The Denver District Attorney today formally charged the Colorado Avalanche goaltender with one count of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. If you think that sounds like a slap-on-the-wrist offense, think again. He faces up to two years in prison if convicted.
Varlamov is scheduled to appear in Denver County court on Dec. 2. The Avs host the Wild on Nov. 30 and then are off until they travel to Edmonton on Dec. 5.
The netminder did catch one major break -- a second-degree felony kidnapping charge was dropped -- but the fact that the assault charge was pursued suggests there has to be compelling evidence that something happened. That doesn't necessarily mean the DA will get a conviction or that he is going to get jail time, but if Varlamov and the Avs hoped this would quietly go away, well, that isn't happening.
Varlamov has maintained his innocence from the start, and that's certainly the stance that convinced the organization to allow him to continue playing while he fights to clear his name.
There's no way of knowing though how deeply that support has extended to the locker room, if it has at all. And now that there's a formal charge, it's more than just a he said/she said dispute. This is headed to court and teammates may be called on to testify, not necessarily for the defense.
The Avs have weathered the storm fairly well, but their 6-4 mark since Varlamov's arrest is well shy of the 10-1 pace prior to it. Clearly, that was an unsustainable clip under the best of circumstances, but it's fair to wonder whether the chemistry of the room was affected by this incident. And also to wonder if it will get worse as the legal process plays out and becomes a greater distraction from what's typically an insular lifestyle. That's why it makes sense now for the Avs to tell Varlamov he needs to step away from the team for the foreseeable future. Whether he's ready or not, it's time for him to start thinking very seriously about this situation, and what it means to those around him.