Let's make one thing clear right off the top -- regardless of the charges leveled against Semyon Varlamov, the Colorado Avalanche goalie is innocent until proven guilty and deserves his day in court to defend himself against charges related to a recent domestic disturbance.
But I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the Avalanche's decision to start him against the Dallas Stars tonight, just two days after he turned himself in and one day after he posted bail for second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault.
If I'm being really honest here, it's hard for me to put a finger on exactly the reason Varlamov starting tonight makes me wrinkle my nose in mild disgust.
Perhaps it's the nature of the charges. It's one thing to be charged with, say, public intoxication or disorderly conduct. It's entirely another to move into the assault realm. Domestic violence is a huge, underreported problem, and to see any allegations of it treated so lightly makes my stomach turn.
Perhaps I'm more disturbed by all the Internet sleuths picking apart the alleged victim's story from documents that are always a woefully incomplete telling of the story. Most of us aren't paid professionals in that area, and none of us know what really happened regardless of how many of the public records we read.
Because yes, Varlamov deserves the presumption of innocence, but his alleged victim also deserves to have her allegations completely investigated without needless character assassination attempts from instant Internet experts.
As far as return to play, Varlamov absolutely should be able to continue playing in the league during the investigation. Mark Bell was allowed to play the 2006-07 season after his driving under the influence hit-and-run in a case where guilt was much more publicly obvious from the beginning. Various Stars players over the years, from Mike Ribeiro to Ed Belfour to Sergei Zubov, have been arrested and played while their cases wound their way through to settlements, convictions or dropped charges.
(Only Zubov's, which was a domestic assault case, is a close parallel, and that took place entirely over the summer. The original arrest article is here, and the article about the dropped charges is here, if you want to refresh. If it had happened during the season, I like to think that the Stars would have held him out of the next game or two.)
Because of the nature of the charges, I'm of the mind that the Avalanche probably should have waited a few days to play him again, if only to try and show a little more tact with the whole situation. It comes off very callous to the seriousness of the charges that he's playing two days later.
Katie Strang of ESPN wrote out her own thoughts on the Varlamov situation earlier today, and they parallel mine as well.
Yes, the judge in his case granted permission to travel, but that same court also imposed a restraining order on the 25-year-old. I'm not saying Varlamov shouldn't be allowed to return to doing what he does best -- play hockey -- until his day in court, but perhaps suggesting he take a few days off to sort through this very serious matter would've been a good move by the Avs organization, both in showing the proper sensitivity to the situation and limiting distraction to the team.
Again, to be clear, I don't think anyone headed to the American Airlines Center should boo Varlamov or throw things at him. He deserves the presumption of innocence, as does every person charged with a crime.
But the charges leveled at him also deserve to be taken very seriously. With the Avalanche playing him two days after the arrest and one day after posting bail, it feels like the team is trying to make it an afterthought.