Photo Credit: AP
Nikolai Kulemin isnâ€™t exactly what youâ€™d call a prototypical Russian born player. Iâ€™m never the one to succumb to lowly stereotypes but you have to admit that certain countries have a history of developing certain types of players and that solid two way, versatile forwards are few and far between in the more recent history of Russian hockey.
For longtime fans of the NHL, it was nothing new.
An organization set to come in, guns blazing, and attempt to be “competition” for the National Hockey League. Â On the surface, perhaps not a bad idea. Â After all, competition creates creativity. Â Competition brings out the absolute best in everyone.
However, there have been two big attempts by rogue organizations to dethrone the NHL from atop their perch as the number one hockey league.
And just like the WHA years earlier, is it possible that the KHL is going the way of the dodo bird?
Fresh off last night’s 8-2 thumping of the Germans, Team Canada will look to translate that momentum into yet another strong performance as they prepare to face the Russians this evening (7:30 EST/4:30 PST on CTV).
True, the victory last night was over a German team which was not exactly expected to be a medal contender to begin with. However, a win is a win and last night’s performance should serve to help some of the bitterness and doubt stemming from Sunday’s loss to the United States subside.
As in all sports, momentum is key and Team Canada will certainly need all they can get against a typically strong Russian squad.Â Â The Russians are fast and skilled, but not overly physical; if the Canadians can get in a couple of momentum-setting hits from the outset, establishing control throughout the game will become a much easier task.
Canada shuffles their lines, turns to Roberto Luongo and looks to rub out Germany from medal contention. Should they win tonight, they will then play Russia, so no matter what hockey fans, you still get the see the battle of Canada and Russia.
The most important person involved in the Mike Green snub from the Canadian Olympic team is perhaps the defenseman himself.
Reasoning used by the Canadian contingent isnâ€™t likely similar to that of the general public, although the overwhelming sentiment of a lack of defensive game (often incorrectly portrayed as â€˜liabilityâ€™ in some circles) seems to be mostly prevalent.
And itâ€™s a falsity.
Weight: 183 lbs
Hockey’s Future, the renowned hockey prospects website, announced their Spring Organizational Rankings today and the Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves in the bottom tier of the league at #23. The ranking is based on an assessment of a team’s farm system, which takes into account the amount of star power and depth that is likely to be produced. For a team in “rebuilding” mode, that’s not a flattering number to see.
While the majority of Leafs fans wrote the team off in the summer, it wasnâ€™t until the New Year that the teams first true season of rebuilding began the inevitable grind into early year golf tournaments.
So the Leafs are interested in throwing their hat into the ring as netminding bad boy Ray Emery looks for a new home? Somebody should warn Brian Burke about Razor Rayâ€™s aversion to head gear following his altercation with Atlant Mytishchiâ€™s team trainer Roman Sokolov last month. Yes weâ€™ve all had a good laugh on YouTube at the expense of hockeyâ€™s self destructive answer to Britney Spears but hot of his hat phobia fisticuffs Emery has now walked out on the KHLâ€™s second best team for another far more disinteresting reason.
In October 2008, a reporter set the Barilkosphere into a tizzy with a certain writing. The intention was simple, a deliberately cruel finger pointing at Leafs Nation.
The backlash was tremendous, and it inspired Pension Plan Puppets to trigger a massive response to the piece. It shows the unifying force behind the internet, allowing fans the opportunity to voice dissent.
Some of the news making the rounds this morning in Russia includes the trade of one of the league’s top young defenders, Leaf prospect Dmitri Vorobiev from Tolyatti Lada to Salavat Yulaev Ufa.Â This trade moves Vorobiev from Lada, a small market team bottom feeder toÂ a larger market team currently sitting atop the league standings. It should allow Dmitri the opportunity to get some more recognition amongst the hockey world as well as provide him with the chance at a deep KHL playoff run.
Just six months ago many a grapevine was carrying rumor of NHL expansion while I lamented the integrity of a revenue bound salary cap. Even into the new season few had foreseen the sheer gravity of the global economic downturn and its impact on jobs, housing, businesses and every facet of life down to sport. Now as international markets stutter into a depression that many an analyst believe could change the face of modern capitalism forever, the NHL seems to remain steadfast in addressing itâ€™s minor successes as opposed to itâ€™s crippling and potentially devastating financial model.
This is it. One of these two teams will be singing â€œIâ€™ve got a golden ticketâ€ in the dressing room. A win means a trip to the gold medal game; a loss is a trip for the bronze. Dustin Tokarski will get the start for Canada, and while some feel Pickard should have gotten the game, itâ€™s hard to argue the way Tokarski held his own after the penalty-stacked opening 10 minutes of the Canada/USA game.
From TSN: http://tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=252547&lid=headline&lpos=secStory_main
New York Ranger prospect Alexei Cherepanov collapsed on the bench at or near the end of Omsk’s Kontinental Hockey League game and died a short time later, he was 19.
Omsk head coach, Wayne Fleming said Cherepanov collapsed on the bench during the third period of the game and did not see anything that happened on the ice that may have contributed to it.
Fleming also said medical authorities tried to get Cherepanov’s heart beating again after it had stopped.
Sources in Russia tell TSN that the ambulance that is normally at all games had already departed and had to be called back.
It is not clear exactly how long it took for Cherepanov to be transported from the rink to the hospital but one source in the arena told TSN it was “probably 15 or 20 minutes.”
Also, there is some question as to whether defibrillators at the arena were in good working order.
From a Russian Blog: http://alexovetjkin.blogspot.com/2008/10/alex-cherepanov-was-sent-to.html
|“The young forward unexpectedly collided with his teammate during the change. Soon after a 19-year-old hockey player’s heart stopped, and he was sent to the resuscitation.”
|“Update:According to comments on SportBox.ru it was Jagr’s elbow. Jarg is Cherepanov’s teammate. Apparently Jarg didn’t see him. Afterwards Jagr was shouting “Wake up Alexei” and was in tears.”
What a terrible tragedy…
Discuss it Here>>>
Lot of mystery and speculation regarding the status of one Dmitri Vorobiev of Lada. Leafs 5th round pick back in ’04 has really come into his own as one of the top young D-men in Europe. Leading your team in scoring at age 21 in the RSL, as a supposed “physical, defensive defenseman” is not an easy thing to do. Add in some very nice size at 6’2 216 (almost a Schenn clone), along with a devastating and somewhat crazy mean streak reminiscent of Danny Markov, and you’ve got yourself a pretty intriguing prospect.
>>>DISCUSS IN THE FORUMS
With the imposition of the salary cap taking some clout away from the financial Super Powers (or so they say), the “new” NHL focuses upon the importance of successful drafting and a constant flow of young players on cheap, entry-level contracts. With scouts now being dispatched to all corners of the globe, it’s getting to be quite a small world. The boundaries of the Hockey Community are ever-growing, and we’re starting to find ourselves with a neat little global village forming in the NHL.
>>>DISCUSS IN THE FORUMS
*Sunday Morning Update: Nothing ground-breaking here, but Fletcher told me via e-mail this morning that there were no new developments in Friday’s meeting between himself, Mats Sundin and agent J.P Barry. “Mats is going to take his time.” It’s expected that Fletcher clarified his position by reaffirming that Sundin was welcome back, with a reported $7 million, 1 year deal still on the table. Alex Tran will be checking in with his first blog sometime today.
The status and whereabouts of Russian defenseman Dmitri Vorobiev has been an ongoing question mark for Leaf Nation. The robust blue-liner was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the 5th round of the 2004 Entry Draft. Originally touted as a second round pick by scouts, Vorobiev stuck around until the 5th round largely due to weight concerns. But it’s gradually become clear that the Maple Leafs shrewdly gambled on the Togliatti native after an impressive couple of seasons with RSL side Lada. He’s now regarded as one of the best young power-play point-men in his league and he supplements his offensive skill with a solid, physical own-zone game. He’s ranked 5th in the team’s “Top Prospect List” on Hockey’s Future.com, behind Justin Pogge, Nik Kulemin, Jiri Tlusty and Anton Stralman. The lone but major problem being, however, that Vorobiev doesn’t appear to have any interest in embarking on a career overseas.
Vorobiev remains Leaf property, but seemingly in name only. The 22-year-old is contractually committed to two more seasons with Lada Togliatti having signed a four year deal prior to the 06/07 campaign; a deal which tripled his initial salary. Fortunately, the Leafs hold Vorobiev’s rights indefinitely due to the absence of a transfer agreement. There is currently no agreed-on date for when a team’s rights to players like Vorobiev will expire. According to Bill Meltzer, “the NHL and NHLPA have more or less agreed to overlook what’s written in the CBA at least until there’s a clear direction on what’s going to happen in terms of a new transfer agreement (or lack thereof).” So how are we to know just how long the Leafs will hold onto Vorobiev’s rights? Meltzer suggests any of these three scenarios could occur:
“1) The CBA is amended to include a provision for how long European draft picks’ rights can be retained
2) At the point the direction of the NHL’s transfer relationship with the KHL (and other European countries) is determined, a deadline could be set for NHL teams to sign their picks whose rights would have expired under the two-year window specified by the current CBA.
3) They could simply continue the status quo — which essentially readopts the old system in which NHL teams could hold European players’ rights more or less in perpetuity.”
The last scenario is obviously the preferred one in this case.
I should preface this blog with the caveat that fishing information out of Russia is at best tenuous and details of Vorobiev’s contract status remain ambiguous. But according to a European-based scout, the bottom line seems to be that from a personal standpoint, Vorobiev just isn’t interested in the North American game as it stands. He’s comfortably settled in with Lada, whom he’s belonged to for 7 years now. He’s steadily improving, his point totals growing as his career progresses. Vorobiev was originally described as a more of a defensive specialist who plays an awkward, but effective own-zone game. His offensive skills are now burgeoning and he has assumed a top four role on his team’s back-end. One might describe him as a more offensively-inclined Anton Volchenkov.
The only way Vorobiev could theoretically join the Leafs in the next few seasons would be to buy-out his own contract, similar to what Jonas Frogren did in order to cross the pond earlier this summer. With the way the league has come down hard on the Leafs’ actions in regards to Frogren, it wouldn’t be easy. It could probably be managed, however, if the desire was there on Vorobiev’s part. It’s not for a lack of trying on the Leafs’ end, who’ve kept in regular contact with Vorobiev and his agent.
A source heard during the World Championships that Vorobiev was thinking of extending his contract with Lada. With his role expanding and his name gaining more and more recognition, Vorobiev couldn’t be happier in his current situation. It would require a sudden 180 for Vorobiev to opt for change from his current, stable situation. He’s presently focused on helping his side Lada succeed as they transfer to the Kontinental Hockey League next season. When Vorobiev reaches the peak of his ascension over in Russia, perhaps he’ll look for a new challenge elsewhere. At which point, the Leafs may just be one of 20-odd clubs interested. A different avenue the Leafs could explore would be to offer Vorobiev a tentative contract that comes into effect upon the expiration of the defenseman’s contract with Lada, similar to the arrangement the team formed with now-Leaf Nik Kulemin. Again, the stimulus doesn’t appear to be there for Vorobiev.
The fact of the matter is that it takes relentless desire and overarching ambition for European players of Vorobiev’s ilk who must risk the possibility of lower salary (due to entry-level restrictions), demotion, and an often-tumultuous transition into a foreign setting in order to realize their NHL goal. Athletes such as Nik Kulemin, Alex Nikulin, and Nikita Filatov appear to have this drive. Many less ambitious and driven athletes would be tempted to settle for a comfortable and well-compensated home setting. And for some the NHL just isn’t the be-all end-all career objective. There is an interesting and unexpected result of league-wide parity, in that it has not only leveled the playing field amongst the rich and less-moneyed franchises domestically but also between the NHL and Europe. The NHL through its entry-level deal basically assumes that everyone wants to play here, even at the cost of a salary discount. I’m not saying that money is the one and only factor playing into the equation, but it warrants consideration and is definitely some food for thought.
Perhaps once Vorobiev reaches his prime in Russia and past the entry level age he will look for a new challenge overseas. The ship may be sailing for the ACC to be his port of arrival, and if I had to bet right now, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be on board.