step further by venturing into the land of conspiracy theories.

"I'm confident of Semyon's innocence," Ananskikh was quoted as saying. "I think it is sports and political move, as Varlamov is a candidate for the Russian national team. The main goal is to suspend him from training and games so that he loses practice and misses the Olympics."

With the serious charges Varlamov could be facing, it's insensitive to even worry about what his predicament means to Team Russia's chances at the 2014 Sochi Games. Ananskikh does something even worse than that, however, using incredibly faulty logic to somehow turn Varlamov into the victim of an international conspiracy before giving a second of thought to the crimes potentially committed by his countryman.

Whether or not Varlamov is ultimately charged and tried for these alleged crimes, this story has cast a cloud over what had so far been a nearly perfect season for the Avalanche.

The club is off to a 10-1-0 start, matching the franchise's best-ever beginning to a season. As the team's No. 1 goaltender, Varlamov has been a huge part of that early success, going 7-1-0 with a stellar 1.76 goals against average and .945 save percentage. Giguere, however, has been even better over his three starts this season, going 3-0 with a 0.67 GAA and .981 save percentage.

Still, it's difficult to think of this situation in hockey terms. After all, if what Varlamov is being accused of is true then he doesn't deserve to walk the streets, let alone get paid millions of dollars for playing a game.

As always, the best we can do in a situation like this is hope that justice will eventually be served. If that means the Avalanche lose their No. 1 goaltender, then so be it.