Everything Else

We know that the coverage and view of Russian players in the NHL can get a tad skewed due to some very outdated and quite simply jingoistic feelings. Due to some bad actors, much more than should have have had to deal with suspicion and being labeled lazy, greedy, uncaring, and weak, or all of the above. And really, there are no more players from Russia who exhibit these characteristics than those who come from Canadian backwaters. But none of them are named “Gordie,” nor do they know what “Timbo’s” is, so they get treated differently

Alex Radulov has had a strange odyssey of a career, and he has been labeled with all of the above during it. Some of it may be warranted, maybe some of it not. Let’s go back through it.

You don’t remember, because it was so long ago and it took place before the Hawks got good which as we know was before hockey existed, but ten years ago Radulov put up 58 points at the age of 21 with the Predators. He was one of the most exciting prospects in the game. With Radulov, Suter, Weber, Rinne, Hamhuis, and Legwand it was thought that the Preds would be challenging for the Central for years to come.

It never worked out that way, partly because Radulov immediately fucked off back to Russia after that season. He still had one year on his entry-level deal, but clearly didn’t feel that as an RFA he was going to make what he could back in the KHL And that wasn’t wrong, but that didn’t stop the Preds and the NHL from putting up a fight to keep him here. It didn’t work, Radulov was suspended by Nashville and he spent the next four seasons in Russia.

Radulov didn’t help his cause much after that fourth seasons in Russia, when he came back to the help the Preds in the ’12 playoffs, but also didn’t make it much of a secret that he was just running out the last year of his entry-level deal. That was the spring he and a couple teammates were caught in a Glendale bar at 5am the night before Game 2 against the Coyotes, which didn’t make it seem like he was all that invested. Of course, the hockey media was all to ready to pounce on what appeared to be a carpetbagger, and one from the Motherland. Give them an inch…

Radulov again returned to Russia after that spring, as no one was terribly too interested in signing him after that whole ruckus. Radulov spent another four years with CSKA.

But after those four years Radulov could return to the NHL as a free agent, which again, didn’t look all that good. Still, no one in Montreal was complaining about his 54-point-season last year, nor are the Stars complaining about his point-per-game pace so far this one after he cashed in for a five-year deal at a cool $6 million per.

Certainly Habs fans didn’t think Radulov wasn’t committed, showing great passion on and off the ice. There were some who would claim it was all a show, and there was no way to know after what came before.

Perhaps the way young players are viewed is simply impossible for them, especially those from Europe. Every player is expected to have come over and dreamt of winning the Stanley Cup and put that over all, but is that realistic? Some do, some probably don’t. After all, to a lot of players the World Championships every year are a really big deal, and here they’re barely a ripple on the hockey calendar.

Secondly, even though it was negotiated and collectively bargained, young players are still put to the screws financially in the NHL. Only a select few make a ton of money after their entry-level deals, and thanks to what is in no way “collusion” we’re sure that prevents offer sheets, they have no leverage. Those that can at least threaten to take the serious money on offer across the pond have different leverage than others who don’t even think about it.

It a system that made sense, players would make what they’re worth basically as soon as possible. Given the money attached to the game, it isn’t a wonder or wrong that it becomes a major motivation for a player.

So is, or was, Radulov just a mercenary who took the highest paycheck he could find? Or did he just play the system that was on offer to him and do the best he could? We know what the view was from those who pen the articles. Given Radulov’s renaissance, that might not be the truth. Maybe it’s just a player who didn’t love the game here at a young age, went back to where he was comfortable and more rightly rewarded, and with age and maturity came back to accomplish more over here.

Or he just came back because it was time to make serious money here. We’ll never know.

Game #26 Preview




Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

See now this is what I’m talking about.

We have our most exciting game of the tournament, Russia-North America from last night. And while we wax poetic about the Olympics and about the two Canada-US games from 2010, how many other great games do you remember from the Olympics? Maybe one or two others? This was as good as anything that tournament has offered up.

Ok, sure, it’s one made-up team that essentially got to pick current or about-to-be All-Stars while everyone else had harder restrictions. But it was still faster than just about anything you’re going to find in an NHL game. And that’s the point. These international tournaments are supposed to be of a higher level than what we get in the league. This is why soccer fans love the World Cup and European Championships (even though the last version of each of those has been rather dogshit). It’s the best the sport can produce. That’s what we got last night.

Everything Else

While we’re poised for a semifinal day that really will be a feast of hockey, the other side of the debate is also clear after John Tavares’s injury. It would be an even bigger howl if the Islanders were in playoff contention, so I guess the NHL dodged a quarter of a bullet there. The risks are there for all to see, but seeing the videos of full bars during T.J. Oshie’s Michael Jackson performance against Russia provide all the benefits to be seen as well.

I can’t say I’ve made up my mind. I really like the international game. What I haven’t heard is what will happen if the NHL doesn’t send its players to South Korea in four years. Will it be just an under-23 tournament with college juniors and seniors and AHL-ers available? I think most GMs would be ok with sending their top prospects to such a crucible. Most of them let those players go to the World Juniors instead of play in the AHL for a couple weeks. I guess that would be ok, but really as nothing more than a scouting combine that the Juniors is now. Would NHL players under 23 be allowed to be picked? I’m guessing no. Would it just be the World Juniors replayed six weeks later? Would the European leagues still send their players, like the KHL or Swedish Elite League? Would that be fair?

Everything Else

Actual knockouts begin today. Spears shall be shaken,  shields will be splintered and all that. Most eyes will be on the Russians to see if they can get their act together a bit.

2am – Slovenia v. Austria: The Slovenians were a little more stout than we all thought they would be, beating Slovakia and hanging with the Russians for a couple periods before getting clowned by Phil Kessel. Austria is the only team to make Canada look dominant, and also got clubbed by Finland but did beat Norway. Austria has the tourney’s leading scorer in Michael Grabner and a couple other weapons, so you’d think they’d find a way. But Slovenia has apparently used their first ever appearance as inspiration and I get the feeling they’re going to find a way to sneak this.

Everything Else

Just a day out now. Whatever your feelings about Olympic hockey and how it affects the NHL season and its teams, we’re on the precipice. I usually panic and complain about the stoppage and the toll it will take on the Hawks all the way until the tournament arrives, but then the Olympic hockey starts and I’m generally enthralled by it. It really can be the highest level, and the drama and randomness of a knockout tournament can’t be matched. So let’s take a look at what we’re in for during the next two weeks.

The first thing you’ll hear about is the size of the rink. It’s 15 feet wider. While the first conclusion you might draw from that is it makes for a faster and more open game, that generally is not the case. Perhaps with the level of talent on display in Sochi it might come true, but more likely it won’t.

Everything Else

With the NHL season still about two months away from starting in earnest, and the the Olympics in Sochi still six months away, here in the down-iest of summer down time feels like a good enough time for this subject to be addressed now that the dust has settled from the release of the national team roster invite lists. It’s been bubbling under the surface for a while, and is only sure to boil over as time inches closer to the opening ceremonies, and that’s Russia’s flagrant LGBT rights violations, and how it’s going to affect the NHL’s participation in the Sochi games.