Thursday, January 24, 2008
1) Recently there have been a few stories about the decline in the number of Russian born players in the NHL. There have been several theories why as well as differing view points on how this has/will affect the game. Here we will attempt to analyze both questions and come to our own conclusions.
2) The NHL’s salary cap and its current player transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation resulted in the increased exodus this past summer of players signing with/staying in Europe. That’s led some observers to suggest this weakens the NHL talent base while bolstering the European leagues. To that assertion we say Bullshit!
3) Would the NHL this season have been significantly better if Alexei Yashin, Danny Markov, Aleksey Morozov,Oleg Tverdovsky, Dmitri Afanasenkov, Darius Kasparaitis, Stanislav Chistov, etc had played? Some might even argue that its BETTER without them! Why aren't they playing in the NHL? The reason is quite clear: they were no longer good enough to be NHL players. Period!
4) To start it helps to have perspective of time here. That is; to have witnessed first hand the NHL before the Russian/Eastern European invasion/ the NHL during the hay day of this mass emigration, and now the decline of the number of Russian born players. Having seen all those eras, we will say there is NO doubt that Russian/eastern Europeans have added an enormous amount to the high level/quality of NHL hockey. Its not even close to compare the pre-Red invasion to now. However along with these immensely talented players came some slugs who either were never good enough to play here, or didn't have the heart/desire to work to become the players they should/could have. We reject the notion that a lack of a transfer agreement is the cause of the current emigration.
5) At first most Russians playing in the NHL were older/cast offs from Central Red Army(Fetisov/Kasatonov/Markarov/Krutov/Larionov, etc). While some like Fetisov helped their teams win, none were of the super star quality, and none lived up to the advanced billing/hype that many fans anticipated. Later, starting with Alexander Mogilny and especially after the collapse of the "Evil Empire" the influx of younger, top flight Russians started. No one can possibly say that the league did not benefit from the inclusion of so many supremely talented players.
6) From the aforementioned Mogilny, to the Russian Rocket Pavel Bure, Sergei Federov, etc a new wave of young dynamic Russians invaded the league transforming its landscape. Suddenly every team was looking for the 'next Bure' or Molgilny. The drafting/signing of young untested Russian prospects mushroomed and the league became inundated and infused with not only some great and talented players, but also some who were quite over rated .
7) So when would we be worried about a loss of Russian talent to Europe? We'd be concerned IF players like Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Semin, Gonchar, Volchenkov, Malkin, Zubov, etc left to play back home while still in their primes. fact is the best Russians are playing in the NHL. They will continue to do so unless/until a league is set up over there that affords similar salaries/endorsement opportunities that eclipse the NHL. Not to mention the vast difference in the standard of living. Russia, for those who have never visited, is close to being a 3rd world country.
8) All that said, there are reasons for concern. With the collapse of the Soviet Union/communism there has been a precipitous reduction of money for equipment, ice time, coaching etc for young players. As a result many fewer Russian can afford to play hockey, and in the long run we may lose(without knowing it) possible future superstars. Sadly little can be done about this trend. Even a new transfer agreement wouldn't change these economic realities. Much of the transferred money would end up in the hands of crooks and mafia anyway. We should continue to expect to see a decent group of Russians coming over in the future, but probably there will be fewer, and it appears the reality is there is nothing that can be done about this. Дурной новость для Русский