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Columnist says stigma of Russian players “far outweighs anyone else’s baggage”

May 1, 2012, 5:14 PM EDT


In the wake of Nashville suspending Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for violating team rules, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector decided to analyze the current plight of Russian players in the NHL.

His conclusion? They carry more bags than a bellhop.

You’ve got to admit though, the stigma that has grown on players from that country now far outweighs anyone else’s baggage.

Today, with the infusion of the KHL dilemma, the problematic innuendo extends to potential draft picks. On the same day that Radulov and Kostitsyn — we know, a Belarussian, not the same thing — were outed, Washington’s 26th overall draft pick in 2010, Evgeny Kuznetsov, announced he is set to sign a contract to spend two more years with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL.

Who knows what kind of player he’ll be when and if he finally gets to Washington?

Columbus had has its fun with high drafts Nikolai Zherdev (No. 4 in ’03) and Nikita Filatov (No. 6 in ’08). And now, the Edmonton Oilers may just pass along the Russian problem again, should they trade its No. 1 overall pick or choose a defenceman, leaving Nail Yakupov for Columbus GM Scott Howson at No. 2.

Even the established Russians are having a tough time in the NHL these days. Alexander Ovechkin’s ice time has plummeted. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s a flake. After a 50-goal season Evgeni Malkin managed just three goals in six games of an offence-palooza against Philadelphia in Round 1.

It’s an interesting angle to take (and controversial, based on the heat emanating from Sportsnet’s comments section) but I wonder if this “Russian stigma” is just a cyclical thing.

The NHL has gone through spells of both fascination and frustration with Russian players. It wasn’t long ago that the Hart Trophy finalists were all Russians (Ovechkin, Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk) — and it’s not like this year has been an outright disaster.

Are Ovechkin’s minutes down? Yes, but he still leads the team in scoring. Did Malkin have a bad first round? Sure, but he’s likely going to win the league’s MVP. Is Bryzgalov a flake? Probably, but he was a flake long before coming to Philly.

The NHL also figures to be high on Russians again, and very soon. Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko are two of the top prospects heading into the 2012 Draft while the Russian team has won gold and silver at the last two World Junior Championships, suggesting there’s more young talent to come.

  1. dsd3 - May 1, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    This column is a joke.

  2. govtminion - May 1, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    And not ONE mention of Alexei Yashin? For shame. 😉

    • bcisleman - May 1, 2012 at 6:23 PM

      Maybe, just maybe that’s because he hasn’t played in the NHL in 5 years. BTW if Matt Moulson and John Tavares produce as well as expected this coming year, Yash will no longer have the most goals of any player on the Isles’ payroll. RDP is rumored to be considering retirement. And Peter Laviolette may once more take his team to the SCF. The ghost of Mike Milbury is very difficult to exorcise.

  3. phillyphever - May 1, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    When it comes to Russians: buyer beware. At least with the Russian in my team, he’s just a flake/headcase with the media than he is a distraction to the team.

  4. bcisleman - May 1, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    You mentioned Niall and Grigo, but not Galy. He may wind up being better than the other two.

  5. bleed4philly - May 1, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    Commi bastads

  6. wicky888 - May 1, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    Very poorly written column. Say what you want about Malkin and Ovechkin …. they’re stars. And to even mention Bryz in the same sentence as those two is downright ridiculous, and I’m a Flyers fan. Malkin scored 50 goals this year, and you are gonna trash him for 6 games? This guy is a retard.

    • dsd3 - May 1, 2012 at 8:28 PM

      Say what you will about Bryz. He doesn’t go out at 4am the night before games and get suspended for breaking team rules. Struggling on the ice is one thing, but acting like a drunken college student is another.

  7. bloggersarenotjournalists - May 1, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    Nail Yakupov does not count, he came to Canada to play in the OHL the past 2 years.

  8. fullbagg - May 2, 2012 at 2:12 AM

    Attacking Russian players sounds just like the “flakes” attacking Joel Ward because of his race..
    Since they enunciate differently, they are all assumed neanderthals..

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