Monday, May 31, 2004


Team Russia World Cup Roster Nominations - Russian for a Crushin'

Like William Hung�s rendition of �Take Me Out to the Ballgame�, Team Russia is looking pretty f�ugly right about now.

The good news: Vik Tikhonov has been replaced, for now, by Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, 49, a former national team defenceman. Tikhonov (pictured) will still remain on the team as a �Senior Consultant�, like a cockroach that just won�t die, no matter how much Raid� you spray on the damn thing.

Poor Bilyaletdinov seems to be set to take a big fall as his international coaching career gets under way. Not only is Tikhonov still lurking in the shadows, waiting to backstab his way back into the head coaching position, but the roster given to Zinetula is just poorly constructed. I foresee Tikhonov taking back the coaching reigns if Russia has a poor showing at the World Cup, which is quite likely.

Here are the roster nominations released :

Evgeni Nabokov, SJ
Nikolai Khabibulin, TB
Maxim Sokolov, Avangard

Oleg Tverdovsky, Avangard
Sergei Gonchar, Was.
Daniil Markov, Phi.
Alexander Khavanov, Stl.
Darius Kasparaitis, NYR
Anton Volchenkov, Ott.
Vitaly Vishnevski, Ana.
Andrei Markov, Mtl.

Dainius Zubrus, Was.
Artem Chubarov, Van.
Sergei Samsonov, Bos.
Alexei Kovalev, Mtl.
Sergei Fedorov, Ana.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Atl.
Maxim Afinogenov, Buf.
Pavel Datsyuk, Det.
Viktor Kozlov, NJ
Alexei Yashin, NYI
Alexei Zhamnov, Phi.
Valeri Bure, Dal.
Oleg Kvasha, NYI
Alexander Ovechkin, Dynamo
Maxim Sushinski, Avangard

The goaltending is fine, the defense is passable, but the forward group is a defensive black hole that threatens to envelop the entire universe.

Like the New York Ranger$, the forward group is a set of skilled �stars� and egos with just about no heart, defensive ability, or grit. Chubarov is the one true �role player� to make the squad, while Federov and Zhamnov are pretty decent 2-way forwards (Federov used to be Selke quality, but that was many moons ago).

That�s it, that�s all. Every other forward on the roster is definitely lacking in defensive ability, defensive effort, and grit.

Perhaps they brought so many cherry-pickers to bring some nourishment back to the homeland, because this group of small one-dimensional wonders is not going to bring home any medals. Datsyuk, Samsonov, Afinogenov�I�d like to have one of these guys on my NHL team, but there is no way I�d take all 3 on one national team.

The Russians didn�t learn from their World Championships debacle in St. Petersburg, where they absolutely bombed in front of their home fans with a team full of soft, one-dimensional forwards who were too concerned with fancy rushes up the ice, rather than solid team play. It�s no small wonder why these guys wouldn�t want to play for Tikhonov, as they would actually be forced to backcheck more than once a game.

Unlike the Czechs, Canadians, and Slovaks who took skilled forwards that have excelled and performed in defensive roles in the past (Draper, Dvorak and Cajanek, for example), none of the Russian forwards outside of Chubarov, Federov, and Zhamnov can be relied on in defensive situations; and we know Federov and Zhamnov will be put in offensive roles, so that leaves just Chubarov as a true defensive stopper.

Notable Players and Exceptions:

1. Alex Mogilny - Like Bobby Holik, �Pokerface� Mogilny would rather sit in his Malibu beach house than play hockey for his �homeland�. Mogilny has basically cut his ties with Russia, and had no interest in joining the World Cup effort.

2. The Lithuanians - Darius �Fear of Ghosts� Kasparaitis and Dainius Zubrus will both don the jersey of their former Russian oppressors. Kaspar has a long history with the Russian team, so his selection is no surprise, but Zubrus was granted a special exception.
Since this tournament is not IIHF-run, Zubrus and the Russian team were given permission to use Zubrus for this tournament. The reports suggest that Zubrus won�t lose his Lithuanian eligibility for future tournaments�although I can�t remember the last time the Lithuanian hockey team played in any tournament of note. It speaks volumes for Russia�s development program that they constantly have to import players from their former slave states like Ukraine and Lithuania.

3. Alex Ovechkin - The supposed �Next� one has arrived. The probable 1st overall pick at the upcoming Entry Draft was nominated for this team, most likely just to showcase Mother Russia�s supposed hockey superiority. Ovechkin is a fine prospect, but I don�t think he made the team purely on his own merits. The kid was pretty ordinary at the Under-20 WJC�s, so you wouldn�t expect him to have a positive impact at a tournament like this. If they wanted to showcase a young talent, then the very impressive Nikolai Zherdev (Columbus) would have made a fine choice.

4. Ground Puree and a dash of Kvasha - Most sane GM�s wouldn�t want Valeri Bure or Oleg Kvasha on their NHL teams, so it�s amazing that they even got a sniff of a tournament this prestigious. I can�t think of many more amazing wastes of talents in the league than these two players. Puree has whined his way around to many teams, living off of the production of one good season.
Kvasha, meanwhile, just has the fortune of being 6�5� tall, which makes NHL GM�s forget about his choppy and unbalanced skating style, mental softness, and total lack of offensive production to date. I�m glad Russia picked these 2 players, simply because Canada can exploit such a weakness quite easily.

Until the Russians can get some real leadership and 21st century thinking running their federation, the senior squads will continue to suffer through turmoil, incessant politicking, and below-average squads. The skill is there, but it�s a bad looking �team�, and I would be quite shocked if they finished in the Top 3.

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?