Spartak Moscow in 2016-17
(“But wait! I thought you said Dinamo Riga were up next!” I did, but — long story short — Dinamo need to confirm a number of contracts, and have a gazillion guys in on try-outs. Given the confusion over what the final roster will be, I have been advised [thank you, Aivis Kalniņš] to wait a few days pending some clarity. And so in the meantime we move on to Spartak Moscow.)
Spartak missed the playoffs, but last season was still a success. After all, the storied club — four times Champions of the USSR — had missed 2014-15 entirely for financial reasons, so just having them back was a good thing. However, that’s all in the past, and results now start to matter more. Read on…
Spartak Moscow in 2015-16: 20 W — 5 OT/SO W — 7 OT/SO L — 28 L
6th in Bobrov Div., 11th in West Conf., 21st in KHL. Missed Playoffs.
Head Coach: German Titov.
In: G Nikita Bespalov (Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast); G Markus Svensson (Skellefteå AIK [SWE]); D Alexei Bondarev (Neftekhimik Nizhenkamsk); D Marcus Högström (Djurgårdens IF [SWE]); D Dmitry Kalinin (SKA St. Petersburg); F Vadim Berdnikov (Severstal Cherepovets); F Viktor Bobrov (Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast); F Vladimir Bobylyov (Victoria Royals [WHL]); F Anatoly Nikontsev (Severstal Cherepovets); F Ryan Stoa (Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk); F Ivan Yatsenko (Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk); F Marat Zaripov (Khimik Voskresensk [VHL])
Out: G Atte Engren (Leksands IF [SWE]); G Yevgeny Ivannikov (SKA St. Petersburg); D Vyacheslav Belov (Unknown); D Kirill Gavrylichev (Rubin Tyumen [VHL]); D Chay Genoway (Jokerit Helsinki); D Dmitry Korobov (Dinamo Minsk); D Roman Tatalin (Metallurg Novokuznetsk); D Pavel Valentenko (Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk); F Yevgeny Bodrov (Salavat Yulaev Ufa); F Gleb Klimenko (Unknown); F Alexei Krutov (HC Red Ice [SUI]); F Alexander Mereskin (HK Sochi); F Igor Radulov (Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk); F Casey Wellman (Frölunda [SWE])
We will start at the back: Spartak’s goaltending was very poor last season, with a team sv% of around .900 (KHL average = about .920). However, all this means is that improvement should be easy. Engren and Ivannikov are out, and two guys who should be better are in. Bespalov last season posted a .918 sv% in 20 games for Sibir, while Svensson went .922 in 50 games, which is magnificent for the Swedish league (third-best, in fact).
On defence, however, losing Genoway is a major blow. The 29-year-old Canadian scored 9-20-29 in 56 games, giving him almost twice as many points as the next-best defenceman, and led the blueliners with a +5 rating as well. Matt Gilroy, second among Spartak’s rearguards with 15 points, is still around, but Genoway and Korobov between them scored 42 points, while the rest of the d-men managed 43. That’s a big chunk of the blueline scoring heading out.
The big defensive arrival is Kalinin, a veteran of more than 500 NHL games and formerly an excellent scoring rearguard in the KHL. However, he is 36 years old, and scored only nine points in 44 games in 2015-16. He’s still good, and this is a good pick-up for Spartak, but one doubts that he can fill Genoway’s shoes at this point, at least as regards scoring (Kalinin of course does bring much experience). The acquisition of Högström, a big man with some playmaking chops, is promising, and 21-year-old Vladislav Provolnev had some nice numbers in the VHL last season (26 gp, 4-6-10, +2) while getting into 14 KHL games; he could easily take a step forward in 2016-17.
Spartak did not score mightily last season overall (139 goals for — 19th in the KHL), but did have some nice players at forward, and most have returned. Konstantin Glazachev (41 gp, 15-16-31) had a superb 2015-16 and is still in the fold, as is Spartak’s 2015-16 points leader, Czech forward Lukáš Radil (57 gp, 13-19-32). Radil also somehow managed to go +15 on a team that was outscored by 33 goals, which is astonishing. And Sergei Shmelyov had a decent line of 42 gp, 9-17-26, and at 22 years old is only likely to improve.
Those three are reinforced particularly by the arrival of Stoa; he struggled with Neftekhimik (20 gp, 3-3-6) last year after arriving mid-season, but prior to the move had scored 15 goals in 33 games for Metallurg Novokuznetsk. Bobylyov, too, is one to watch; 19 years old, and a 2016 draft pick by Toronto, he had a nice line of 72 gp, 28-39-67 on the Canadian junior circuit in 2015-16.
Will it be enough? Spartak missed the playoffs by 12 points in 2015-16; improved netminding should fix some of that, but how much, and whether the team has the depth to make up the rest (especially with Genoway gone), remain important unanswered questions. It will be a disappointment, however, if Spartak do not at least take a solid run at a playoff spot.
Next up: either Medveščak Zagreb or Dinamo Riga.