Photo credit: sportbox.ru
Last week, highly touted Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov finally put pen to paper, signing a two-year deal with Traktor Chelyabinsk to stay in Russia through the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. While the news was a total bummer for Caps fans, it also put a merciful end to the period of time at RMNB I’m referring to as KUZNETMANIA! What’s Kuznetmania!?, you ask? An epoch in which every day brings a new Kuzya interview or an editorial from some famous hockey analyst who feels compelled to comment on if Kuznetsov’s should stay or go to the NHL.
At one point the mania spurred to words the normally tight-lipped George McPhee. On December 30th, before the Capitals took on Buffalo, McPhee weighed in on the issue, telling the Washington Post,”[Evgeny] needs to play in a better league. Sometimes when you’re not playing at the highest level you can develop bad habits. We don’t want that stuff to become engrained — so get him to the best league you can and get working with him.”
Totally. And we’re not quite done with the opining yet. In a wide-ranging interview with Sportsbox.ru, Hockey Hall of Famer and father of total babes Igor Larionov spoke about corruption in the Russian government, the Eurocup soccer tournament, the World Championships, and — of course — Evgeny Kuznetsov’s new deal to stay in the KHL.
“It’s his decision,” Larionov began. “I think he has people who give him advice. But my opinion is: he made a mistake.”
Larionov, who won three Stanley Cup championships with the Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998, 2002) and is considered one of the greatest passers of all-time, spent half of his career in Russia and half of it in North America.
In fact, The Professor was instrumental in breaking the barrier that kept Soviet players from joining the NHL in the late eighties. Frustrated with a strict Soviet system which reportedly kept its players living in barracks for 11 months of the year, Larionov signed with the Vancouver Canucks in 1989 and never looked back.
“[Kuznetsov] can grow in North America because hockey there is more demanding, a player’s formation happens much faster than here,” Larionov continued. “It’s very competitive and you have to battle in every single game. You don’t see that in Russia. You can argue with me here, but I’m saying so because I can compare.”
Wise words from a wise man. Hopefully Kuznetsov heeds them soon.
Translation by Fedor Fedin.