Photo credit: Chris Gordon
As I was wrapping up my chat with Alex Semin just outside Caps locker room at Kettler last Sunday, Dmitry Orlov was just coming off the ice.
While it is official RMNB policy that any time is a good time to interview Dima, I was a bit hesitant to put my recorder in the young Caps defenseman’s face. After all, anybody can understand how frustrating it must be for Dmitry to fulfill his dream of becoming an NHL player — and then to find himself firmly planted in the press box for the duration of the team’s playoff run, even after playing in all but a handful of regular season games since he was called up in late November.
Luckily for me, Dima came to my rescue by initiating the conversation himself. “Come on, interview me,” he said with a wry, but welcoming smile. “I am a forgotten man now. I am not playing, so nobody wants to talk to me!” I didn’t need to be asked twice.
“It’s hard to watch the games from the box.” said Orlov. “You want to be out there playing. But there is nothing I can do about it – it’s all for the better of the team. The coaches told me, practice and be ready, you never know. But the team is playing well, so why change anything.”
I wanted to find out if there was anything specific that led to Orlov’s transition from being a regular part of the lineup during the season to seemingly being the 8th defenseman on the team’s depth chart in the postseason. Did any particular mistake cause this demotion? Not according to Dima.
“Well, we always review the games and go over mistakes I make. But they just told me in the beginning, we’ll start with the experienced guys, and then we’ll see. And since the team is playing pretty well, it doesn’t make much sense to change things. You don’t change horses in midstream.”
Orlov was certainly saying all the right things, but his disappointment with being shut out of playing hockey was clear. “I never had to go for a whole month without playing a game. It’s hard. But there is nothing I can do about it. I have to remain optimistic. All I can do is support the guys who are out there playing. But everything is for the better of the team, so I understand, and don’t take it personally.”
With the IIHF World Championship underway in Stockholm and Helsinki, and a couple of roster spots for defensemen on Team Russia still up for grabs, it seems like Coach Bilyaletdinov has been saving one of those spots for Orlov. I brought it up, but Dima’s thoughts for now seemed to be concentrating solely on hockey this side of the ocean.
“I do follow what’s going on with the Sbornaya [Ed. Note: Team Russia] I talked to [Team Russia’s North American scout] Igor Kravchuk once during the season, but that’s about it. I never had a chance to play for Sbornaya yet, but I think I am gaining valuable experience here even right now. Of course you want to play, it’s always better than to watch.”