The Washington Times - December 16, 2011, 03:02PM

DENVER | Semyon Varlamov for a second-round pick. On July 1, many Washington Capitals fans probably would have been OK with that. But George McPhee didn’t just get that – he got a first-round pick, too, from the Colorado Avalanche in a trade for the oft-injured Russian goaltender.

“The goaltending position was a priority for us. We believe [that] in Semyon Varlamov we’ve addressed those needs,” Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said in a conference call July 1. “There is a belief that this player is gonna be the guy that can carry the load for us and become the type of goalie we think this organization needs.”


At that point, Avalanche Watch 2012 (#AvsWatch2012 if you’re keeping track on Twitter) begun. The Avalanche were the second-worst team in the NHL last season with 68 points, and the Caps acquired their 2012 first-round pick, no matter how high it was.

More so than any other Western Conference team, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Avalanche, the Caps’ opponent Saturday night. Here’s an updated look at where AvsWatch2012 stands going into that matchup:

The Avalanche aren’t the worst team in hockey, but the bottom three teams in the league all have a shot at the No. 1 pick in June’s draft. Colorado is actually sixth from the bottom going into Friday night’s action with 29 points.

If you’re rooting for teams to pass the Avalanche, think about current division rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, soon-to-be division rival New York Islanders, Bruce Boudreau’s Anaheim Ducks and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Avalanche have lost four of their past five games, most recently a 5-4 defeat to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. They’re 0-8-1 in their past nine road games. The San Jose loss featured Colorado blowing a two-goal lead going into the third.

“Don’t know what to say. Disappointed,” defenseman Jan Hejda told the Denver post. “We have to win games like this, especially against teams from our conference. Just a big mistake, the third period.”

Varlamov has not exactly engendered confidence that he’s the franchise goalie Sherman was looking for, putting up a 3.14 goals-against average and .896 save percentage in 24 starts. He has one shutout.

Colorado’s leading scorer is Ryan O’Reilly, who has just 23 points and a minus-4 rating.