Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Canadian Leaves For Russia

Since there is no player transfer agreement between the NHL and Russia, players can jump back and forth between Russia and North America without any regard for their contract status in the other country. Because of the AHL's effective salary cap of $100,000 per player caused by re-entry waiver system most minor league players would be better paid if they were in Russia. This has lead to a declining Russian presence in the NHL which has reduced the talent pool from which the NHL draws.

With few exceptions, departing players for Russia have been Russians, but there is no reason that they cannot come from other countries. Recently, Fred Brathwaite of the Atlanta Thrashers, a Canadian left his AHL job with the Chicago Wolves to play in Russia. Brathwaite is buried behind Kari Lehtonen, Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec in the Atlanta system and had little chance of winding up in the NHL this season, though he is an NHL veteran with 254 NHL games played (but none since 2004). He has experience playing in Russia, having spent the lockout year of 2004/05 and the year after it 2005/06 in Russia playing for Ak Bars Kazan. He has jumped back to Russia to rejoin Ak Bars Kazan.

The loss of North American players to Russia is not limited to Russians. As salaries go up in Russia, which is accomplished merely by the value of the US dollar going down, more and more players will be recruited from all nationalities to play there. With the decision that more countries will opt out of the player transfer deal, this problem will likely get worse for the NHL. Players in the AHL might jump to any of several European leagues if they can receive pay raises in them. This will further eat away at the NHL's talent pool

It is also interesting to look at this from a Russian perspective. The Russian league is getting better and better. The question is, is it getting more well supported and generating more and more revenues? Is it seeing growth that the NHL is not? The reason I ask is, what if the Russian Elite league keeps growing, and then decided to expand outside of Russia? What if it expands into Czech Republic, Slovakis, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, etc. Does the Russian elite league have the potential to expand into a rival European league?

We have recently seen other European countries back out of the IIHF transfer agreement. Sweden has (http://www.thestar.com/Sports/article/283683) and Finland and others are consdiering it too forcing the NHL to either give them a better deal or else face the same problems that the Russian league is posing. And what if if these European leagues decided to join up and create a European Super League it could be a huge threat to the NHL. There are already whispers coming from the NHL regarding potential future European expansion so maybe that is even more incentive for the European countries to form a league first.

It is going to be interesting to see how all this pans out over the next few years.
NHL need europeans. Some canadiens says NHL without europeans would be like at 80's. But there is new 9 teams since 1990 and thats about 200 players.
1) We'll take 80's style hockey any day! We're still waiting to see a large/long list of either NA or Russian players who would be on an NHL roster/make an impact who are now playing in Russia
2) Fact is most of the stars/impact players from across Europe play here. Who cares if their scrubs/aged players are now staying home!

What part of 80's hockey would you take over the current game? The fact is today's game is faster and better played with more better players.

When there are NHL calibre players playing in Russia, it is hard to know how big an impact they would have had in the NHL. That is something still debated about the 70's and 80's Russians who are beginning to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. How good would they have been in the NHL? Fact is we will never know and we are poorer for not having been able to find out. Likely they would have been good, but how can we accurately know how good?

As for star players who are not in the NHL, Aleksey Morozov last season set the single season points record in the Russian Elite League. I would imagine that season translated to the NHL would likely have had him appear in the All Stzar Game (or possibly do even better than that). We will never know.

Other proven NHL talents in Russia include Danny Markov, Alexei Yashin, Alex Perezhogin, Alexander Svitov, Alexander Korolyuk, Oleg Saprykin, Maxim Sushinski, Oleg Kvasha and Artem Chubarov. There are young players who might become NHL stars if they were here including Igor Grigorenko, Roman Volosehnko, Alexei Mikhnov, Enver Lisin and Alexei Kaigorodov - sure nopne were stars in their short NHL exposure, but all have talents and may improve into stars. There are other players who are playing quite well in Russia in Sergei Mozyakin, Jan Marek, Viktor Alexandrov, Denis Zaripov and Albert Leschev. How would they do if they were in the NHL right now? We cannot know, but it is reasonable to assume most would be holding down NHL jobs and some would be in key roles for their teams.
What can NHL do with a couple of stars and low level players? Nothing... Look at any team - Europeans, if not stars, they are at least in the mid level of production - 20/60... The problem is, the kids that chose NOT to play in the AHL or NHL since they are getting more money in Europe - are those mid-level talents... Therefore, if a significant number of them defects to Russian/Chezch or Swedish leagues, level of play in the NHL will drop... and soon the stars will leave... (Take a look at the REVENUES of the Russian teams... You will be surprised. Forget Russian teams... Take a look at Germans - they are not a hockey superpower - they have more sell-outs at games than some of the CANADIAN teams...
I know there will be many difficulties and challenges but I am determined to do it. If it does not succeed then it will be a lesson for me as well

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